My main purpose with this post is to help me decide which TV provider to go with for this season. Different providers will offer different levels of game coverage at differing tiers (costs) of their programming schedules. Lets begin with an overview of the networks carrying Stars games.
All 82 Stars games will be televised. This is a wonderful thing. Anybody have an idea how many teams do not have all their games televised? I don't know, just wondering. Here is a breakdown from the Stars of the TV Details There are links from that page to pdf's that show the coverage for each game. A more detailed list showing the other regional and out of town local coverage (ie MSG, TSN, and other cities local stations) is available on FSSW TV list In the DFW area games are televised on three providers. Details after the Jump.
Fox Sports Southwest (FSSW) is the main provider with 60 regular season games including "Stars Live" pre- and post-game shows before and after every game, a weekly "Stars Insider" magazine show, and interview and documentary specials airing throughout the season. Ralph and Razor handle the game call. Craig Ludwig and Ric Renner , who replaced John Rhadigan when he moved to baseball, provides the studio analysis pre/post game and during intermissions. With the baseball thing not working out, I hope Radegan returns this year as he had much better chemistry with Luds. When there are programing conflicts, in the past most often with NBA, some games were on FSSW +. Last year I would guess this happened to around 10 games. Lots of post game interviews are posted in their entirety on the website that get cut down during the on the air time. Link to the FSSW video page, click on Stars tab. The availability of FSSW + on any provider is a big deal, and not the easiest to find out.
TXA 21 begins their second season televising 15 Stars games. Stars broadcasts include 30-minute pre- and postgame coverage. TXA 21 will primarily air on Saturday nights beginning on Oct. 8 when Dallas visits the Chicago Blackhawks. Ralph and Razor still do the game call, but the pre/post/intermission duties were handled by Gina Miller and Brent Severyn. Don't know who will do this year. Gina did not know a lot about hockey, but did appear to do some homework. If she could just stop giggling like the schoolgirl she was 35 years ago, it would be an improvement. Severyn had some knowledgeable insight and a professional appearance. He seemed a bit stilted, but that may have been in response to Millers often inappropriate reactions.
VERSUS (NBC Sports Network), the exclusive national cable home for the National Hockey League, will change its name to NBC Sports Network, effective Monday, Jan. 2, 2012. Versus will exclusively televise seven Stars contests: Monday, Dec. 19 vs. Anaheim; Wednesday, Dec. 21 vs. Philadelphia; Monday, Dec. 26 at St. Louis; Tuesday, Jan. 3 vs. Detroit; Monday, Jan. 16 at St. Louis; Wednesday, Feb. 29 vs. Pittsburgh; and Tuesday, March 20 vs. Phoenix. The Versus team varies, but it is not uncommon for Razor to provide the color.
Also make sure to visit the Stars Video page for team produced pieces at Dallas Stars Raw bits and links to individual game highlights and make sure to check out the extensive section of Mike Modano highlights
There seem to be five ways to deliver these broadcasts:
- Fiber-Optic cable, in my N. Dallas area this means Uverse. There are other areas of DFW where Verizon FIOS is available. I don't know if anyone here has both of these available. Hopefully someone can fill in the FIOS options in the comments. Access depends if one of these companies have laid fiber optic in your area.
- Cable. Access depends on where cable is laid. This would be all urban areas and many rural areas as well. Rarely are two cable providers available in the same area. My cable option is Time Warner. Others can make comments about what is available on other cable choices.
- Satellite. Access depends on line of site for where your dish can be installed. The two major providers are DISH and DirectTV, if you can get one the other should be an option too.
- Internet My understanding is basically all Internet feeds or streams are blocked in the geographic areas where television feeds are available. I am pretty ignorant about these sources . If someone wants to expound on these options in comments I am sure out of town fans would appreciate it.
- On Air Broadcast. Again I do not know what is available in the over air digital broadcast area. I'm sure TXA 21 is available, I don't know if anything from FSSW is available. Post up if you know any details
OK, now on to the main thrust of this post ... finding the provider that lets me see all the Stars games at the lowest cost. I will list the provider and the info I gathered from their websites to get Stars games through them and any other comments about them. Please fill in your experiences and knowledge about these companies in the comments as well as info on other providers I don't cover.
ATT Uverse. This is my currant service that I switched to when DISH, without notice, decided to cut a dozen or so Stars games in '09/'10 in a rate dispute with FSSW. All Stars games are available, DVR included in price (the way I watch 90% of the games), no contract. Customer service is very hard to find on-line. Phone service adequate but always trying to up-sell you. You may have to chase them for any promised rebates/discounts. Packages/tiers: U-100 you do not get Versus so you miss 7 games. Price is $10 less than U-200. U-200 get Versus plus Fox Soccer and other channels. This is what I have and the minimum pkg that gets you all Stars games. Currant Promotion is $44/mo for 6 mo and $50 rebate. Normal rate is $69 plus about $10 fees/taxes so out of pocket $79. I don't know how these fees compare to others, for some reason I feel they may be a bit higher? I know when I signed up the no contract was a big point, I assume it is the same.
Sometimes I get artifacts or short freezes in service. Those this has mostly gone away with a recent upgrade. I don't like that you only get one favorite listing and the DVR has no slow motion.
DISH Satellite. This is the only other service I have direct experience with. I had them for 6+ years and was happy with the service and selection. Their customer service was pretty bad, but if you were persistent you could usually get some body who could actually help you. Once out of contract they were very generous with offers to get you to stay, even without getting a new contract. As mentioned their unannounced price dispute with FSSW that cut about a dozen games two years ago was the last straw and I jumped to a Uverse promotion. I liked that you could program numerous favorites channel listings so kids stuff could be separate from mine. Their DVR service was great ... super slow motion that had excellent clarity. There were a couple of other DVR things I liked better too, but can't recall them. No DVR equipment fees, but do have a monthly $6 charge.
Versus is only available on the Top 250 or higher tiers. Top 250 also includes Fox Soccer, NFL, Big Ten Network, and NHL networks. So the cheapest pkg to get all Stars games will run $45/ month for 12 months and jump to $70/ month for the next 12 months of your 24 month contract. Average rate $58. You can drop your tier level when season is over for a charge of $6 or so. No charge to go up a level. I assume they got their dispute with FSSW resolved, but I do not know how FSSW + games are handled. Add in taxes/fees and $6 DVR charge and you average $68/mo for 2 years.
If you are willing to skip Versus, the 120+ plan has FSSW, just make sure FSSW + is dealt with. $35/ month for 12 months, $50/ mo second 12 mo. So in the low $40 range for all games but Versus, up to mid $50 range next year.
DirectTV Satellite. People were complaining about their customer service during the Versus dispute. I don't know any details of their DVR service other than it costs $7/month with no equipment fees. From a programming standpoint the Choice Xtra package with 210 channels is the lowest level with Versus. A major issue is that FSSW + is only available in the highest tier Premier package. Can a subscriber confirm this? Like DISH, they require a 24 month contract and are running promotions that give you a discounted rate for the first 12 months only.With a promotion running right now NFL Sunday Ticket is included for 2011. NHL Center Ice is available for four months at $42/month. (Remember local games get blacked out). Disappointing for me is Fox Soccer is only included in the Premier package, or Fox Soccer Plus is available at $15/month.
Choice Xtra is $36 per month increasing to $66 after 12 months. Average rate of $51/month. The premier to get FSSW + is $50 more! If there is no NBA, the games lost there may be minimal this year. Out of pocket not including Taxes/fees, $43/mo for 12 months then $74 for the last 12 months. Average price $58/month. Plus the $7 DVR fee. Note these prices are based on promotions through 10/5, I'm sure something in the same ball park will come up after then.
Time Warner Cable It was a huge exercise in frustration just trying to figure out which channels are included in their packages! I spent close to an hour trying to communicate to them via on-line chat. I'm still not sure I got it right. They kept referring me to their channel guide, but the tiers they said to check did not exist? I never did figure out the availability of FSSW +. In general with Time Warner you select the package you want, then rent the set top boxes you want. DVR capability costs a lot, as I remember evaluating this two years ago that was the killer with them. It seems like you need to commit to a 12 month contract, but again it was hard to tell. All they wanted is for you to commit to a package now. Even if they can't tell you what channels you are signing up for!
The Digital package seems to have all the Stars games ... depending on the status of FSSW +. It costs $40/mo. A DVR box will set you back another $19. So $59 plus taxes and fees I assume. But they are offering Digital Standard TV for $55/mo with a $25/mo discount if you sign up for auto billing. So $30/month which includes a HD box and about 50 less channels than the Digital package. This is where I had so many issues figuring out exactly what was included, but it seemed all Stars games (again depending on FSSW +) would be available. Other sports channels were somewhat down, no Big Ten, but Fox soccer was included. Also Longhorn network is available as a premium if that excites you. To upgrade the box to a DVR is $11. So the monthly charge for Digital Standard with a DVR would be $41 plus tax/fees if you do auto pay.
Conclusion ... I don't know! Lol To watch all Stars games with DVR this would probably be my choices before reading any of your input.
If you are switching to UVERSE the $44/mo for 6 months plus $50 rebate is hard to beat. Of course you then need to go through this again in 6 months.
I already have UVERSE so don't qualify for that deal. I pay the normal $69 plus tax/fees. Time Warner Digital Standard is only $41 for the 12 month contract. But I could easily have been misled by their customer service reps. Their channel selection is minimal, but adequate for me.
DirectTV is only $43/mo for 12 months, but averages $65 over the two year contract. They also have some nice program freebies for a trial period. Nice and cheap for the first year, but then it catches up to the others.
DISH at $51/mo for 12 months, but a $68 average over the 2 year contract. Basically a dead heat with DirectTV. Of the two services I have used, I liked their DVR operation the best.
Personally, the two year contracts for both the satellite services at basically the same price as I currently pay for Uverse will probably be enough to keep me with Uverse. I currently rent and hope to be in another place in a year. $2/3 over the two year contract period is worth the flexibility. So I'm leaning to Time Warner. But their customer service scares me ... as well as not being sure of what I actually get. Maybe I will try their phone reps tomorrow.
Good luck if you are looking at potentially making a change. I felt like I was beating my head against the wall, so I thought I would share with all of you.