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Is DirecTV Worth it? Another Case of Cord Cutter Ethics

Just as an aside I wondered: If you are a die-hard NFL fan, should you even be a cord cutter? All this talk about how to watch via some inferior stream using a VPN blah blah blah… What if you could just give up being a cord cutter from September to the Super Bowl?

courtesy MatthMatthew Straubmuller flickr

courtesy MatthMatthew Straubmuller flickr

So I jumped on over to DirecTV’s site and tried to sign up for the cheapest package that included  NFL Sunday Ticket. The process feels a little like trying to close the deal at a car dealer. Well you’ll need one of these (packages) and one of these (equipment) and oh what about this (extra channels). But I persisted.

In the end I was presented with something that would cost me $92.98 per month and $99 due at check-out. The NFL Sunday Ticket portion of that was $39.99 per month. Well OK fine. Going to just one game live easily costs $100 these days, so perhaps 6 months of TV football is not such a bad deal. Then I’ll just turn it off.


Well no, unfortunately, DirecTV is smarter than that:

ALL OFFERS REQUIRE 24-MONTH AGREEMENT Offers valid through 10/1/14 and are based on approved credit; credit card required, except in MA & PA. New customers only (lease required). Applicable use tax adjustment may apply to the retail value of the installation. Programming, pricing and offers are subject to change and may vary in certain markets. Some offers may not be available through all channels and in select areas. Customers activating the CHOICE™ Package or above or the MAS ULTRA Package or above will be automatically enrolled in the 2014 season of NFL SUNDAY TICKET at no additional cost and will receive a free upgrade to the NFL SUNDAY TICKET MAX for the 2014 season.

TWO YEARS? Many marriages don’t last that long. I’m not signing up for that. But what if there was some legal/semi-legal way around this 2 year thing?

Well to do it legitimately would cost you penalties:

If you cancel before your contract ends, you will be charged a deactivation fee of $15 plus a prorated early cancellation fee of up to $20 a month.

Let’s see, that’s about $15 + 12 months x $20 or about $255 to cancel. We’re up to about $812.88 for the season now. That cancellation fee really hurts. But what if you could get out of it? Well it turns out some people have found ways around the cancellation fee. These techniques are basically about providing some sob-story to customer service until they relent.

So in another case of cord cutter ethics we found a way to (maybe) get NFL Sunday Ticket for just the 6 months of the season then turn it off.


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NFL 2014 and the Cord Cutter

Sorry that I’ve been off busy with my day job but checking in quickly with a look at the season which officially kicks off tomorrow.

Well not much has changed. For the casual football fan, you’ll still be able to watch most of your games. The exception will be Monday nights, which belong to ESPN. Or if your team sucks this year you might suffer an unfortunate blackout or two.

Stay tuned – more to come.

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Getting NFL Sunday Ticket Streaming without DirecTV

photo courtesy Anthony Quintano Flickr

photo courtesy Anthony Quintano Flickr

One of my most popular posts last year discussed how to get NFL Sunday Ticket by buying the Madden video game and a Chromecast. Looking back at it, $99 to get NFL Sunday Ticket was an incredible deal and no wonder the game quickly sold out. Unfortunately for cord cutters there will be no repeat of the Madden NFL Sunday Ticket bundle this year.

DirecTV is however, introducing a streaming service called NFLSUNDAYTICKET.TV.

The new service does offer a streaming version but note these new nit picky eligibility rules:

“… if you live in a select apartment building where DIRECTV service is not available, attend one of these universities, or live in one of the following metro areas: New York City, Philadelphia, or San Francisco.”

What’s different? That phrase “select apartment building” among other things. With the Madden deal the restrictions merely stated something about living where the DirecTV satellite signal was not available. That could have been your house. This time they look a bit more serious about the restrictions.

not elig

I experimented with the Check your eligibility  page. I put in my real name and address to start and got the rejection banner shown here. Then I thought I’d be clever and claim to be a college student. Whoa – they actually run your name and birthday through a service that checks student ID’s!

OK, so I try another idea – a phony name  but an actual address for an apartment building down the street. Success!  “Congratulations, you’re eligible! Choose your package” appears on the next screen.

Next I am  taken to the checkout page to both pay and setup my online account. So clearly it is still possible to loophole your way around the new restrictions. If you are uncomfortable with all this subterfuge, perhaps you purchase the service for a friend that really lives in an apartment building , goes to college, or even lives in San Francisco.  But then your friend doesn’t have time to watch and gifts his account to you. I’m guessing that would be perfectly legal.

Better ideas? Let me know in the comments below…

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What’s next for Aereo?

As the dust settles on ABC vs Aereo, a clear cord cutter loss, I thought it might be fun to speculate on conversations going on at Aereo headquarters right now. Here are some ideas – admittedly not all of them good ones – on a possible “Plan B” for the company. Feel free to let me know if you think of some I overlooked.


1. Go out of business completely.

Start-ups come and go, and investors know it, but Aereo made it well past the typical market trial phase – they had paying customers in 11 cities. It would be a shame to simply walk away completely. As of this writing CEO Chet Kanojia has announced that Aereo is turning off but calling the shutdown temporary.


2. Become legal, pay the broadcasters, and become a real cable operator.

There are some intriguing concepts here including becoming the first nation wide streaming cable operator. Of course this is no longer a cord cutter thing. But no other cable operator today can (or is willing to) offer Pay TV services to anyone with an internet connection. Another sub-option would be to offer a la carte. This is no doubt technically possible – Netflix for example could do it. Bu the economics of content fees could be a deal killer.


"Individual" antenna? Aereo's fate depends on this

The infamous “dime sized antenna” may become history.

3. Move off-shore.

Internet gambling companies have tried this approach with some success. The problem here is your company might be legal but the activity is still not.


4. Forget about streaming broadcasts  - focus on cloud DVR.

If Aereo offered a cloud  DVR service for your own personal recordings, there might be some takers. This would be pretty close to the Slingbox model. But Slingbox stores your data in the box. Perhaps there would be some appeal of having it in the cloud.


5. Focus on alternate legal content.

If Aereo had millions of subscribers they might have a stronger position bargaining with content providers. Aereo has been silent on subscriber count but  one report that New York had 100K hints that  the total number might be under 1 million. That being the case they night consider offering something cheap or free while building up their cord cutter loyalists. Unfortunately it’s hard to come up with free content these days. At least that’s not already easily streamed.


Well that’s all I could come up with, and the only two that seem even mildly attractive are # 2 and #4. Better ideas anyone?





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Aereo Loses

I knew it. Update soon.


Supreme Court rules against Aereo


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AT&T, DirecTV and the future of NFL Sunday Ticket

Considering today’s merger news and  then looking back a year, it was really stunning that purchasing a $99 video game would provide access to NFL Sunday Ticket without a DirecTV subscription.   Now we hear that AT&T plans to buy DirecTV –  but only if the NFL Sunday Ticket is part of the deal

DirecTV currently pays the NFL $1 billion per year for the rights to NFL Sunday Ticket.  That’s approximately $49.51 for each of DirecTV’s 20.2 million subscribers.  According to estimates by iStockAnalyst approximately 15 to 21.6 % of these also take NFL Sunday Ticket.

Will AT&T taking control of NFL Sunday Ticket benefit the consumer in any way? Don’t count on it. AT&T seems to be extremely good at growing market share through brute force tactics. Think back to the launch of the iPhone – an AT&T exclusive at the time - which paid off. AT&T is likely to use NFL Sunday Ticket effectively to compete with Comcast for market share. It’s a good bet that AT&T will kill any cord cutter friendly ideas  like offering NFL Sunday Ticket via Playstation or  including it with the Madden  video game.

If AT&T/DirecTV/NFL Sunday Ticket goes through it will be bad for consumers for multiple reasons:

The YouTube video above captures precisely my experience with this company. In the video the customer has spent hours on the phone trying to get a simple issue resolved. Several years back I used AT&T’s U-verse and  then later AT&T’s DSL. Somehow AT&T managed to mix up my payments so that one account accumulated a credit and the other kept going past due. It took hours to resolve.

Where I live the Pay TV market consists of the following:

  1. Time Warner Cable
  2. AT&T U-Verse
  3. Dish
  4. DirecTV

Unlike the Comcast/TWC deal, AT&T/DirecTV truly eliminates a competitor.  And NFL Sunday Ticket is the tool that will help them do that. Many happy DirecTV customers will reluctantly switch over to AT&T to keep NFL Sunday Ticket.

Back in  2011 AT&T attempted to purchase T-Mobile but the DOJ nixed the deal because it would eliminate competition. I can’t see any reason why  AT&T/DirecTV should be approved by regulators. Can you?



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Cord Cutters vote NO on AT&T DirecTV Merger

Unlike the Comcast + TWC merger,  AT&T’s  plan clearly takes one of Cable’s choices away. There are places (e.g. where I live) that the choice is :


AT&T U-Verse



Congress said no to AT&T on T-Mobile. Let’s see what happens this time. More to come.

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The End of TV?

OK so this title is a little dramatic but today’s post comes courtesy of Jack Kelle over at Affordable Online Colleges. I’m not big on info-graphics, but apparently Jack has quite the knack for it. Click on the image to see it full scale.





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Comcast to Divest 3.9 Million Clients: But from Where?

Just breaking on Bloomberg: Comcast to Divest 3.9 Million Clients to Enable Merger.

We knew this was happening, but still no word which cities get orphaned.


Update 4-29-14:  We are starting to see what the new cable operator will look like. Somewhat a surprise is that Hawaii stays with Comcast/TWC. Maybe the execs want a place to escape. Somewhat predicted, KC also stays.


“Charter would pick up Time Warner Cable customers in Ohio, Wisconsin, Kentucky, Indiana and parts of Alabama.

Comcast, Charter reach $20-billion deal, would swap customers in L.A.


Atop all that, Comcast and Charter plan to spin off a new firm—dubbed SpinCo, for now—into a publicly traded cable operator with 2.5 million customers from Comcast’s former system, concentrated mainly in Alabama, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, and Minnesota. Among the larger cities moving to the new company will be Birmingham, Detroit, Indianapolis, Louisville, and Minneapolis-St. Paul.

Comcast Makes a Big Show of Shedding Cable-TV Subscribers





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A Cord Cutter’s Dream: What happens if Aereo wins in the Supreme Court?

On April 22nd, American Broadcasting Companies, Inc. v. Aereo, Inc. will be heard in the Supreme Court and if Aereo should prevail all hell will break loose.

Aereo offers a service that takes all the local broadcast channels and streams them to your mobile devices for only $8 per month. In the Boston area this would provide you with all the major networks and a collection of other independents and affiliates amounting to about 35 channels.

"Individual" antenna? Aereo's fate depends on this

“Individual” antenna? Aereo’s fate depends on this idea.

The big problem is that Aereo doesn’t pay a cent for their content. Nope, they just take it off the air for free. Comcast, Time Warner Cable, etc don’t have this advantage. They must pay re transmission fees, and that is what in part makes Pay TV so expensive. Recall the recent battle that TWC had with CBS.

So what could happen if Aereo wins? Here are a few of the possibilities:

1. Aereo gains major publicity and successfully expands across the US.
  Aereo apparently has their hopes up with plans to expand to 19 new cities already. And Aereo has been avoiding the western US  for legal reasons. The supreme court could change that.


2. Cable operators refuse to pay re-transmission fees.
Why should they pay for what Aereo gets for free? I know it all has to do with Aereo’s “individual” antennas, but that’s not rocket science. Comcast is perfectly capable of making the same thing.


3. Broadcasters flip the switch on Aereo by shutting down OTA.
Well maybe. The major networks for example could go Cable only in major metro areas. This would be a kind of scorched earth approach as it inflicts pain on affiliates and the networks themselves.

4. Aereo clones emerge.
Given the go ahead from SCOTUS , multiple Aereo’s could pop-up over night.  And since Netflix already has the infrastructure in place couldn’t they do this without help from Aereo?  The original Aereo could go the way of Napster after having paved the way.

Well these are just a few of the possibilities. Now to speculate, I think Aereo will lose. I personally don’t buy the argument that each consumer has an individual antenna. Nonsense and here is my technical argument:

Put up one giant antenna, carefully amplify and split that signal over coax cables and you have have the originals of Cable TV in the US.  So now Aereo has thousands of dime sized antennas that feed the Internet with individual streams.  What you end up with is the same thing by a different technical method. Aereo looks like a Cable operator to me.

In any case the ramifications of this case are enormous on the industry.  I’ll be watching.



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