Thursday, September 2, 2010

Lies, damn lies and marketing

I cancelled our DirecTV service this evening after being a customer for more than 15 years.

As is always the case, my cancellation was handled by the "save" department. This is the bunch of phone reps whose job it is to do whatever it takes to prevent you from canceling your service. Every subscription service oriented company has them. Some are more pernicious than others. It should be no surprise at all that companies are working harder than ever to make their web sites handle every possible customer need conceivable.

Except that one.

No, AOL never had a "cancel my service" button. Neither did XM.

Netflix, to their credit, does. And they don't hide it. It's the third link down from the top of the page on the "Your account" screen. They ask you why you're leaving, but otherwise they don't make a fuss. Even if I didn't have them on my resume, I'd admire that attitude.

The DirecTV guy I had on the phone tried to drag Comcast through the mud in a couple of ways - comparing the customer satisfaction ratings of the two companies. He even said, and I am quoting him directly here, "Did you know Comcast has no HD?"

After a moment of stunned silence, I told him I was looking at an HD picture as we speak. He then said, "no, that's 720p. Comcast has no true HD."

Oh. My. God.

Let's look at the situation here.

Comcast's goal is to deliver as much video as they can with as little bandwidth as possible. Ironically, that's also DirecTV's goal - a goal that DirecTV has achieved by switching over to MPEG4 as their main HD codec, which raises the cost of their receivers. But never mind that for now.

720p and 1080i actually take about the same amount of bandwidth. So if you were of the mistaken opinion that 720p was somehow not "true" HD (which it is, by the way.480i is SD, 480p is ED and anything above that is HD), what benefit would it be for Comcast to somehow transcode all 1080i programming to 720p?

No. 720p and 1080i are equal alternatives. 720p is good for high action programming, like sports, and 1080i is better for mostly static programming. But there's never any need or justification for anyone to spend the money to convert one to the other.

Far more likely that that DirecTV rep was lying. Go figure.

The one disappointment I am left with in this whole thing is that we somehow wound up with one of our DVRs being leased. We had an HR21 die on us and it was replaced, and we didn't own the replacement. Go figure that out. So they're going to ship is an empty box to mail it back. Whatever. Even without that, we should wind up getting about half of what we paid for the TiVo out of our old DirecTV gear on eBay.

And with TiVo, we get TiVo to go, so we can liberate our programming from the confines of what The Man says we can do with it. And that, more than anything, is what pissed me off about DirecTV. They went so far out of their way to lock down their programming that they made their service unusable, and/or used that draconian lock to squeeze extra nickels out of us.

No thanks.

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