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THE INSIDE TRACK | THE HOT CORNER

A consumer's guide to the best and worst of sports media and merchandise. Ground rules: If it can be read, played, heard, observed, worn, viewed, dialed or downloaded, it's in play here.

April 22, 1998|LARRY STEWART

What: DirecTV

I've been a DirecTV subscriber for about 2 1/2 years and I love it. The quality is much better than cable--well, everything about it is better than cable--and I get every channel I want. The lone exception is FX, which is exclusive to cable.

But I get the Golf Channel, Classic Sports Network and about 20 regional sports networks, including Fox Sports West 2, which Century and Comcast cable subscribers still can't get. Those people are going to miss out on Saturday night's Dodger game against the Chicago Cubs and the Milwaukee Brewers' inaugural visit to Dodger Stadium on Monday night, games being televised by Fox Sports West 2.

Want to get back at Century and Comcast? Get DirecTV and unhook your cable. Believe me, they'll notice.

There are other systems that feature an affordable mini satellite dish besides DirecTV, such as Primestar and the Dish Network. One of those systems might better suit your needs and pocketbook. DirecTV is the largest such system but not the cheapest.

However, now is a good time to look into buying a DirecTV system. Beginning Thursday and running through May, DirecTV and U.S. Satellite Broadcasting (USSB) are teaming on a promotion that includes an installed system for $299 and about $100 worth of free programming for a month.

That's a steal compared to the price of more than $1,000 2 1/2 years ago.

When I got my system, I unhooked my cable and used an old, rusty antenna to get the local channels--and got them clearer than I did with cable.

The downside with DirecTV--there is a downside to everything, isn't there?--is things can get expensive.

I pay $47.99 a month to DirecTV for its Total Choice Platinum package, which includes 85 regular channels, 25 sports channels and 14 movie channels. I also pay $32.99 a month to USSB for pay channels such as HBO and Showtime.

I also bought DirecTV's NFL Sunday Ticket package at the renewal price of $119. The early-bird price is $139, the regular price $159. There are similar packages for baseball, the NBA, the NHL, MSL and college football and basketball, but I pass on those packages because you have to draw the line somewhere.

Ideally, it would be nice to be able to purchase games you want to watch a la carte. That would be almost as good as the days of the old C-band satellite dishes people bought for several thousand dollars, then got anything they wanted for free.

These days, you get only what you pay for, and for our money DirecTV is the way to go.

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