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Time to Revise The TV-Service Shopping List

Tonight, I will be able to sit down and watch the Washington Nationals get clobbered by play the Atlanta Braves. For a lot of people, that's not a brag-worthy thing. But my TV provider, Dish Network, hasn't carried the Nats' regional sports network, MASN, until now. By finally remedying this oversight--something I'd hoped for earlier on this blog--Dish has ensured that it can remain on my TV-service shopping list.

That doesn't mean I have a simple decision to make. There's so much to consider--it's hard to believe that my parents didn't even need to make a choice, back when all TV came for free from whichever local stations they could tune in with the antenna hanging in the attic. Here's a brief summary of the criteria on my shopping list:

1) I can only pay for TV from a company that actually gets to my home. That excludes Verizon Fios; not only has it not yet reached my street, I have no idea when it will. The only guidance available from Verizon about its expansion plans consists of an out-of-date PDF listing the streets in Northern Virginia on which it had planned to string fiber--during February.

2) My TV-viewing appetites are pretty simple. All I really need are the networks (which I can watch for free thanks to their digital broadcasts), the various flavors of ESPN, HBO (at least while the Sopranos is on) and Nationals and Hoyas games. Now that Dish has gotten off the fence with MASN, all of my available options--Comcast, DirecTV, Dish--can suffice.

3) In general, I want a lower price, not more channels to watch--my wife and I have enough trouble keeping up with the ones we already get. Dish and DirecTV come off well in this department, although both still require you to pay for channels you don't care for.

4) I have to know what I'll pay, and not just over the first year. Here, Comcast hurts itself--the company has mailed about 30 pounds of brochures and flyers to our house over the past three years, but not one has listed what we'd pay after the promotional rates expired. Given some companies'history of constantly jacking up their rates (sometimes, with help from corrupt politicians), this is a big concern of mine.

5) I don't want to have to buy hardware that I don't actually own. This sets back DirecTV, which charges upfront for its high-definition digital video recorder.

Things could be a lot more complicated. I don't need to watch every game of an out-of-town sports franchise (it's painful enough to follow the D.C. area's teams!), choose from 20 different movie channels, or get my Internet access from the same company that provides my TV service.

Do those things matter to you? When you're looking for a new source of TV programming, what do you take into account?

By Rob Pegoraro  |  April 10, 2007; 12:40 PM ET
Categories:  Video  
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