The Consumerist Guide To Understanding Your DirecTV Bill

Share on Facebook Share on Twitter RSS Feed

The Consumerist Guide To Understanding Your DirecTV Bill

Image courtesy of Ángel Raúl Ravelo Rodríguez

When you sign up for telecommunications services — some combination of TV, broadband, and/or phone — you’re told you’ll pay something like $49 or $99 a month… and yet the price you actually pay can be as much as 40% or more on top of that, thanks to a heap of sometimes confusing charges and fees. Which ones do you blame the government for, and which are made up by your cable company? One business at a time, we’re going to use real customers’ bills to break it down. We’ve already looked at Comcast and TWC. This time we’re switching it up a bit to have a look at satellite, and will be dissecting a bill from DirecTV.

The below bill was provided to Consumerist by a real-life DirecTV customer who subscribes to a programming service tier that nominally costs $136.99 per month. The subscriber also pays for some extra sports options, which definitely increase the rate. Setting aside the premium content add-ons, though, $53.20 of their $254 monthly bill — about 21% — comes from some additional kind of surcharge or fee.

To better understand each of these fees, we’ll go through the bill line-by-line:

DirecTV_bill_annotated
(KEY: The items highlighted in RED [1-8] are DirecTV-originating fees; BLUE-highlighted items [9] are government fees.)

DIRECTV Channels

1.) PREMIER
This is the quoted price for the service bundle you subscribe to. In this case, it’s the “Premier” service tier, which includes almost every English-language TV channel there is, including all of the premium networks that usually require an additional fee. On their website, DirecTV currently advertises this bundle like so:

DTVpremier

This is the price you expect to pay, and the one you sign up for.

2.) DIRECTV HD EXTRA PACK
You know how we just said the Premier bundle includes “almost every English-language” TV channel there is? That “almost” is because there are still nine that aren’t in it. Together, those nine HD networks — Sony Movie Channel, MTV Live, Smithsonian, Universal, MGM, Shorts, Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, Crime & Investigation, and HDNet Movies — cost an extra $5.

3.) NFL SUNDAY TICKET MAX 2015
No one ever said being a hardcore football fan was cheap. The NFL Sunday Ticket service is exclusive to DirecTV and provides subscribers access to all the out-of-market NFL games otherwise broadcast on Fox or CBS on Sundays. In addition to the games and other features, the Sunday Ticket Max package allows live-streaming games to phones, tablets, game consoles, computers, or a Roku or Chromecast device.

The full price of Sunday Ticket Max for the 2015 season was $353.94, which this subscriber paid in six monthly installments of $58.99.

DIRECTV Equipment Services

4.) Watch DIRECTV on Multiple TVs
This fee is basically one of the cable box charges the FCC has decided to try and do something about. (See also #5 and #7.) This particular charge applies to DirecTV accounts created prior to July, 2014. For those subscribers, the first receiver in the home is covered by some kind of “Advanced Receiver” fee (see #5 and #7), but additional devices cost $6.50 each.

For accounts created after July, 2014, all receivers, including the first, cost $7 each per month.

5.) Advanced Receiver Service – HD
These is one of the many possible fees DirecTV charges for receiving HD and/or DVR service. The name of the fee, and the cost, depend not only on what service a customer receives but also on when they first established the account.

This particular charge is, effectively, one part of DirecTV’s cable box rental cost, and allows subscribers to receive the HD feeds of networks to which they subscribe.

DirecTV has a full guide to these fees on their site, detailing the amounts and outlining the relevant dates. For newer accounts, the HD and DVR portions of the fee may be wrapped up into one single $15 line-item called “Advanced Receiver Service,” which is paired with a $7 general “TV fee.” For older accounts (created before Feb. 2012), subscribers may also have to pay a $3 “Whole-Home DVR Service” charge in addition to these charges. (See also #4 and #7.)

6.) DIRECTV Protection Plan
This optional fee is basically an insurance plan on your equipment, similar to one you’d get from your mobile phone company.

The plan comes in three tiers: one for $8, one for $20, and one for $25. The lower-cost version that this consumer subscribes to covers all of the DirecTV equipment in the home — the dish, the remotes, and the receiver boxes — in the event of damage. Subscribers who pay for the plan monthly can have a technician come perform a service call as needed without paying an additional fee; subscribers who don’t need to shell out $50 for service appointments.

The more expensive versions of the plan provides those benefits and is also an insurance plan that covers some of the electronic devices (TVs, tablets, PCs, sometimes phones) in your home that you use for DirecTV.

7.) Advanced Receiver Service – DVR
These is one of the many possible fees DirecTV charges for receiving HD and/or DVR service. The name of the fee, and the cost, depend not only on what service a customer receives but also on when they first established the account.

This particular charge is, effectively, one part of DirecTV’s cable box rental cost, and allows subscribers to enable DVR service on the receivers in their home.

DirecTV has a full guide to these fees on their site, detailing the amounts and outlining the relevant dates. For newer accounts, the HD and DVR portions of the fee may be wrapped up into one single $15 line-item called “Advanced Receiver Service,” which is paired with a $7 general “TV fee.” For older accounts (created before Feb. 2012), subscribers may also have to pay a $3 “Whole-Home DVR Service” charge in addition to these charges. (See also #4 and #5.)

Not pictured: Any charges for on-demand or pay-per-view services, as well as credits, plan changes, installation fees, or other charges appear in their own separate, headlined sections as needed.

Other Charges, Adjustments & Taxes

8.) Regional Sports Fee
Like the other pay-TV companies, DirecTV charges a separate fee to subscribers to offset the costs of carrying regional sports networks in their area. DirecTV does specify that the cost does vary by region and is determined by your ZIP code. For this subscriber, it’s less than $4.

9.) Sales Tax
Tax: one of the rare certainties in life. Rates vary wildly depending where you live but the vast majority of jurisdictions in the U.S. impose some kind of communications sales tax on pay-TV services.

Googling “[state name] communications tax” should be the fastest way to find the pay-TV service tax rates in your state. Rates may also vary based on county or municipality.

Not a DirecTV subscriber? Never fear! Past installments of this series have included detailed breakdowns of Comcast and Time Warner Cable, and future editions will include detailed bills from Charter, Verizon FiOS, AT&T U-Verse, and others.