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Canceling DirecTV - Moving to Playstation Vue

We finally did it - the AAAD household are now cord-cutters.

And so far, so good.

The impetus for this change? Sony's PlayStation Vue service is now available on AppleTV.

Here are our (very early) thoughts....

Why Leave DirecTV?

We aren't unhappy with their service.

We're leaving because of DirecTV's monthly cost.

And their cost structure, which provides artificially low-cost months at the beginning of a 2-year contract, and then makes up for it with extremely high-cost months during the second year - and especially the final 6 months - of that contract.

When a customer is 100% locked in to a 2-year deal, DirecTV knows precisely how much they're going to make from that customer during the 2-year term.

It's unnecessary (and a little bit dishonest) to advertise extremely low introductory pricing, whenthe customer doesn't have the opportunity to escape the extremely high "make-up" pricing in a backloaded contract.

At the start of a term, a customer might be paying $50-65 for TV service. By the end of the term, it's going to be $140 or so per month. Our last bill was almost $160.

The only way out of that $160/month hit is to sign up for another 2-year contract. And that only buys you a year's worth of cost relief - in exchange for another guaranteed high-cost year.

It's time to say "enough".

Is Genie Still Good?

To be clear - I was a huge proponent of DirecTV's Genie platform, and all in all, it's been a pretty good value.

When we first signed up for Genie, it wasn't even called "Genie" - it was called "Advanced DVR Service".  And it cost $100 extra at signup, just to get an HR34 tuner.

Still - the on-screen display was the best in the world at the time. Remember, in 2012, Comcast was still shipping a GUI that looked like this:

16-bit graphics, only  4 channels visible on-screen, and a double-wide ad!
Compared to that mess, DirecTV Genie was a breath of fresh air.

It's still a good GUI, 4 years later.
We've been with DirecTV for over 4 years now.

Over that time, we've moved from an HR34 to an HR44 (an equipment upgrade that DirecTV fought for years, and which was just excruciatingly difficult.)

We've also finished our basement. I'd like to add a 3rd TV to the house - but I really don't want to pay DirecTV MORE than the $160 we're already at.

So, they're out.

If not DirecTV, then who?

I'd previously wanted to move to SlingTV, using an AirTV for local channels.

But that was going to require a local antenna... and we'd still have no DVR functionality.

PlayStation Vue (which seemed like the perfect solution) wasn't available for the AppleTV.

Then, on November 16, Apple announced that it was cutting its revenue cut on video subscription apps by half.

That sounded promising! Maybe Sony would make a Vue app now! Or Amazon would consider a video app!

ONE DAY LATER, Sony launched the Vue app for AppleTV. That cannot be a coincidence.

So, we made the switch.

Welcome to Vue. 

Get used to channels in alphabetical order, instead of by category!

Watching TV on PlayStation Vue is a somewhat different experience.

The idea of flipping through channels is pretty much dead. Then again, when was the last time you scrolled through channels one-by-one?

It's quite a GUI.
Instead, you're presented with "Your Shows", in much the same way you would be on Netflix. It's shows you've actively "liked", and recommendations based on those likes.

You can also look at a standard "Guide" view, which as an Old Guy, I tend to do.

The guide is vertical, which takes some getting used to:
Photo: Gizmodo

In the guide, channels are listed in alphabetical order. You can scroll down to move forward in time, or left-right to see your other channels.

One feature request: I'd like to be able to arrange the channels differently, so that our local networks were all the way to the "left", and similar channels (i.e., sports, news) were grouped together.

In the meantime, we'll make do.

NOTE: There has been a huge blow-up between Sony and Viacom, which has resulted in Vue dropping all Viacom channels. That means no Comedy Central, no Nickelodeon, no MTV.

My daughter LOVES Peppa Pig, and Ben and Holly, and Dora. Nick is going to be tough to lose.

Comedy Central? Well... I'm one of those viewers who never really made the switch from Stewart and Colbert to Noah. It's not appointment TV for me.

We'll likely end up buying full seasons of a few Nick shows, and maybe even the Daily Show or Drunk History. But that's fine.

Plus... all of those channels are still in the guide, with every timeslot marked "Channel Unavailable". Something tells me this isn't over yet.

Image Quality

This is really the deal-breaker. If the image quality isn't up to snuff, we'll keep paying for DirecTV.

After 48 hours, it's "so far, so good". Channels are delivered in 720P format, which is pretty standard.

We flip back and forth between Vue and DirecTV on occasion - while Vue may be a LITTLE bit less crisp, it's quite difficult to tell on our 65" Sony 4K set.

Now, keep in mind - our primary AppleTVs are running on hardwired Ethernet connections. 

There will be one TV set in the house on a wi-fi connection - in the master bedroom. I set the basement AppleTV on wi-fi for a while, and the image quality suffered on occasion.

Ultimately, using multiple HDTVs may require moving to a Gigabit internet connection.

Fortunately, we're going to be saving $100 PER MONTH by leaving DirecTV... so we'll be coming out ahead.

The Verdict

So far, Vue is everything I'd hoped it would be.

It's a cable-TV-level package, available over the AppleTV, which allows me to get rid of another set-top box and stop switching inputs entirely.

I've been waiting for PS Vue to come out for AppleTV for the entire summer.

It's here, we immediately signed up, and we won't look back.

(Unless, you know, it becomes unworkable and we have to move to Comcast Xfinity or something.)


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