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Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Post #12 - DirecTV Over a Barrel with Comcast

Dear DirecTV,

I’ve been a loyal customer since 2002. We almost had a divorce last summer when your box blacked out my local Tiger games for most of the season. I kept having to call and re-explain my problem, and the tech person, different each time, had to take me through the same set of instructions, regardless of whether I told them “we’ve already done this, this doesn’t solve it.” But that’s in the past.

Here’s my problem. Playoff hockey. Unfortunately, most of it, especially during the week, is on Versus. Comcast owns Versus. Comcast blows, and we can all agree on that. They have you over a barrel, and I understand that. I have two thoughts.

1) Does DirecTV own any channels that are contracted to Comcast? In other words, does DirecTV have a barrel of their own? If not, you should buy a “barrel”—some staple channel to leverage Comcast to come to the party.

2) If that doesn’t work, I’d like to trade the following channels for versus:

ABC Family – tired of Blossom

BYU TV – I really don’t care

The Church Channel, Gospel Network, The Word, EWTN (the one with the codger Nun)

CSPAN/CSPAN2 - Yawwwn!

Fine Living – Is Robin Leach still alive?

Fuse – MTV’s disappointing nephew.

Galavision/HITN/ONCE America – I’ll miss the talk shows. Adios muchachas!

GemsTV/Jewelry TV/HSN/QCVC –tired of Mrs. Brady pushing Snuggies on us.
GSN – I wanna play games on my TV remote all night.

Lifetime (it will be tough)

MSNBC – just give it back during natural disaster season. “Thanks for the update, Meredith. Now come out of all that rain and wind!”

MTV/MTV2 - since they don’t really show videos, and the newer music stinks

NASA - Since space travel is all fake.

Oxygen Network – Can I get more reality in my life?

SyFy Channel – New spelling, still ain’t buying it. Still catering to thirty-year-olds who surface from mom’s basement, only to heat up their Chef Boyardee.

Tennis Channel — Anna Kournikova retired. What’s the point?

TLC – I don’t need some dude wearing a purple Bill Cosby sweatshirt and hair that looks like he slept on one side, telling other people how to dress.

TV Guide Channel – a channel about what’s on TV. On TV.
VH1/VH1 Classic – sad when a Sade video qualifies as a programming highlight.

I guess what I’m saying is, I want cafeteria-style programming. The channels above are the tepid tapioca. The room-temp, half-a-peach in heavy syrup.

Can we do something like this to offset the additional cost of Versus? There are plenty like me who want their hockey.


Jerry Herman

PS—I’m addressing this with Comcast as well.
This is Mary Ann R.’s, from DirecTV Customer Service, sent 9/3/09
Dear Herman,

Thanks for writing. I understand your concern about your programming.

Our agreement with Versus expired on August 31, 2009. DIRECTV made every effort to keep Versus a part of its programming line-up, but due to unsuccessful contract negotiations with Comcast, the owner of Versus, the channel has been removed.

We understand how important Versus is to you and we are sorry that we have had to remove it from our lineup. Comcast regularly tries to charge us amounts well in excess of what is fair and reasonable to carry the programming they own. Their reason is obvious: they want to stifle competition from DIRECTV. Comcast's unfair terms undermines DIRECTV's ability to offer our customers the best possible value. If we simply accept these terms, we would have to absorb the unreasonable costs Comcast wants to charge us, and in turn we will be forced to increase the rates our customers pay. We do not want this to happen.

While we are unable to comment on upcoming programming decisions, we are always reviewing our programming options to make sure we bring you the best possible TV experience. We value your opinions about our programming, so I have forwarded your request to DIRECTV management, who review every suggestion, inquiry and complaint for trends from our most important customers to determine what channels should be considered. In addition, whenever we add channels to our lineup, we release a statement to the press, so keep an eye on the news to find out about the newest channels or visit our web site at We're glad you're one of our loyal customers. It's feedback like yours that helps us remain America's #1 Satellite provider.

For more information, please visit

On another note, I see that you have been a loyal DIRECTV customer for many years. As a way of thanking you for choosing DIRECTV I've added complementary STARZ to your service. STARZ will remain active on your account until 12/02/09. We hope you enjoy your gift.

I hope you find this information helpful. Thanks again for writing and stay tuned to for the latest news and information about our services.


Marie R.
Employee ID - 100180390
DIRECTV Customer Service

P. S. Football season is almost here! Catch up to 14 games every week this fall with NFL SUNDAY TICKET, now available at

This is my response to Marie Ann R. , sent 9/4/2009:

Dear Marie Ann,

I can appreciate your predicament, and sympathize. We (you and I) are in lockstep in our hatred of Comcast.

But what about my hockey?

You may see a big dip in membership around April when the playoffs start. Like I said--two solutions:

1) Cafeteria-style programming where I pay for only the channels I want, plus Versus, and you keep the Old Nun Network.

2) Strong-arm Comcast in the same manner, on a channel or channels that DirecTV owns.

If you don't own any great channels, let's get busy! I recommend a 24 hour monkey cam channel. I love watching monkeys fight and chase each other around at the zoo.


This is Pat L.’s response, sent (same day) 9/4/2009

Dear Jerry,

Thanks for writing us back. I understand your concern about your DIRECTV programming.

In the meantime, you’ll still be able to watch plenty of similar sports programming on other channels we carry.

College football - available on Big Ten Network, CBS College Sports, ESPN, ESPNU, ESPN GamePlan, The Mtn., local channels and your RSN.

NHL - available on NHL Network, NHL Center Ice, and your RSN.

Mixed Martial Arts - available on HDNet, Spike TV, and UFC on DIRECTV Pay-Per-View.

Auto Racing - IRL on ABC, Formula 1 on Fox and Speed.

Bull riding - available on ESPN2 and the Houston Rodeo on DIRECTV Pay-Per-View.

Hunting and fishing - available on ESPN2, The Sportsman Channel, The Outdoor Channel, and Pursuit TV.

I wanted to assure you that I've forwarded your email to DIRECTV's Management Team, who review every suggestion, inquiry and complaint for trends from our most important customers to determine what changes should be considered.

Thanks again for writing.


Pat L.
Employee # 100166676
DIRECTV Customer Service

P. S. Football season is almost here! Catch up to 14 games every week this fall with NFL SUNDAY TICKET, now available at

This is my response to Pat L., sent (also same day) 9/4/2009


I appreciate all of that. I appreciate the free Starz too.

But what about my hockey?

Watching bull riding just isn't the same. Center Ice is $39.99 a month, and only carries select playoff games. I'm particularly interested in the Detroit Red Wings' quest for the cup. Come April, I'm going to need to make some serious decisions.

Thank you,

This is Fiona M.’s response, also sent 9/4/2009

Dear Jerry,

Thanks for writing back.

As soon as we have determined the schedule for any of our sports subscriptions, we post it at

Based on your zip code, you have been assigned a local RSN. You are authorized to view the pro and college games shown on that channel. Due to contractual broadcast rights between the networks and the leagues, those who live outside of your area are not authorized to view the same games. As I check your zip code, I found out that DETROIT RED WINGS is part of your in-market team. With a CHOICE subscription and a permanent phone line, you may be to watch their games at your local RSN, FSN Detroit.

You can also find out when any specific program or sporting event is on DIRECTV by using the online TV Listings. You can access the online listings at or by clicking on the "TV Explorer" tab at the top of the page and then selecting "The Guide (All Channels)".


Fiona M.
Employee ID 100206372
DIRECTV Customer Service

P. S. Football season is almost here! Catch up to 14 games every week this fall with NFL SUNDAY TICKET, now available at

This is my response to Fiona, also sent 9/4/2009.

Hi Fiona,

Yes. I'm aware that I can watch my Red Wings on channel 663, FSND. I do indeed have the plus package and a permanent phone line, so we're all set. During the regular season. I wasn't, however, aware that I could look the whole programming schedule up on the guide. That must be new.

Here is the heart of the matter: During the playoffs, the games, most of them anyway, are on Versus. THIS is the issue. Playoffs. What fun is it to watch a team fight and grind to get to the playoffs, only to have to go to a friend's house or a bar every night and watch on DishNet or Comcast? My point about the Center Ice package is, even if I pay $39.99 a month, my playoff games may or may not be available, depending on the decisions rendered by the Center Ice Bean Counters.

This is a really big deal for a lot of hockey fans. Especially in Detroit, known as Hockeytown. As we approach the playoffs, I may need to switch providers. And as for the bullriding option, you get that nun from the Old Nun Network on a bull, than I'll say all is good.

Separate topic--does DirecTV have something like Center Ice for NFL? Something where I can watch most of the games every single week?


This is James M’s response, sent 9/5/2009

Dear Jerry,

Thanks for writing us back.

I have forwarded your comments on to DIRECTV Management for review with regard to the NFL SUNDAY TICKET.

On another note, The NHL Network is included as part of the NHL CENTER ICE package during the NHL season. To see the NHL Network in the NHL off-season you'll need to subscribe to a package that includes that channel.

Currently the NHL Network is available on channel 215 as part of our CHOICE XTRA, PLUS DVR, PLUS HD DVR and PREMIER packages. To learn more about these packages, or to change your programming to a package that includes the NHL Network, visit our web site at

Thanks again for writing.


James M. - 100338692
DIRECTV Customer Service

P. S. Football season is almost here! Catch up to 14 games every week this fall with NFL SUNDAY TICKET, now available at directv
My response to James M, sent 9/5/2009. By the way—this is EXACTLY how it works if you call their customer support more than once to explain a problem. Zero communication from one rep to the other, and you end up re-explaining the same thing over and over.

Hi James,

I feel like Bill Murray's character in Ground Hog Day.

Yes. Center Ice Package. I get it. That helps DURING the season, when I have access to the Red Wing games on Fox Sports Detroit.

The issue, as I've laid out with your coworkers, Marie Ann, Pat L., and Fiona, is playoff hockey. Most of the playoff games are, unfortunately, on Versus. I don't like them being on there any more than you. So while I appreciate your suggestion, it doesn't really help fix the issue. The only thing that does is a quick resolution to the Comcast/DirecTV standoff. This feels like the Big Ten Network circus all over again!


This one is still active. I'll update with any new developments.
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