Has DIRECTV come under the “curse of mediocrity?”

What you should be asking yourself is… when is “good enough,” good enough?

Every so often DIRECTV comes under attack from the very enthusiasts who made it the success it is today. There are so many possible new features and sometimes the fans feel a little let down when their favorite service provider doesn’t bring every feature to the table. Maybe you’ve thought…

Why doesn’t DIRECTV have a 16-tuner DVR?
Why doesn’t DIRECTV let me manage all the settings on my receivers from anywhere?
Why isn’t Pac-12 (or your favorite channel) on DIRECTV?

Or any of a hundred other questions.

DIRECTV sometimes comes under attack for not catering to enthusiasts with features like these. The normal answer from DIRECTV is that their market research shows that 99% or more of their customers simply don’t want these advanced features. For them, the receivers are “good enough.” This sort of thinking creeps into all products when they’ve been around for a while. There’s even a term for it… “the curse of mediocrity.”

The curse of mediocrity applies to companies that once were innovators in small fields. Here’s an example: there was a time when business-level PCs were so new, so advanced, that only professionals had them. They cost tens of thousands of dollars (by today’s numbers) and they were built to last. Practically every part could be easily replaced. Today’s PCs cost a few hundred dollars and are almost impossible to repair. They’ve gotten so popular, so cheap, that they’re not the premium items that they once were. They’ve become mediocre and when they break after a few years we don’t care.

Ten years ago, only a tiny percentage of DIRECTV’s customer base, probably under a million, had a DVR. Today that number is well over ten million. Have DIRECTV’s DVRs gotten mediocre over that time? If you look at the real story you’ll see that DIRECTV has introduced new feature after new feature, year after year. Your particular “pet feature” may not be one of them but there’s no question that DIRECTV DVRs are anything but mediocre.

Some companies fold when they lose the edge and stop innovating. The thing is, though, trying to pin the “stopped innovating” label on DIRECTV… just doesn’t stick.