“You can watch this program at a lower quality” – what does this mean?

Here’s one that came through our support groups. A customer told us that they are getting consistent 771 errors but get the option to watch a lot of programs “at a lower quality” if they change to certain channels. What’s going on, they asked. What can be done to fix it?

What does error 771 mean?

Error 771 on a DIRECTV system means that there has been signal loss on the satellite your receiver is trying to tune to. It’s commonly caused by a broken wire, a dish that’s gone bad, or some sort of obstruction in front of the dish.

Fixing error 771 usually involves making sure all cables are properly connected, possibly clearing trees or leaves from the satellite dish’s path, or replacing the dish. There’s a complete list of error codes for DIRECTV here. 

If that’s true, how is this person watching TV?

In some cases, your DIRECTV receiver will try to pull a program from the internet if there is a satellite issue. This option is more likely to be available on national channels and is rarely on local channels. You can get a good idea of what channels you will see. It’s roughly the same list of channels you can watch using the DIRECTV app for your phone.

In order to keep the image as smooth as possible without buffering, your receiver will generally try to get a low-quality stream from AT&T’s servers. You’ll see a screen letting you know of this.

It’s a pretty neat trick if you think about it. Not only that, it is great for folks where rain fade is a little more common. The only thing that’s required is an active internet connection. And, it’s another good reason to connect your DIRECTV equipment to the internet.

How can this be fixed?

You’ll need to make your satellite equipment work the way it should. This means you need to find the source of the problem. Sometimes re-running satellite setup will fix the problem. Other times it will tell you other steps you need to take, like adding or replacing B-Band converters. Other times you may need to work a little harder. You can look at the satellite setup screen and its signal meters. This will allow you to see if you have any signal at all. You might need to prune some trees, replace a cable, or replace the dish. None of these are impossible, it’s just up to you to decide how much work you want to do. When it gets to the point where you can’t do any more, then you can call for a service technician. They will be able to take things a little further.

Get what you need from Solid Signal

Whether you need a replacement remote, a new receiver, or a new dish, you’ll find everything you need for the DIRECTV, DISH, cellular, marine, or auto/RV hobbyist by shopping at SolidSignal.com. It’s the best place on the web to find the DIY stuff you’ll need. With over 40,000 parts in one place you’re sure to find what you’re looking for. Shop for what you’re looking for now!

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 6,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.