I switched from DirecTV to Dish Network so long ago that I couldn’t even blog about it (April 2002, though I found an excuse to blog about it in December 2003, after the blog had started). I bought the receiver which included a massive 40GB hard drive to record 40 hours of programming so that I could watch shows whenever I wanted. And best of all it included a 30-second skip button that I could use to zap commercials. I skipped so many commercials that I wore that button out on my remote.
When HD came along, I adopted fairly early and bought a big rear projection HDTV back in 2003. At first it seemed like HD wouldn’t work with satellites because it required so much more information to be beamed down and the satellites were already overburdened with the hundreds of channels available. But they launched more satellites and figured it all out somehow. By 2004, I blogged about HDTV DVR’s and packages available from Dish. The turnoff was that Dish invented extra fees for HDTV reception and there weren’t that many HDTV channels anyway (even if they existed, they didn’t have the satellite bandwidth to carry them). I looked at the options periodically and could never make it work.
Today I got an e-mail from Dish saying I would get Starz movie channel for free for a year. Then later I got an e-mail that said I would get the FX channel for free. Hmmm . . . this sounded like a rate increase. Sure enough, although they did not send me an e-mail about it, they were raising my monthly fee from $40 to $45. When I first started with Dish it was $22 plus $6 a month for local channels. Dish does a pretty good job of trying to hold down costs, but the different channels continue to increase their rates they charge Dish and Dish has no choice but to pass on those increases (Dish is usually at the center of conflicts over prices with providers like Viacom).
So I started looking at options again and noticed that Dish now has a plan called Dish America that includes only HD channels, but fewer channels than my current plan for the Top 120 (used to be 60, I think, which is the same number that Dish America offers). Dish America is only $35 per month instead of $45 for the Top 120.
The site lured me with offers of “Free HD for Life” and new HD DVR’s. But it is always tricky with the different hidden charges and, deals that only apply for certain more expensive packages, and rates that potentially rise after an introductory period. So I called today and talked to a nice man in the Philippines about my options. The Free HD for Life only applies to the Top 120 plan or higher, which is $45. And if I get any kind of new DVR, I have to pay a $6 per month DVR fee. However, the good news is they will “give” me a “free” HD DVR. They are actually leasing it to me (for no cost other than the DVR fee) but HD requires a new satellite dish and professional installation for $95. I could get the maintenance plan for another $6 per month and the installation would only be $15 (the maintenance plan gives you an $80 discount on service calls and free shipping if the unit is defective). Then I could cancel the maintenance plan after six months. So that would be $51 for installation and I would have six months of a maintenance plan (having had my Dish for the last 9 years without too many problems, I’m hoping this one will also be maintenance free).
At the end of the signup, just to be sure, I asked what my total monthly fee would be ($41 for now because the additional $6 DVR fee won’t be applied until it is installed) and if any of these prices were temporary. He said they were good for 36 months. To me this was a much smoother process than with DirecTV which has all kinds of great-sounding offers that expire after 6 or 12 months but leave you on the hook for higher fees after that. Once I am able to cancel the maintenance fee, I will only be paying an extra dollar a month (and $4 less than I would have been paying if I had done nothing), but will have a higher capacity DVR (at least 320GB instead of 40) and HD. Ironically, the 320GB drive only stores 30 hours of HD programs, so it is actually a downgrade in terms of recording hours if I only record HD stuff. One neat thing is you can attach an external hard drive and increase storage (there used to be a fee for this, but now it seems to be free; only problem is the hard drive has to be self-powered, not powered by the USB connection). And if you connect the satellite receiver to your network (this would turn out to be mandatory since I don’t have a phone line) you can tell it to record via the internet. So it should be a pretty good upgrade. The installer is coming Sunday morning.