Cutting the Cord

“To Sling or not to Sling……?” That is the question I’d been pondering for awhile. Actually, the real question was if I’d had enough of high-cost monthly bills from my satellite television provider and was finally ready to do something about it.

When I first bought my house nearly 20 years ago, one of my first big homeowner decisions was subscribing to DirecTV. Satellite television was an exciting purchase back then. It was still a sort of newer alternative to tired, old cable. Additionally, at least in those days, satellite offered better picture quality, pricing, and customer service. For many years, I’d say it was a pretty good marriage. So what changed?

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I’d like to blame it all on the corporate tech behemoth AT&T, who bought DirecTV a few years ago. Prices have gone up since the acquisition, and there’s absolutely no question customer service has significantly tanked. Their customer website is probably the biggest example of this. For years Direct had an excellent, user-friendly site. Since being redirected under the at&t banner, the site is a nightmare. The thing is though, the DirecTV experience has become less and less satisfying for more than just a few years now.

The company has what I believe is a horrible business model. They give the house away to new customers, and offset this by price-gouging their existing, longtime customer base. Every year, for no reason at all, the monthly cost goes up and up. Without adding new equipment, or additional programming, I’ve watched my bill on several occasions rise as high as $130 to $150 per month plus tax. And this my friends, is when the games begin.

What games might you ask?

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“You’re either not hearing me, or not listening to me…or you’re just an asshole!!!!!!!”

Every year in a half or so, I’ve had to place “the call.” Some of you know exactly what I’m talking about. The 1-800 call to DirecTV, where you 1) wait 10 minutes for a representative. 2) wait another 5 minutes while they fumble and bumble around trying to “bring up your information.” 3) Then settle in for 30 to 45 minutes of begging, bartering, shouting, crying, and threatening to quit until they ultimately slash your monthly bill in half. Yes….they just cut it right in half. No problem right? But there’s a hitch. After 12 months your bill reverts back from $75 bucks a month to $150 or something rather. Guess what happens then? You guessed it. You have to make “the call” again! Rinse, wash, dry, repeat cycle. And so on it goes.

So this last time I called, they once again offered to cut the bill in half for a year. Had I taken them up on the offer, I’d be paying about 30 bucks more a month than the alternative I ended up subscribing to (more about that in a moment), but it may have been worth it. Direct’s onscreen interface, DVR, picture quality, and channel lineup is superior to what I have now. I can’t deny that. However, it ultimately came down to the fact that I’m tired of the annual games, and I’m simply getting too old to beg. Earlier I mentioned the poor business model of giving away the house to newcomers and price-gouging the longtime subscribers. I think if DirecTV would just advertise $75 bucks a month, guaranteed, locked-in, as long as you remain a customer, I think they’d gain more subscribers than saying, “Hey, here’s free NFL Sunday Ticket for year. Here’s 3 free months of HBO, Cinemax, Showtime. Here’s a $200 dollar Visa prepaid credit card. Here’s a cheap monthly bill for a year……Oh, and then we’re gonna shit down your neck for your remaining years as a customer! Join DirecTV today!!!” You see, that’s no good. Nobody likes that.

So after nearly 20 years, I finally cut the cord. Where did I go?

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Yes. We’re Slingers now. What do I make of the Sling experience so far? One, I love the price. With the additional monthly fee for their Cloud DVR service, and a subscription to both their “Orange” and “Blue” packages, I pay $50 bucks a month. Do I have 150 channels like DirecTV? No. I have about 50. Did I watch 150 channels when I had satellite? Not even close. Truth be told I maybe watch 10 channels period. Reliability? So far, so good. I must have a decent internet service, because we’ve had no problems with buffering or cut-outs so far. I will say however, though it claims to stream in the 1080 my tv’s are capable of displaying, I do not think the overall picture quality looks as good as satellite feed.

The big question……….do I recommend it? My friends….it’s simple. It all comes down to what you watch. The biggest downside of Sling TV is, with the exception of a few select large markets,  it doesn’t stream your local channels. I’m sure it will in time. This was the same case in the early years of my satellite days. It eventually changed. Sling has only been around for four years. However, if you watch network television, Sling TV is probably a no-go for you. Since we have to watch our locals the old fashioned way (over the air antennas) there’s no functional way to DVR network programming. This would be a problem for someone like my brother, who enjoys those Chicago dramas on NBC. For me however, it’s not a problem. There’s not a single show on network tv I watch.

There are other little hiccups. The service claims you can stream simultaneously on up to four devices, but there are certain channels that can only be streamed on one device at a time. Some stations allow for pausing and rewinding, while a select few channels don’t.

Yet for my family, and where we’re at right now with our tv needs, Sling TV works. I get my NFL Network, ESPNs, NBC Sports, and AMC. Julie gets her HGTV. We’ve got Disney Plus for the kids, and Netflix and Amazon Prime Video for all of us. The combination of all four keep us under $100 bucks a month. DirecTV alone, when being smacked at full price, was more than that.

I won’t rule out returning to satellite television some day, but some changes need to happen first. Considering DirecTV lost one million customers in 2018, and probably double or triple that last year, the big change will have to be the price. Time will tell if the dish companies want to get competitive, or just keep mimicking the tired old cable companies they once contrasted. Happy viewing folks!

 

 

 

 

 

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