Switching to TiVo HD and Leaving DirecTV

After 5 years as a loyal DirecTV subscriber, I’m canceling my account and switching to TiVo HDs using *gasp* an over-the-air antenna! I never would have guessed I’d be doing this; I remember when I was a kid in rural Kentucky and all we received were 4 grainy stations out of Louisville. Cable TV, and later Satellite, made the poor reception and selection a thing of the past. But several things have changed since then and digital makes all the difference. Here’s why I’m switching and my thoughts on my new TiVo HD.

Network Programming

This year, I noticed how high the quality of prime time network television is. Nicole and I barely left the house due to our new addition to the family, so we set one of our TiVos to record every single season premier on the fall schedule. Without exception, every one of the prime time network premiers were pretty good and every non-prime time premier was somewhere between uninteresting and unwatchable. That’ s when it dawned on me: about 90% of the shows we record to our HR10-250 satellite receivers are over-the-air local stations. The antenna in our attic was more valuable than the satellite dish on our house. So why pay DirecTV $70/month for free programming?

If you have strong reception, the HD signals from an over-the-air antenna are the highest quality available. Both satellite and cable compress all of the high definition channels they transmit/repeat, even the local networks.  The local networks do not compress their broadcast signal.  It’s the original, highest-quality source you can get. And because it’s digital, the snowy, washed-out signal is a thing of the past.

New TiVo Hardware and Software

The incentives that made the switch decision final were new features from TiVo. They launched the lower-priced TiVo HD, they enabled Multi-Room Viewing and TiVoToGo features for moving shows around, and they re-offered Lifetime subscriptions for the TiVo service.

I must say, it feels nice to have a TiVo that supports so many features, and feels like it’s supported in general. There is no technical reason the DirecTV HR10-250 TiVo couldn’t implement every feature the TiVo HD does; DirecTV just decided they didn’t want to give customers those features. In the evolving world of technology, this is never a wise decision.  Since DirecTV launched the HR10-250, the only new feature that has been offered is folders for grouping shows. That’s it.

What’s Great About the TiVo HD:

  • Improved Interface: A faster User Interface with updated graphics with crisp edges and pleasing gradients throughout; makes the DirecTV TiVo look and feel “1999” by comparison.
    • DirecTiVo Playing Info Screen  TiVo HD Playing Info Screen
  • Built-in Ethernet network port: no phone line required for activation or daily calls. I never again have to see this message I’ve seen every day for the past few years:
    • DirecTiVo Please Make a Daily Call Soon
  • Native resolution pass-through: the TiVo HD outputs the recorded show in its native resolution; this eliminates any image quality issues due to upscaling or down-converting or interlacing.
  • eSATA expansion for additional Hard Disk Drive: Upgrading the recording space has been the most beneficial enhancement for a TiVo With an external port, this process is much easier. Easy enough for any non-technical user to do; minimal instructions required.
  • Download free programs from the Internet: TiVoCast allows automatic downloading of a bunch of partner content. If you run the PyTiVo server program on a network computer, you can access every movie and videocast your hard drive can hold (PyTiVo transcodes them and sends them to the TiVo HD.)
    • TiVo HD Download TV and Movies    TiVo HD TiVoCast
  • Rent movies: With the Amazon Unbox feature, you can find, purchase, download, and start watching about any movie you could want.
  • No monthly fees: Not to DirecTV. Not to TiVo. (Thanks to TiVo for offering the lifetime service transfer; I wouldn’t have gone for the deal otherwise)
  • Digital Cable Option:  I can switch to any of the local cable services and use a cable card with my existing hardware (if for some reason I decide more channels.)
  • Software Updates:  I’m positive TiVo will continue to release new software updates with great new features.

What I’ll miss about DirecTV:

  • The Discovery Channel
  • Food Network
  • HBO: Inside the NFL and Entourage

My TiVo HD Wishlist:

As great as the TiVo HD is, there are still a couple of things it could do better. Here’s my wishlist:

  • Series Premier/Series Finale Data in Program Guide: DirecTV offered this as part of their guide data. This made it very easy to find and record all of the new shows each season. The program data on the TiVo (from TV Guide) does not have this extra information. Shame on you for being 1-upped by DirecTV. The online fall TV guide is not adequate compensation.
  • Automatic e-mail or SMS message if there are recording conflicts: If a show is not going to record, I’d like to know about it. I never look through the TiVo menu for conflicts and often have to do a CSI-style reconstruction to figure out why a show is missing. Please TiVo, just send me a weekly e-mail listing the conflicts.
  • Multi-room coordination of recording conflicts: if you have 2 TiVos and one TiVo is unable to record a program, I would like to see it hand-off the recording responsibility to the other TiVo.
  • Add Video Podcasts by RSS URL: To allow the downloading of online videos that are not currently indexed by the TiVo service
  • TiVo Desktop replication of the TiVo User Interface: When creating a bunch of season passes, it sure would be a lot faster doing that through TiVo Desktop on your computer. I would like to see portions of the TiVo UI replicated in TiVo Desktop, giving easier data entry and searching via the keyboard and mouse.
  • Backup Season Pass List: If your TiVo crashes, it is a pain to recreate all of your Season Passes. I would like my season pass list to be automatically backed-up to the TiVo server every month or so. Or at least give an option to create and print a list of season passes through TiVo Desktop. (Note: there is a partial implementation of this feature if you activate the TiVo KidZone feature on a Series2 or Series3 non-DirecTV TiVo.)
  • Automatically scan the Unencrypted QAM channels: Cable companies seem to want to charge for cable cards. They use random channels for local HD, such as ABC 6-1 showing up 116-1 one week, 97-2 the next. I’d like TiVo to scan those station and use the PSIP information to identify channels.
  • Automatic padding: if there isn’t a show on after the one being recording, record an extra few minutes just in case the show runs a bit long. You can currently specify end padding, but that can cause a recording conflict if there is another recording immediately afterwards.
  • Unlabeled lights on the front panel: There are green, red, amber, and blue lights on the front panel. I have no idea what they mean. It looks like amber is remote control signal acknowledgment. I’m assuming red means there is a recording. But it would be nice to have some silk-screened labels on the front to clarify this.

Do you have some suggestions as to how TiVo can improve their service? Let them know!


Written by in: Home Theater | Last updated on: 2014-May-27 |


  • KurtH says:

    I’ve thought of leaving Directv many times. I just cannot part with Discovery, Science Channel, and History, especially since they are now in HD. I’d MUCH RATHER use my windows media center as my DVR…however thats not really feasible for anything but OTA. I’d like to follow suit, but I think DTV has my bucks for now.

  • KurtH says:

    By the way, what does a TivoHD lifetime subscription run these days? I like the idea of Tivo….just need to find a way to get good content that isn’t OTA. Looks like Amazon unbox service is not yet streaming HD and my Cable provider in the area is much much more evil that Directv.

  • Carlton Bale says:

    I paid $199 for a TiVo Lifetime Transfer, so it transferred lifetime from an old Series 1 TiVo to the TiVo HD. You can find a new TiVo HD for $240. The payback period was less than a year for both of the TiVo HDs as well as the lifetime transfers.

    Amazon Unbox is not yet HD. I’m looking forward to when they are (it’s been rumored.) Amazon Unbox videos look similar to DVD but are slightly more compressed. The worst part is that they are all 4:3, even the widescreen movies. So there is letterboxing/boarders on both the sides and the top. Zooming in with the TV aspect ratio controls removes the black boarders, but the video is very low resolution and the flaws become much more apparent. Still, for easy-of-use and immediate viewing, it’s a great service and I’m sure it will improve in the future.

  • KurtH says:

    I have to think the future is streaming content over the Internet. It makes too much sense. I know there are near term bandwidth issues…..but I’d think these could be overcome with local Caches of programs.

  • TracyI says:

    Why wouldn’t you consider DISH Network where you have all of the HD content you loved from DirecTV, and an amazing HD DVR that DirectTV or Tivo doesn’t offer?

  • Carlton Bale says:

    Tracy, let me be honest with you: I hate it when employees of a company leave self-serving comments without divulging their affiliation. I feel that it’s unethical marketing.

    Since you asked, here are the reasons I would not chose Dish Network.
    1) Dish Network is not free and Over-the-Air broadcasts are.
    2) Dish Network does not offer HD local stations in all markets that over-the-air local networks cover.
    3) The Dish Network DVR offers none of the advanced features offered by a TiVo HD. Did you read the post above? Multi-room viewing, TiVo-to-Go, the support of third-party software that allows you play any video stored on your PC on your TiVo, enhanced conflict resolution, overlap protection, etc.
    4) I feel that Dish Network is infringing on several patents held by TiVo. A jury, an appeals court, and the U.S. patent office all agree with this view. I read that TiVo gave Echostar a prototype satellite receiver DVR in the late 1990s. It’s my opinion that Echostar unlawfully copied that technology and used it in their own receiver without paying the TiVo, the owners of that intellectual property.
    5) DirecTV just brought online a new satellite and have more HD channels and options than Dish Network. If I were going to go back to satellite, I’d chose DirecTV again.

  • FootballFanhelp says:

    I’ve been a lifetime Tivo subscriber since ’99 and a Directv customer. Got the Tivo early on because I liked the idea and thought this is the future of tv. Directv for one reason and one reason only, ESPN College Football Gameplan and NFL package.

    No complaints with either and even though my Gen-1 Tivo box was a Sony, had a warm fuzzy from the fact Tivo & Directv had a good close relationship. And very happy with Tivo great customer service which allowed me switch my lifetime to a Gen-2 Tivo box over a year ago.

    Now as of early 2008, Directv and Tivo have went their on way to the extent Tivo HD has no IR functionality to control the Directv boxes, ergo, Tivo HD doesn’t work with Directv…what to do? I can’t give up my football addiction, but want all the features of my Tivo (so far we’ve really enjoyed the Amazon Unbox as well) in HD.

    Tivo Tech support says maybe someday in the near future they’ll come out with a Tivo HD that again includes the IR functionality, but no definite plans…they point to how the Tivo box can function as a cable box and allows for multi-channel same-time recording (a feature the Tivo tech-guy I grilled said was an absolute need as everyone screamed for it), something that can never be done via a satellite connection.

    Any knowledge on how to resolve this conflict? Any hope on the horizon that Tivo and Directv will see the light and work well together again? (And no, go buy the Directv Tivo HD boxes that are till floating around…for the reason, you can’t transfer lifetime (Directv runs the service even though Tivo holds the software license) and it doesn’t allow for Tivo-Amazon Unbox.)

  • Carlton Bale says:

    There is a pretty good chance that DirecTV and TiVo will have a new HD receiver in the future. Now that DirecTV is no longer a part of News Corp, it is much more free to use other software providers, and the two companies have hinted at new produces. The fact that they are still updating the software on old TiVos speaks well of their relationship.

    In my opinion, there is no way Amazon Unbox or any video downloads will be on any DirecTV receiver. They want to control all of the content. If you’re looking for a DirecTV Satellite receiver/TiVo/Internet Download box, it will never happen.

    FYI, the old HR10-250 HD TiVo Sat receivers will no longer be able to receive the Gameplan/NFL packages because they are only being broadcast in MPEG4 — they only decodes MPEG2. It was a great receiver, but has become somewhat obsolete.

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