Hulu voodoo: The arduous process of leaving DirecTV for online television

I’m finally ready to join the future. Too bad technical issues are standing in my way.

Almost as soon as I signed up for DirecTV two years ago, I was ready to leave (poor customer service, expensive programming packages, general shoddiness), but I had to wait out the entire contract or pay ridiculously high penalties. So, I waited (and fumed), all the while compiling information about my next TV-watching step. I considered the following options (listed in order of likelihood): a) moving back to Time-Warner Cable; b) converting solely to online content through Hulu and Netflix; c) starting my own cable/satellite company; or d) keeping DirecTV.


Add this to the things I’d rather do than deal with DirecTV.

Each option had its own set of pros/cons:
Cable pro – easy to install; familiarity with system
Cable con – overall cost in comparison to how much I actually use it

Online pro – extremely affordable; feeling of being cool and forward-thinking
Online con – somewhat limited viewing options; potential for streaming issues; total fear of the unknown when cutting the cable cord

Starting my own company pro – free access to unlimited options
Starting my own company con – lack of startup capital; lack of business plan; lack of business acumen

Keeping DirecTV pro – I can use my phone to schedule shows to be recorded (that is honestly the best thing I can say about the company)
Keeping DirecTV con – the company belongs to, and is operated by, the devil

During all this time of studying, fretting, worry-warting over the switch (which has gotten so consuming that I guess it really should be called The Switch), an interesting thing started popping up in various media reports toward the end of 2010: an increasing number of people were migrating from cable to online content. The thinking tended to be along the same lines for most people as they have grown weary of cable/satellite companies charging so much for their programming.

When the Kardashian sisters are promoting your product, you might finally be realizing you’re at the desperation point.

This is a reasonable concern. My existing DirecTV package is, after paying for high definition and DVR services, comes to a bit more than $70 a month. That’s not too bad until you consider that’s $840 a year, mostly for something that sees me use about 5 percent of the options (this is an actual estimate, based on my regular or semi-regular viewing of seven of the 145 channels I receive).

So, in an effort to begin paying for the channels we actually want, more and more people have decided to give up the cable/satellite packaging and sign up for online content, where we might not get everything we want as soon as we want it, but at least we’re not paying for things we don’t want.

Plus, with the networks moving to all-digital content, thus making HD-quality programming available for ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox through an antenna, the move away from cable//satellite seems almost inevitable.

I began my journey this past weekend, popping into Georgetown’s Radio Shack to pick up an antenna. I don’t think I’d ever been in this particular store before, and like a comedian once said, I found myself amazed it stays in business. It seems to sell nothing but batteries, cables and remote control cars. That said, it also had an antenna, which I quickly purchased to take home to install and test.

Instead, I reached Failure No. 1. My TV is wall-mounted, and my hand can’t fit in the space between it and the wall, meaning it’s impossible to plug in the coaxial cable from the antenna to the TV. None of my small-handed adult friends were available (side note: it’s always good to have a few friends with elfin qualities for situations like this; also, they’re handy for journeys through Middle Earth), so the antenna went back in the box to wait for a future date.

If you can get get past their tendnency to eat humans (I’m basing this solely on Jurassic Park) and their likely inability to fit in your home, a T-Rex could be perfect for installing your coaxial cable.

In the downtime, I signed up for a free one-week trial of Hulu-Plus, thinking I could test the streaming quality through my PlayStation 3 to see if it’s good enough before dropping DirecTV. Easier said than done. Actually, leaving the Church of Scientology is likely easier than the initial sign-up/downloading of Hulu-Plus for PS3.

First of all, neither Hulu nor PlayStation seem to provide any easy-to-find directions on how to actually get the Hulu app onto the PS3. A Google search eventually brought up a few options, all of whom seemed to find the same problem, which then led them to go online and write up some instructions in order to help idiots like me.

After finally figuring out I had to create a PlayStation Network account, then finding the Hulu app at the PS Store, then getting an activation code, then entering that code on the Hulu website, then re-accessing Hulu on my PS3, I was ready to watch a few episodes of TV.

Instead, I reached Failure No. 2. Oh, sure, I could get a few things to pop up here or there, but overall, I mostly encountered problems streaming the actual shows. Oddly enough, the sponsorship ads had no problems playing, to the point that a few of them appeared to be on an endless loop. I realize it’s only a free trial (and even when being paid, it’s just $7.99 a month), but I still expect to get some sort of working service for my money (when I’m actually paying for it, of course). I was able to watch about two minutes of an old Saturday Night Live before I finally gave up and tried a Modern Family. Same problem.


All these shows and more are available to have problems watching on your PS3.

At this point, I have an antenna I can’t plug in and a Hulu account that won’t stream. I’m waiting to hear back from some others who have Hulu-Plus to see if they have any suggestions, but at this point, I’m still pretty certain I’m sticking with them..

In the meantime, I’m going to start mapping out that business plan for StrotherTV.

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6 thoughts on “Hulu voodoo: The arduous process of leaving DirecTV for online television

  1. Is your Ps3 using wireless to access the net? If so, that could be your problem.

    Ps3 wireless stinks to high heaven. The easiest fix if you are using a wireless router is to get a repeater unit (basically another wireless router) and connect the Ps3 to it with an ethernet cable.

    Of course, that might involve another trip to Radio Shack.

  2. Much laughing. Sign me up for StrotherTV.

    Also, let me know how the reception is with the antenna (if you ever get it connected). I’ve heard that the indoor ones are not so great. I tried one in my basement some time ago and it didn’t work well at all. I guess if I were to go that route, I’d probably put a bigger antenna in the attic maybe or possibly on the roof.

  3. Pingback: I hope DirecTV goes DirecToHell | So … there I was

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