|Hughes DirecTV TiVo PVR|
|Home Theater Media Servers Satellite & Cable Receivers/PVRs/DVRs/TiVo|
|Written by Jerry Del Colliano|
|Thursday, 01 January 2004|
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As one of the millions of subscribers of DirecTV’s satellite service, I was compelled by an ongoing campaign to promote their own Hughes PVR (personal video recorder) for a seemingly unbelievable price of $199 per unit – installed. The unit completes the same tasks as the famous Sony SAT T-60 (about $500 retail – now discontinued), being both a satellite receiver and a TiVo recording device with a 35-hour recording capability, all in the same chassis. The value of the DirecTV offer was too compelling for me to resist, especially considering that to get another used Sony SAT T-60 from eBay was going to cost me close to the same $500 it costs to get a new one. I had a new bedroom system going in with a kickass new Sony 34XBR910 34-inch CRT HDTV set along with all of the other goodies. Why shouldn’t I have all of my favorite shows recorded and waiting for me to watch in bed?
Ordering additional hardware for DirecTV is not too difficult, unless you value your own time because DirecTV, unlike most cable providers, continues to have obscenely long wait times to get a human being on the phone. Once I got a person on the phone, I found out the DirecTV offered a payment plan for the unit where they would amortize the cost of the unit over two monthly bills. I took that option and forgave them for making me wait so long on the phone. I ordered the unit to be shipped to the AudioRevolution.com offices so that I could install it myself on my own time. My DirecTV authorized satellite installer neatly left me multiple feeds from my dish in my bedroom system. Installation for me was as easy as twisting a few satellite connections and running audio and video outs to my TV and new Denon receiver. That is about as basic as it gets, but the process of obtaining the unit was far more complex.
Two weeks had passed with no Hughes TiVo showing up at the office. I later found voicemail on my home number (I told them specifically not to call there when I ordered the system) saying that a firm I had never heard of was ready to send a crew out to install the unit for me and that they would be there next Friday between 9 AM and noon. Getting increasingly miffed, I called the installation company and told them that I couldn’t wait for them for three hours at home and urged them to simply ship the unit to me. It became increasingly clear that they weren’t going to ship me the unit, but they agreed to make me the first call of the day that next Friday. This was another compromise I could live with.
The following week, I had a chance to think about DirecTV insisting on having a team of people come out and install a $199 component. Even if the unit was 100 percent profit, which it certainly isn’t, there is no money in the deal for this kind of service. Hell, in Los Angeles, plumbers charge $135 for a one-hour service call – why was DirecTV making such an investment? Then it dawned on me. DirecTV wants to look around your house with people who can rat you out for having cheater cards or DirecTV emulators. Just as DirecTV forces you to change access cards periodically to dissuade you from stealing their service, they now want to inspect your house to make sure you aren’t doing anything you shouldn’t be with your DirecTV service. If you are a privacy-minded person or someone with something to hide, you can stop considering this unit right now. Since I do not use a cheater card or a PC-based emulator, I had nothing to hide. The guys came up and were done in 10 minutes and the unit was ready to be programmed.
How Do People Watch TV Without TiVo?
I really don’t know how people watch television without TiVo at this point. It is the most amazing service, capable of changing an often mindless media into a useful, entertaining and educational tool. Moreover, TiVo allows you to watch TV on your schedule without the commercials you don’t want to watch. I don’t mean to make myself out to be some ultra-busy CEO type, but I do have a lot to do in any given day and TiVo helps me watch more TV the way I want to and on my schedule. For example, if I record a USC or Philadelphia Eagles football game, sometimes I don’t want to watch my team play all of their defense downs. I can just click fast-forward three times and wait until my team gets the ball back. It depends on my mood, but I now have the option to watch the game the way I want to.
As I am a very loyal Philadelphia Flyers fan, TiVo adds tremendous value, considering most East Coast games come on at 4:00 PM Pacific time. I don’t leave the office until 7:00 PM, so I can record the games and have them waiting for me when I get home after I’ve had some dinner and am ready to watch. Even better is the fact I can fast-forward through the intermissions, since it is rare to get the hometown Comcast feed on the NHL Center Ice Package. Without missing any of the action, I can cut down the time it takes me to watch a Flyers game from over two hours to about 45 minutes. Before TiVo, I couldn’t make my VCR record the games from my DirecTV system.
TiVo’s powers extend beyond sports. You can set up a “season pass” that records your favorite shows with an impressive list of options designed to give you what you want when you want it. If you like “The Sopranos,” you can choose to record a show and from that record screen and set a Season Pass. If you have seen all of the past episodes, you can set a preference to record only first-run showings. If you are recording a show like “The Simpsons,” you might define your preferences to record only five total episodes because, thanks to syndication, you can fill your TiVo up very quickly with nothing but Bart, Lisa, Maggie, Marge and Homer. If you have special interests, such as following the glorious fall of the right-winger Rush Limbaugh, you can use the keywords “Rush Limbaugh,” as well as others like “Hillbilly Heroin,” “OxyContin” or “ruined career,” to create custom record lists that will pull shows that you might not otherwise know to record. Using keywords is a more advanced way to record but once you spend 10 minutes with the TiVo menu, you’ll be confident that you can pull it off. The interface is spectacularly good for everyone from the hardcore home theater enthusiast to the most average American who loves his or her 4.3 hours per day of TV.