Bamboozled April 3, 2019: Customer gets knocked around by DIRECTV pay-per-view boxing match

Joe Catena said that even though he's successfully ordered pay-per-view boxing matches from DIRECTV, one fight was nothing but a black screen. (Courtesy Joe Catena)

Joe Catena said that even though he’s successfully ordered pay-per-view boxing matches from DIRECTV, one fight was nothing but a black screen. (Courtesy Joe Catena)

We all love technology – when it works.

When it doesn’t, it’s frustrating. And it’s even more frustrating if you’ve paid for a service you didn’t receive.

Joe Catena is a teacher by day, but in his spare time, he writes a freelance boxing column. As part of his job, he buys pay-per-view matches through his provider, DIRECTV, and he records the matches so he can rewatch and pluck out interesting details for his writing.

It’s always worked well, he said.

For example, in December 2018, Catena was assigned to cover the heavyweight championship fight between Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury, so he ordered the pay-per-view match, he said.

“I recorded the fight so I could watch it live and again the next day to go over it and take more notes and gather more details,” Catena said. “I still have that recording to this day.”

All good.

The problem was with the next fight he tried to record. This one was the welterweight fight between Manny Pacquiao and Adrien Broner on Jan. 19.

The fight was starting late, so, Catena said, he planned to record it in case he fell asleep before it was over. He did, and when he woke up a few hours later, he checked the recording, he said.

“It indicated that I had 3 hours and 56 minutes of footage, but when I hit play, it took me to a black screen,” Catena said. “I could not view anything and a message came up asking me if I wanted to keep the recording or delete it.”

He saved the recording.

That same night, he had recorded a bantamweight title fight between Nordine Oubaali and Rau’shee Warren.

“That recording was able to be viewed the next day,” he said.


Asking for help

He said he called DIRECTV to ask for a refund of the $74.95 pay-per-view fee for the Pacquiao-Broner fight.

Catena said he spent more than an hour on the phone, climbing up the escalation ladder, but it didn’t help.

“[They] told me that I had a window to watch the fight, and that such events could not be recorded,” Catena said.

But that didn’t make sense, Catena said. He still had the previously recorded pay-per-view fights on his DVR.

The rep said it must have been “a glitch” that allowed him to record the other fights.

The rep offered him a $20 credit, but Catena said he wouldn’t accept it.

Catena argued that if the fight was not able to be recorded, it should have said so before he hit the record button, he said.

“Furthermore, I told them when you watch certain programs On Demand, the system will disable the FWD button and you have to watch the commercials,” Catena said. “No such features exist on live pay-per-view events. It allows you to record and it will show that it has recorded something.”

Then the rep said the customer agreement posted online says customers can’t watch pay-per-view events if the original viewing window closes.

“My argument was – who actually goes online to see these things when you are watching television, and again, why would it not be stated on the screen?” Catena said. “By not having any type of stipulation on your actual television is neglect in my book.”

He asked Bamboozled for help.


Looking for clarity

After reviewing the details of Catena’s experience, we took a look at DIRECTV’s “customer agreement” online.

It wasn’t exactly explicit.

Nowhere could we find language that indicated pay-per-view programs can’t be recorded.

It does say: “Programs recorded to a DVR may automatically delete after 24 hours.”

But that’s not what happened in Catena’s case.

He still has fights on his DVR, plus the black screen recording for the Pacquiao-Broner fight that he was never able to see. And for the black screen recording? Catena said it was that was that way in less than 24 hours.

We asked DIRECTV to review the case and to clarify its policies for pay-per-view recordings.

In short order, Catena received a call from a rep who said DIRECTV would credit his account for the $74.95.

DIRECTV confirmed the credit, saying it was made as “a courtesy.”

On what the rules are, a spokeswoman said in an email that the pay-per-view events are “only available on the DVR for 24 hours after ordering, as noted in ordering menu.”

We next asked why Catena still had some old pay-per-view fights on his DVR, but the spokeswoman didn’t reply.

The lesson here? It’s unclear.

Make sure you know your pay-per-view provider’s policies on recording and viewing windows.

But as to why Catena still had some fights on his DVR? Chalk it up to another unsolved mystery.

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