Musings of an infosec nerd

Why I left Sky TV

  •   Thu 01 September 2011
  •   Rant

For most of the 10 years that we've been in our house we were Sky customers, having been exposed to Virgin's old analogue cable service at my parents house before that we decided that satellite was the way for us. However, as everyone knows, ADSL broadband sucks. It sucks hard. This geek will not stand for slow crappy broadband so the obvious choice was a DSL line from Telewest, along with their phone service. As an aside I would love to ditch the PSTN line for VOIP but as the packages stand at the moment the line is essentially free.

So there we were, Sky satellite TV and Telewest Broadband all installed and life was good. Then the sky box started playing up after about a year, as we came up against one of the big problems with sky TV. With Sky, you own all the hardware and it only comes with a 1 year warranty. If after 13 months it develops a fault then you get to pay them £60 to come a look at it, and another £x for a 'new' refurbished box. It has been a common problem with our sky boxes that the capacitors on the PSU were not up to the job that they were designed for and would bulge, giving voltage problems and making the box unstable. The first time this happened we were looking at replacing the VHS recorder with a DVD one and decided to go to Sky+. Skip forward about 6 months and the Sky+ box starts showing the PSU problem, this is replaced under warranty but only after it had already missed a bunch or recordings, and of course you get a nice blanks HDD with the new unit. Skip forward another 12 months and once again the box starts locking up and missing recordings. This was a few months after Sky had launched their HD service, and Virgin still did not have a competitive offering, so it was upgrade time for us again. The HD box gives us about another 18 months of service before the same problems start cropping up again, missing recordings and locking up in the user interface. After a phone call to Sky they were adamant that as the box was out of warranty we would have to pay their call out fees, and if I wanted a non-refurb box we would need to pay £260 for it. How about No?

I'm a big fan of owning my equipment, but the problem with satellite receivers, and cable for that matter, is the Conditional Access Module (CAM) that reads the subscriber card to decode the signal is not available to buy on its own. So you can't go to an electrical retailer and buy your own set-top box and use it with your legit card. They only way I could  build my set top box or media centre would involve not exactly legal hardware and piracy. This is not something that I want to do to be able to get access to content that I pay for. The difference between Sky and Virgin is that you don't own the equipment that Virgin supplies, so if it goes wrong you get a new one, no call out fee and no charges.

It was at this point that my wife and I decided that we'd had enough of Sky's crappy equipment and we should look at switching, and see if that would motivate Sky to keep us happy and give us a replacement box gratis to keep us as customers. A few phone calls later  and it was clear that they didn't want to know, and luckily for us Virgin had finally got their panties unbunched over hosting Sky's channels so we could carry on watching Battlestar Galactica on Sky 1. Don't judge us! Fast forward a few weeks and we had our Samsung V+ box installed, and we can now watch most of the TV we want (hurry up and get Sky Atlantic!) for less that we were paying both companies combined.

This was going to be my TiVo review but my gamma ray activated hulk rage just took over and I had to rant for a little but, but coming up shortly..... my Virgin Media TiVo review.

The personal blog of a UK based penetration tester