Sunday, September 16, 2007

are you ready for some

Today was my first day with the NFL Sunday Ticket in HD. At 1 o'clock I started flipping through channels 718 and up in eager anticipation of glorious high definition football. Just like on Wednesday, I got the dreaded error message, "channel not purchased." When I tried to call DirecTV, all I got was a busy signal. Repeatedly. Maybe I wasn't the only one having problems. I made myself some lunch and put on one of the blurry SD channels to make sure I was at least getting those. By the time I finished eating, most of the HD channels were working. The problem returned at 4 o'clock. Gradually the channels started coming on but by 5 o'clock I was still not getting channel 721. Coincidentally, the error code for "channel not purchased" is 721. I grabbed the phone and called DirecTV to find out what was happening. First I talked to a woman in the Philippines who had me reset my set top box. When that didn't make a difference, she transferred me to a guy in Montana who thought that the problem was somehow related to the September 19th rollout of more HD channels. The engineers were working on it, he said. People on the West Coast will get the new channels first. I was told to be patient as it may take several days (or longer) for them to work their way Eastward.

This was the perfect week for me to work out the bugs with my Sunday Ticket subscription. The Redskins don't play until tomorrow night. Instead of sticking with one game, I was in the mood to watch them all. They have an easy way to do just that on the ADD Channel or as they call it, the Red Zone Channel. Somebody at Sunday Ticket headquarters keeps an eye on which teams are nearing the goal line and flips from game to game for you. You end up seeing most of the scoring plays live. The rest are shown on replay very shortly thereafter. If nobody seems about to score, they show you whichever game is most interesting. There are no commercials. During today's action, there was no halftime break either. By the time the last game ended its first half, other games had already started their second half.

On Sundays that I can't be at home to watch, I can still see most games over the Internet by using the DirecTV Supercast. The games broadcast in my home market (on WVLT and WTNZ) are blacked out on the web, just like they are on the satellite. The flaw in that plan would occur if the game I want to see is on broadcast television in Knoxville while I'm traveling in an area that gets a different game. For example, I wouldn't be able to see a Redskins game on the computer if it's available on WTNZ. If I happened to be in Atlanta and if the Falcons happened to be on at the same time, I would be out of luck. Maybe there's a way to contact DirecTV if I need to travel on a Sunday and all the other chips have fallen into place. Here's a screen grab of what it looked like toward the end of today's Bengals at Browns game, except that I saw the actual game in the empty black box.

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