Dan Brown Haunts DirecTV DVRs With Unwanted Movie Rentals

If you own a DirecTV DVR, did you receive a mysterious, unwanted rental of “Angels and Demons” this weekend? Readers Jeff and Catastrophegirl did, and they have a warning: Don’t watch it! It’s a trap!

The rogue rental is there because of a glitch, and you will not be charged unless you actually select and view it. Catastrophegirl e-mailed the company, and received this response:

I do apologize for the trouble. For your reference, “Angels and Demons” is being downloaded to receivers automatically in error. If you do not want to watch this movie, please press the RED “delete” button to delete it from your playlist. If you choose to watch this movie, you will be charged. Furthermore, our Engineering Team is aware of the issue and is working to resolve it as soon as possible.

Thanks again for writing and for letting me respond to your concern.


Karen D.
DIRECTV Customer Service

We can’t help but wonder how many customers will see this and think “hey, free movie!”



Edit Your Comment

  1. FDCPAGuy says:

    Sorry I couldn’t resist the image! Isn’t this something like entrapment?

  2. GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

    It’s the killer movie! It’s been circulating and killing ever since it was released. Just like Pootie Tang!

    Sada tay.

  3. tenioman says:

    Great way for DirecTV to increase their profit margin.
    Why not give it to everybody for free. It is their mistake, they should pay for it.

    • Jeff-er-ee says:

      I wonder if this might be handled the same way as when something is sent to you in the U.S. mail that you didn’t order. As I understand it, if something is delivered to via U.S. mail you that you didn’t request, you’re free to keep it at no charge.

      That might be restricted to shipment via U.S. mail though, and may not apply here.

  4. Jete says:

    They did the same thing a few weeks ago with Aliens vs Monsters, but that time they put a $ icon next to the name, now it looks like they’ve removed it. They claimed that it was an error last time as well, but they recently removed the tab above the listing that separated user recorded shows from the automatically downloaded pay per view movies. I don’t think this is an accident, I think it is their new way of trying to increase pay per view movie orders and are trying to see if their subscribers will stand for it before going all in.

  5. Saites says:

    Not to blame the OP, but “Days of our Lives”? Really, Catastrophegirl, really? :)

  6. catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

    i didn’t send this pic in because it didn’t come out well, but i clicked info without selecting the movie and it says rental here also, but doesn’t give a price or specifically say anything about payment occurring if you selected the movie.

    • Esquire99 says:

      It does say, “24 Hour rental,” which implies some cost.

      • catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

        well, exactly. which is why i emailed them to make sure i wasn’t going to get charged. i know better than to trust them! hehe

      • psm321 says:

        I don’t know about DirectTV but for comcast on-demand even the free to watch things have a rental time listed.

    • ahleeeshah says:

      While I don’t know how DVR works, if that picture-in-picture on the top right is actually picture-in-picture, you appear to be watching Top Gear, and for this, I love you.

      • Jeff-er-ee says:

        Yay Jeremy! That totally makes up for the Days of our Lives thing, and then some.

        • catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

          days of our lives was NOT my dvr. seriously. i got totally turned off to soap operas as a kid due to a babysitter who was hooked.
          and yes, that’s top gear. was actually top gear with Simon Cowell though so i ended up fast forwarding through all the parts where he talked.

    • h3llc4t, breaker of office dress codes says:


  7. Nick1693 says:

    I think a credit should be given to anyone who accidentally buys it.

  8. Letsgohokies says:

    I had it on mine this morning. I figured it was some kind of shady way of charging you for. Glad I deleted it.

  9. twophrasebark says:


  10. Pandare says:

    Huh. There’s a principle in contracts that says if someone ships something to you, you don’t have to give it back or pay for it. Mere acceptance of a good without prior warning that accepting it binds you to pay for it is without consideration to form a contract, so you can keep it. I wonder if a court would accept that this is an analogous situation if someone filed a class action?

    • johnnya2 says:

      I suggest you read the actual CONTRACT you have with Directv. I also know if you are good customer of Direvctv, they will waive the fee if it was done in error

    • Joedragon says:

      This is part of the push VOD system on direct tv it just ended up in the wrong list.

      Other ppv are pushed to the HD dvr.

    • Daemon Xar says:

      This isn’t really relevant since it’s a video-on-demand, and not a delivered good, but for the record, no, that’s not true. If you keep goods that are erroneously delivered to you, a court could easily use a theory of implied contract or unjust enrichment to make you either pay for it or return it (your choice, probably). The question is whether it’s worth the fight to them.

      • Shadowfax says:


        That’s a sample of a state law which says that unsolicited gifts can be kept, thrown away, or if the recipient is in a really good mood, returned to the sender. Unsolicited gifts are not a contract and the court will not recognize them as such.

        Where things differ here is that DTV will claim that you /are/ soliciting the content when you go to watch it. The consumer would claim that the DVR is theirs, the content on the DVR is theirs, and if someone put a movie on the DVR, then that content (or the license to view it) becomes theirs as well. Who’s right will probably depend on who has the better lawyer, which means DTV will be right since it has a lot more money for high-powered litigators than the average subscriber.

        I wondered why the monster movie got downloaded, and I wondered again when the angels movie showed up on my DVR. I won’t be charged because I don’t want to watch either of them anyway, and so I deleted them, but I do intend to send a notice to DTV that I expect them to stop pre-loading my DVR with crap I don’t select.

        • Daemon Xar says:

          Two quick thoughts:
          1) That’s in New York, and may or may not be true in other states (pretty sure it’s not in the states where I practice); and
          2) It’s relevant only if you assume that it’s an unsolicited gift.

          It’s probably not applicable in cases of mistake. If I accidentally ship you a present I mean to send to my brother, you don’t get to keep it. Ditto if Amazon accidentally ships you something meant for your neighbor. This applies to promotional items, not genuine errors.

          But it’s a good reminder that states are different, and some have weird laws. Particularly New York.

  11. Sneeje says:

    I wonder if you could make an argument along the lines of mail fraud… meaning, if you are sent a gift you did not request, you are free to keep the gift and companies cannot charge you for it. I realize the statute does not apply here, but the situation is awfully similar…

  12. awer25 says:

    It’s not a glitch if they recognize the problem yet won’t reverse the charge for accidental viewing – it’s a S.C.A.M!

    • catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

      it’ll be interesting to hear from anyone who might have watched it and gets charged and tries to reverse the charges. but since this just happened i think we might have to wait a bit for that

  13. l0stn0tfound says:

    That happened to me with Monsters Vs Aliens. I didn’t order it, but it was there on my DVR.

  14. incident_man says:

    Sounds like DirecTV’s sneaky new way to generate more revenue. As if they don’t charge enough for their “service.”

  15. Tiandli says:

    They will charge you if you watch it, even though they sent it to you in “error”. Though it could have been an honest mistake it sounds like an underhanded way to pad December profits. DirectTV should bite the bullet and swallow whatever costs occur since it was their error and not the fault of the customers.

  16. Shawn says:

    This is not a “glitch”, this is clearly a marketing plan by DirecTv. I have been with the company for 2 months and this is the second time it is has happened. Both time with popular new releases, they are clearly using down time on the box to download the movie in hopes people will watch it so they can charge them for it!

  17. Razor512 says:

    could be a fake glitch where they purposely release the movie like this in hopes of a few people viewing a few seconds of it and being charged.

    based on the ppv stuff, when it ends in that list, that means it has been paid for so many users will see no reason not to view a few seconds of it

  18. frodolives35 says:

    But sir it says right here on the computer that room 16 did watch Big Butt Mammas 87 times and that will not removed from your bill.

  19. H3ion says:

    Wasn’t it “The Ring” where if you saw it you were scheduled to die? Maybe this is Directv’s version.

  20. markrubi says:

    where is my other comment ???

  21. coren says:

    And that should have been the reaction of DirecTV, cuz they’re gonna get slammed with complaints and bad press.

    • catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

      don’t know how many people were affected. i don’t know the other OP’s situation but i got my dvr in june when i bought my house. my sister’s is also directv and she didn’t have it but her dvr is about 3 years old.
      it may only affect certain models of dvrs

  22. theSuperman says:

    That is rediculious. DirectTV downloads it to your DVR, so why wouldnt you think its free? I mean, I assume you have to pay for movies/tv shows before they get downloaded. So someone could think its a promotional item or something.

  23. edrebber says:

    Suppose the download of this movie filled up the hard drive and prevented something else from recording?

    • BarbiCat says:

      And? Are you implying people should be compensated in some way for the potential loss of such ‘valuable’ programs?

      It would be unfortunate, I suppose, but when my PVR glitches and doesn’t record a program that it is set to, I shrug it off. I don’t start thinking of how I’m going to get something because of it.

      • Rectilinear Propagation says:

        So it’s OK for some company to fill up your hard drive with junk because it didn’t make you lose any money?

      • Shadowfax says:

        He may not be, but I am. I’m paying for a DVR so that it will record the content that I want to watch (and for which I am also paying).

        If their marketing scams stop the recorder from doing what I am paying them to have it do, then we have a problem.

  24. bushi says:

    I own two of these DVR’s and have had movies show up like that randomly once or twice. It could be a glitch but I suspect it’s more likely a half baked marketing buy in ploy to see how many fish they can hook since it’s already there… I usually the simple answer, but if monye is on the table I also think it’s ok to suspect evil and put on the ol’ tinfoil hat.

  25. emmpee9 says:

    If you select and view it, you will not be charged…

    The copy that was accidentally downloaded to DVRs is just a preview. Note the “2min” label at the top of the screenshot.

    The only way you’re getting charged is if you go through the normal process for buying DirecTV VOD/PPV/whatever.

    (Not that I’m defending DirecTV on this — this happened to me too and I’m not happy about it. But it’s not a $6 time bomb sitting in your playlist.)

    • catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

      thanks. i didn’t notice that when i was trying to figure out what was going on. wonder why they didn’t tell me that when i emailed them. probably a canned response?

  26. djkrztoff says:

    This happened to me last month with “Monsters vs. Aliens”. We never watched it, so we weren’t billed.

    Interesting to see that this continues to happen. Will definitely be more aware of this in the future, thanks Consumerist.

  27. hank18 says:

    I saw this on my DVR this weekend and actually played it. What I saw was a preview for the movie in SD, not HD. There was no audio, either…I checked my account and don’t see anything for a rental there–yet.

  28. slyabney says:

    Oh man, I’m glad I deleted it. It had a timed download of 4am on Friday morning. My roommate wasn’t home and I know I was well asleep with the box off so I deleted. She also doesn’t have the ablitiy to record as she doesn’t have a DVR box, only I do.

    Seems kind of fishy for this to keep happening, but I didn’t notice the Monsters V Alien one appear on mine.

  29. ElizabethD says:

    Wow, my husband got snagged by that one. Except it was the weekend before this past weekend. I watched it for Ewan McGregor, aka “my husband in my next life.”

  30. whytcolr says:

    In other news:

    “DirectTV reports record-setting rental rates for this summer’s action hit, “Angels & Demons.” Rent it today and find out what the buzz is about!”

  31. jbl-az says:

    I saw it, but it was only listed as 1 minute long (or so), so I played it, or started to. It looked like an ad so I deleted it. If I get charged they’ll hear from me, but as it has just occurred to me that my machine is not currently attached to a phone line, that may be a while. (I’ll check my “purchases” list.)

  32. zlionsfan says:

    I not only had this trap, it’s not the first time it’s happened.

    Fortunately, each time I had the same reaction: wtf? Stop taking up my hard drive space. I deleted it, checked my bill to make sure it wasn’t there, and forgot about it.

    I’m not so sure it was an accident, but I guess, all things considered, I’d rather have them deal with it this way. I don’t exactly want them to be deleting things off my DVR on their own.

  33. CTAUGUST says:

    “If you choose to watch this movie, you will be charged. ” Really? What alert or message was sent out to ALL customer to warn them of this. I think they have trouble on their hands if they try and charge people for viewing this movie and can’t prove they told customers in advance of the error.