I love television. And I watch a lot of it.
Though "watch" is probably an overstatement. For the most part I have television on while I work or do chores or write in this blog or whatever. It's just passive entertainment that gets a small portion of my attention while I focus on something more important. I record shows like this to my DVR, but don't care if I miss them. If my DVR gets too backed up, I'll delete them.
There are a few shows, however, which deserve every ounce of my attention... these are the shows that I am devoted to and don't want to miss a thing. Computer off. Center of the couch. Fully engaged with my television. I won't miss these shows for anything, and my entire world stops so I can enjoy them.
One of those shows is Penn & Teller: Fool Us.
I've loved magic since I was a kid, and seeing magicians try and fool celebrated magicians like Penn & Teller is everything I want in a television show. And on those rare occasions where a magician actually can fool them? That's my joy. If you've never seen the show, here's one of my favorite segments so you can get an idea about it...
Love love love it.
This past week I remembered that the latest episode of Penn & Teller: Fool Us was recorded on my DVR. I put away my laptop. I sat on my couch. I turned up the volume. I was ready to be amazed. I pressed the "play" button. And...
Needless to say, I was enraged. One of the handful of shows I need to see, and there's some kind of price dispute between CBS and DirecTV making it "unavailable."
It's at this point that I realize how these blackouts are happening more and more often. And if it's not blackouts, it's threats of blackouts. Remember back in March when Comedy Central was on the chopping block?
And so... I'm done with this shit.
Not because there's a blackout. Again. But because every time this happens, DirecTV isn't paying the networks who are withholding their channels... BUT THEY ARE STILL CHARGING ME THE FULL AMOUNT OF MY BILL!
So I call DirecTV to cancel my service and the first thing they tell me is that I can get local channels "over the air" with an antennae they'll send me. I explain that I live in a remote area surrounded by mountains and don't get many channels "over the air" and the channel that Penn & Teller: Fool Us is on is NOT a local channel anyway.
DirecTV: "So is there anything I can do to get you to keep your service? Offer you a lower rate? Upgrade your channel package?"
ME: "Short of going back in time and crediting me money on every bill I paid when a channel blackout was in effect... since I wasn't getting everything I was paying for? No. There's nothing you can do."
Of course DIRECTV wants to offer me all kinds of discounts now that I'm cancelling. Where were they with their apology money the LAST SEVERAL TIMES there were channel blackouts? It's insulting that they want so badly to treat me right now that I'm leaving, but not when I was a customer. I will never understand why companies won't work to keep you a happy customer until you want to walk away. What business sense does that make?
I have Amazon Prime, Netflix, and Hulu already. I will still get HBO free with my AT&T wireless package. I will be adding Disney+ the minute it becomes available. I just signed up for Sling "Blue" service (with the "Lifestyle Extra" add-on so I can have DIY Network and Hallmark channels). Penn & Teller: Fool Us can stream for free on The CW app for my Apple TV. That will cover 90% of what I watch. I will add CBS All Access when there are shows I want to see. So I'm good. And I'm paying $25 less a month than I was with DirecTV.
Oh... and get this... if I pre-pay three months in advance for my Sling "Blue" service, they'll send me a FREE over-the-air antennae plus an AirTV Player! This allows me to integrate what few over-the-air channels I do get with my Sling service. The player alone is usually $120, so that's pretty sweet, even if I can't really take advantage of it because of where I live.
And so... the magic was gone, but now it's my satellite TV that's gone and my magic is back.
I guess that's a win? I'm gonna take it as a win.
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When I contacted DIRECTV Now about the CBS blackout, I got a $15 credit for the next two months bringing my total down to $35 a month. Honestly, I could care less if we ever get CBS back at this point. I’ll miss a lot but I’m not sure I’ll truly miss it. Katie on the other hand…
If DirecTV had ever automatically applied money when my channels were blacked out, I probably wouldn’t be nearly as angry as I am. But the fact that I have to call them and threaten to leave for them to do something is insane.
The cable and satellite companies have their devious tactics, to be sure, but the real villains in this are the content providers who demand extortionate rate increases every year even as their ratings steadily decline.
Sure. And it’s great that DirecTV is fighting to keep their rates as low as they can. But I maintain that DirecTV shouldn’t A) Charge their customers for something they aren’t getting while DirecTV isn’t paying for it but instead pocketing the money, and B) Wait until customers are leaving before doing the right thing. That’s all on them.