Sunday, January 27, 2008

DirecTV Slashes "Hot Pass" Prices

Normally, when email starts coming to The Daly Planet in clumps, it is clear right away what is going on. Over the past year, we have seen many issues which aroused the ire of the NASCAR fans and sent them directly to their computer keyboards.

This time, however, things are a bit different. Our friends at DirecTV have just finished a major campaign to have existing users of their NASCAR "Hot Pass" service sign-up for the 2008 NASCAR season.

Fans noticed that the service had shrunk from five driver channels to four. They also noticed that the number of races featuring "Hot Pass" has declined from the previous season. What has not changed was the price, which was around the ninety dollar mark for a season-long subscription.

Many fans wrote to say DirecTV renewed them automatically at the pre-set rate for 2008, regardless of their personal preferences and without contacting them by email.

It was back in December of 2006 that the always colorful Aussie David Hill created "Hot Pass" during a rather "inspired" moment at a bar in Charlotte, NC. Hill, who is chairman of the Fox Sports TV Group and President of DirectTV, had been watching NASCAR racing live earlier in the day, and marveled at how the fans in the stands could hear their favorite driver's team radio channel, listen to the PRN radio broadcast of the race, and watch the action all at the same time.

Needless to say, "Hot Pass" is an attempt to duplicate that ability for the fans watching at home. While cable TV is a bit more limited in technology, Hill had all the tools (and channels) already in place at DirecTV to get the project accomplished.

In 2007, "Hot Pass" had critical success with a wide variety of NASCAR announcers including Ray Dunlap, Wendy Venturini, Rick Allen and Michael Waltrip offering commentary on a specific driver's channel. Fans liked the ability to move around, switch the audio streams, and even to keep the race going while the network was in commercial break.

Back in 2006, Hill estimated that he would need about 250 thousand subscribers paying the full annual fee to break even on the service. DirecTV must pay a fee to the TV broadcaster originating the race, and then NASCAR and all the on-site production folks also need to get paid. Any way you cut it, "Hot Pass" is an expensive project.

A quick tour around the Internet will tell you the pros and cons of the package. At first, it is a thrill. Then, since the drivers are chosen in advance, viewers can have the not-so-thrilling experience of motoring around in twenty-fifth place for three hours with one team. Even the Earnhardt Jr. team radio is not a lot of fun during those races.

This week, following the renewal campaign for existing subscribers, DirecTV posted a note on its website and began running a new campaign. Now, even before the 2008 season begins, a full subscription to "Hot Pass" is only $40.

The offer reads "Add NASCAR Hot Pass to your DirecTV base package order and get the entire season for just eight payments of $5. Offer ends April 16th."

The NASCAR fans who called about the lower price then discovered the catch. "Base package order" means that only new DirecTV subscribers are eligible for this offer. Needless to say, this did not go over well with the many NASCAR fans who were already DirecTV subscribers and considering adding "Hot Pass" to their existing service for 2008.

After the network TV struggles of last season, "Hot Pass" enjoyed a solid amount of new subscribers during the year as the racing was in-progress. They responded by "pro-rating" the package depending on when the new user signed-up. Ultimately, they ended the year on a high note with the switch to all HD coming for 2008.

So, new DirecTV customers get "Hot Pass" for $40. Existing DirecTV customers who want to add this service pay the full price, and those of you who renewed from last season also saw the full price on your DirecTV bill.

Competing with "Hot Pass" for alternative ways to view Sprint Cup races is "Raceview" from This Turner Interactive offering has three camera angles, all the race radio channels, and real time scoring lap-by-lap. The season subscription price for this service is $80.

Before the season begins, maybe we could get your thoughts on the "Hot Pass" experience, and what the DirecTV crew could do to make it more enjoyable, affordable, or user-friendly for 2008. To add your comments, just click on the COMMENTS button below and follow the easy instructions. Thanks again for stopping by.


Unknown said...

Well I pay 9.95 a month for the Nascar trackpass just for the scanners, not raceview. I have been debating getting the HotPass because it would be cheaper, if the driver I want is on it all the time (even at the $80 a year). The thing I have not been happy with trackpass is, when I signed up it was 6.95, then after a year or so it was free for 3 years since I had time warner cable, then it was back to being a charge of 9.95.


Anonymous said...

sinse i ordered hotpass last year this year i got the full season for $75 that is broken up over six payments. i ordered early last year and paid $80. i also recieved a voucher for 20 percent off a nascar related fathead. i'm not happy with 5 channels going to 4 but i didn't know there would be less events covered.. please explain which events aren't covered this year...i love my hotpass and just went hi-def a couple days ago and can't wait until feb 7

Anonymous said...

You can't please all of the people, all of the time!!! Folks, I happen to be a DishNet customer, at least for 4 more days. My retirement check hits the bank on Thursday afternoon, and I intend to switch to DirecYV on Friday AM. I am switching back to DirecTV because DishNet will not be airing SPEED in HD....I have written several letters to the folks at DishNet and those folks who answer the e-Mail don't know anything about SPEED and HD. So DishNet has lost a loyal customer. I originally was a DirecTV customer for around 10 years, and when HD ....finally ....became available.....I wanted to upgrade, but DirecTV had no reward for existing customers....not even a free upgraded dish. However, at that time DishNet offered me a super deal on a 42" HD TV, and free professional installation. So I went over to DishNet because the folks at DirecTV appeared to have no loyalty to their existing customers. From reading this article, it appears that the folks over at DiredTV still don't care much about their existing customers! I'm sorry to hear that, because at least the folks at DishNet have made me feel as if my monthly payment is honestly appreciated. I sincerely would prefer not to become a DirecTV customer again, because of their callous treatment of existing customers i.e. a lower cost to new customers for HotPass...but an attempt to screw the last dollar possible from existing customers. But bottom line, at DirecTV I will be able to receive SPEED, FOX, ESPN, TNT, and ABC all in HD and be able to purchase the HotPass. Presently I can only receive ESPN and TNT in HD, and there is nothing even close to HotPass available at any cost. I live in a very rural, mountainous area and have no option for cable TV, or for any thing other than dial up internet service, so DirecTV appears to be the best place to receive all of NASCAR in HD for the 2008 season!!

GinaV24 said...

Hmmm, well that's good information to know. I was considering changing from Comcast to DirecTV but it doesn't sound like a good option if they are only going to have 4 drivers and only new customers get to take advantage of the low low price. I have had trackpass for several years and I like it. I use it to follow the races more often than watching the TV broadcast so I don't have to listen to all the blather from those announcers. I tried Raceview but my computer didn't handle it well, so I went back to regular trackpass. One thing that is annoying I agree is the pricing. I paid for a subscription, then it was free on my cable network, then it was back to being something I had to pay for. Then every season about halfway through each season, NASCAR starts offering it as "free" except to those of us who already paid for the whole package. Something wrong with that theory, but it does help me make a decision on how to follow the races and I'm guessing it won't be with DirecTV!

Anonymous said...

One thing they can do to make the experience more enjoyable - don't censor the scanner!!!!!

As an existing DirecTV subscriber and HotPass renewer - I am not very happy about the price for new subscribers. DirecTV should at least give us something.

Anonymous said...

They censor the scanner?


I know not to order Hot Pass now.

Anonymous said...

The directv site says it will cover all 36 races.
"DIRECTV will broadcast all 36 races on NASCAR HotPass in crystal–clear high definition. "

What races are not being covered then?

Anonymous said...

I had Hotpass last year and liked it. I like even more that they'll have it in HD this year. I wish they'd get rid of the commercials all together though. I do find myself switching back and forth a lot during the race. Not so much when TNT or ESPN broadcast. Just when FOX broadcasts. I really don't care for TNT or ESPN's broadcast of the races.

As far as price is concerned, they shouldn't make it a different price for new vs. current subscribers. That's just wrong. Maybe if they lowered it to like $50 for the full season, more people would buy it, and they'd get more than $250,000 people to sign up. If it goes up to more than $80, I'll be cancelling it.

elena said...

I'm a little puzzeled by all the comments on the special price for new customers. This is a tool that has been used by marketing departments for many decades.

SI does it on tv. They offer MP3s for NEW subscribers. My local newspaper offers new subscribers 1/2 price for as much as 6 months. And it's only for NEW subscribers. Cell companies do it. Sirius radio does it. Cable companies. Sports do it. They offer stuff only for new season ticket holders. Credit card companies do it. I just don't get everyone's surprise. It's a way to grow your base. Corporations know that not all will stay beyond the "special" era, but many will. I guess it works, because more and more companies use it.

My warning: Read the small print.

Anonymous said...

I wish they'd get rid of the commercials all together though.

I don't like paying for a service and then having to see commercials, too.

That's double-dipping on their part.

Anonymous said...

I've seen complaints about Hotpass only having 4 drivers this year but I think it's a great trade off for the HD and the driver audio channel featuring 13 drivers.

As far as the $40 intro rate is concerned, that is just part of life. Companies throw promos out all the time. I got the auto renewal for only $84.($2.33 per race)Existing DirecTV customers who sign up after February will have to pay $109.

Overall I am just happy that I can get channels like this. I used to get NASCAR In-Demand through Comcast and it was terrible.

Anonymous said...

I read your article over the weekend and just wanted to point out that we actually didn't slash prices.

The $40 offer is a new customer offer only. It is a bundled offer as a bonus for customers that come on to the DIRECTV platform they can purchase HotPass for $40 at the point of sale.

There is also a free offer for customers at Circuit City who order DIRECTV and buy a HD television, they will receive HotPass for free as a bundle.

However, those two exceptions are new DIRECTV customer offers only...similar to the various NFL new customer offers that are out there.

The price for HotPass for Early Bird (existing customers) is $89 until February 10th. It then goes up to $109 for the Regular season. In essence, the price for HotPass is $10 more this year then last year, but also includes HD this year along with the new 13 audio driver configuration.

I appreciate your time...thanks

Anonymous said...

I signed up for Hot Pass in the begining. It needed a little tweaking in my opinion, and I emailed DirectTV those opinions. I am sure I was not alone in voicing similar opinions. I was pleased that the format was improved and that it was even noted on the air, that the changes were the result of fan response.

The on air broadcasters even request the fans email thier suggestions and comments.

I don't always like the driver selections, but I guess if I want to see my team, they are going to have to get back to winning.

However I actually get to watch my driver more than you might think. If you know where your driver is running and you know which HotPass car is near and you switch to that car you will often get to watch your driver for a number of laps.

Last year there were usually 3 windows active and the viewer could switch the sound to match the window of choice. So if I happened to be listening to the network and they went to commercial, I switch to the window still showing the race and listen to the drivers radio. A lot happens durning commercials that doesn't get reported by the network, but the spotters let thier driver and the viewers know.

And maybe best of all, the broadcast teams are mostly from Speed, and we know they are the best.

Bottom line, I would pay twice the price if necessary for Hot Pass. I would grumble, but I would still pay for it.

Harry in Calif

Anonymous said...

I agree with Harry in California. I love HotPass and think 89.00 is a bargain! Dang, people, that's only 2.47 a race! And they don't charge anything during off season like Trackpass does. I had "In Demand" on Time Warner Cable and it was 129.00 and not nearly as good. Directv improved the things I wanted improved (at one point all they showed was the driver's fastest lap - who cares) and I always know what is going on even during commercials. What could be better? Its the only reason I got satellite at all and I'm thrilled it will be HD this year! Bring on racing!
Racing fanatic in SC

Anonymous said...

No price is too high to NOT have to hear that dim witt bozo Daryl Waltrip.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Hey guys,

For those of us without DirecTV, when they say thirteen audio channels, what do they mean?

In other words, when you switch away from the audio channel of the assigned driver you are watching, don't you lose the commentary?

When people get upset about the commercials, can't you just switch the audio to another driver source to avoid the commercial audio?

Also, it there a function that displays all four drivers on the screen with one big video box and three small ones?



Anonymous said...
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Bobby said...

Cutting back services and keeping the price the same is not a smart move. One big reason is some teams are aligned with rival CATV services.

Hendrick - Time Warner Cable
Roush Fenway - Dish Network
Gillett Evernham - Charter

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Bobby said...
Cutting back services and keeping the price the same is not a smart move. One big reason is some teams are aligned with rival CATV services.

Hendrick - Time Warner Cable
Roush Fenway - Dish Network
Gillett Evernham - Charter

Again, please know your facts before posting bad info. Did anyone notice that the Time Warner Cable associated team had two cars on Hot Pass in Homestead. Roush had a car almost every week of the chase. Come on, get your info straight people.

Daly Planet Editor said...
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Anonymous said...

I have Hot Pass and there are things wrong with it that drive me crazy. While I usually like the commentators, they really need to learn how to shut up when the drivers are on their radios. I want to hear what the drivers, spotter and crew chiefs are saying, but far too often, the commentators just keep talking. Also, unless it's Tony Stewart, most of the chat by the drivers is boring, until there's an on-track incident. I rather think Hot Pass is overrated.

Anonymous said...

John, RE 13 channels of audio: I can't make it add up to 13, but here is what I remember from last year...

Each driver (5) had 2 distinct possible audio tracks: 1) Their pair of dedicated announcers and 2) Their "team only" comms (car and crew). So between 5 drivers with 2 dedicated audio channels per driver, that was 10 channels - or 8 channels for this year if only 4 drivers are to appear.

Then there was the 1 "TV broadcast" audio option in which you could watch your HotPass channel of choice, while listening to the "Fox" or "ESPN/ABC" general broadcast audio on top of it (instead of the driver's dedicated team or team-only comms).

So for this year, that's 8 + 1 = 9 There must be 1 other "audio channel" per team (9 + 4 = 13) that I am forgetting or is going to be "new" for 2008.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

I haven't had DirectTV installed yet, but I'm already getting nervous. I ordered Direct TV online last week. They offered the $40 hot pass to new customers online. They supplied no way to enter the hotpass service into the new service package when ordering, so I called the sales line and they said to just order the service, then call sales to get the hotpass added.
I tried the phone thing. No luck, they said I had to order it at the time I purchased the service to get the promo price. So I did the email thing. Even worse. They didn't seem to be able to read the words in the email, because their responses were not coherent to the situation. So I did the phone thing again today. Over 2 hours on the phone, disconnected 4 times, countem 4 times. Finally, they had to cancel my original order, then set me up with a new order in order to make this happen.

How much you wanna bet I get billed the full price!

This better be worth it.

Haus14 said...

I have HotPass and I enjoy it very much. It came in very handy after the Fox portion of the season.

To Ginav24...if you are a current Comcast customer and you switch to DirecTV, I believe that would make you a new DirecTV customer and therefore you would be eligible for the new offer.

JD to answer a few of your questions...

Regarding the 13 driver audio channel, as far as I heard, they are going to have 4 driver channels as well as one channel with the network feed and the choice of 13 different driver scanners to listen to.

During the commercial time on the driver channels, they stay with a camera view of the driver and have another box with the commercials. You are able to switch to the driver only audio and block out the commercial audio.

Last year there was not a function to show all the drivers on one screen.

Anyway, I am not sure that I would substitute the 5th driver channel for a audio channel, but the positive would be that DirecTV is able to include more drivers in their package every week.

When I first heard about this new price promotion I was not happy about it, however it is true that DirecTV runs this type of promotion for Sunday Ticket every year and other companies do the same thing as well.

Daly Planet Editor said...
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Anonymous said...

Hi, I have a few comments about HotPass. I found myself watching it less and less last year but decided to give it one more chance-especially as I noticed I am already paying for it on my bill although I don't remember making a conscious effort to renew.
My kudo's
1) Good choice of different drivers-not the ones that are always up front.
2) Finally going HiDef
My gripes (that I hope are fixed)
1) Announcers talk over the teams-especially Ray Dunlap!
2) The confusing design of the multiple/irregularly sized screen boxes. Maybe I am just getting old but I found it VERY hard to watch. What is wrong with 3 or 4 evenly sized screens.
3) I paid about a $100 bucks last year and STILL had to watch ads!!!
They finally allowed you to turn off the sound but still...I found myself giving up and going to the network broadcast most of the time rather than cycling through various buttons to find the right sound channel.
4)Many times the view of my chosen driver that week was just a long camera shot of the car going around the track...I expected the DRIVER'S view with a panning view.
5) Did we REALLY get to listen to the crews/spotter/driver? Some of those guys don't seem to talk at all during a 4 hour race.

Anonymous said...

I am renewed automatically at just seven low monthly payments of $12.00 each, which started this month. From what I am reading on the website they will be having Live two way radio between the driver, crew chief and spotter, enhanced audio options will allow you to listen to more drivers than ever before. Plus get real-time stats,charting speeds, RPMs and more. It says to tune to channel 795 during the race and you will be able to listen to selected driver–team communications of drivers who are not featured HotPass drivers for that race. I like that. I would like to listen to driver's other than who is on Hotpass. The offer that I see on their website right now is four easy payments of $22.25 — that's a $20 savings off of the full season price! Hurry, offer ends February 10, so I guess the $40 offer is gone? We loved Hotpass last year and will have it again this year. It was nice to be able to tune out the commercials and listen to the driver, etc. instead. If I wanted to see and hear just commercials I would tune in to the race itself.

Trucker said...

I have been a customer of Directtv for a long time. last july the offered the pass free for the Datona race.
watched it and liked it
Signed up for it this year.
Look forward to the HD too.


Anonymous said...

From what I am reading on the website they will be having Live two way radio between the driver, crew chief and spotter, enhanced audio options will allow you to listen to more drivers than ever before. Plus get real-time stats,charting speeds, RPMs and more.
Yeah, but offers all that, cheaper, and for all the drivers every week.

When Hot Pass decides not to show Mikey, you're gonna be screwed, but RaceView will still have all that.

Anonymous said...

There must be a misunderstanding but to clear it up, HotPass will be available for every race this year including the all-star race.

Anonymous said...

The team owners are the ones that decided to have a 1 sec delay on the scanners as to not have profanity. While a fair amount still sometimes gets through, the choice is to have none at all as they feel it reflects bad for sponsors and whatnot. I however agree that it's a pay service and should not be delayed however, the owners have a big say as they allow their drivers to be on the channels.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

I don't watch it just for Mikey. If I did, I sure wouldn't have renewed it, as he was never on it last year. I am not the only one in my household watching it, and we do like other drivers as well. I do hope that they will put him on this year as he will be doing much better...:)

Daly Planet Editor said...

Anon 8:08,

There is no All-Star race on the coverage, hence the reduction in the number of races. That is from the DirecTV guy by email.

Sorry for any confusion, I am just now wading into the DirecTV world for the first time. It sure is interesting how many folks really like it and how many would like some changes.

I just got a demo, and it sure is a lot more control of the video and audio than I understood. There are tons of options.


Anonymous said...

I read that DIRECTV will not broadcast High Def in true 1080i. Any comments?