Best Satellite TV Providers 2023
Our experts researched and tested DIRECTV and DISH Network for hundreds of hours to help you get the right satellite TV provider for you.
Data as of post date. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.
We’re not fans of DIRECTV’s price hike after the first year, but we do think the provider’s array of regional sports networks (RSNs) make it the right choice for hardcore sports fans.
Best overall: DISH Network
- Free installation
- 3 yr. price guarantee
- Hopper 3 DVR (up to 2,000 hrs.)
- Multiroom viewing w/ Joey devices
- $10 monthly fee for Hopper 3 DVR
DISH has four main satellite TV packages priced $79.99–$109.99 a month (and two current-customer plans that you can read about in our DISH review). We recommend America’s Top 200 ($99.99 a month, 240+ channels) because it has the most channels for the best value.
Like DIRECTV, DISH has two-year contracts, but it locks in your price for three years—nicely countering DIRECTV’s steep second-year price hike.
DISH also has the best DVR in the business: the Hopper 3, which records up to 16 shows at once and stores up to a whopping 2,000 hours (500 hrs. HD) of movies and shows. It does cost an extra $10 per month, but that’s an amazing value considered what you get with the Hopper 3.
If you don’t wanna pay the extra $10 for the Hopper 3, DISH offers the Hopper Duo for $5 a month. The Duo stores only 125 hours of HD content and records only two shows at once, but that’s plenty for smaller households. But if you’re gonna go for the Hopper Duo, you might as well consider DIRECTV’s Genie, which gives you 200 hours of HD storage and five simultaneous recordings.
Best for sports: DIRECTV
- Free installation
- Genie DVR included
- Multiroom viewing with Genie Mini
- HBO Max offers
- 2 yr. contract
- $35 activation fee
- Heart-attack inducing 2nd-year price hike
- No NFL SUNDAY TICKET in 2023
DIRECTV has the most channels and packages, plus seductive perks like HBO Max (three months) for new customers. It also has more sports channels than DISH.
But DIRECTV’s plans, while priced competitively in lower tiers, get expensive in the higher ones. Also, beware the 30–40% rate increase in the second year. Why, DIRECTV?
Speaking of the “second year,” DIRECTV requires a two-year contract—par for the course with satellite providers, but also a drag. It also charges a $35 activation fee—and activation fees are silly, not to mention slippery. For more information, read our piece on the hidden costs of DIRECTV.
We think DIRECTV’s CHOICE™ package ($79.99 a month, 185+ channels) is a fine deal, especially when you consider the added value of free three-month trials of premium channels.
For perspective, DISH offers 190 channels for $69.99 a month (America’s Top 120) or 190+ channels for $84.99 monthly (America’s Top 120+). But these packages don’t include—heads up, sportsball fans—as many sports channels.
But remember: DISH will give you the Multi-Sport Pack free with America’s Top 120+ or higher. It’s a pretty generous deal, especially considering that DIRECTV recently lost NFL SUNDAY TICKET.
What to look for in satellite TV providers
What are the most important qualities of a satellite TV provider (besides a good personality and sense of humor)? If you said channel count or DVR equipment, you’re right.
It’s also smart to see if the provider has an app for mobile watching and account management, value-adding perks, and good customer satisfaction ratings.
Let’s dive deeper into why these are key features.
For TV providers, channel count is a crucial stat. The higher the number, the more impressive. But quality also matters: to make sure you can get the channels you want, check out our channel guides for each provider.
DVRs and other equipment
When you sign up for satellite TV service, you’re also committing to a DVR/receiver unit—and possibly a monthly rental fee. Make sure the machine meets your needs.
- Is the DVR included or is there a rental fee?
- Is there also a separate fee for DVR service?
- How many hours of SD and HD content does the DVR store?
- Can you buy separate DVRs or receivers for multi-room viewing?
- Does the DVR have cool, exclusive features?
- Does the remote control have voice search capabilities? Hands-free, even?
Also, many providers offer access to your DVR content (and maybe even your channel package) via a mobile app. Let’s discuss, shall we?
Most cable and satellite service providers have apps that allow account management (bill pay, support, etc.), watch-anywhere streaming, or both. You should get some of that convenience in your life.
DIRECTV and DISH both have mobile apps for Android and iOS. Both allow you to watch your live channels, on-demand content, and DVR recordings on your smartphone or tablet. You can also use both apps to set and manage DVR timers and parental controls.
Perks, deals, and other promotions
It’s always smart to see what other customers think of a provider before you commit.
In our annual customer satisfaction survey, we asked customers of the top cable and satellite TV providers* to rate providers on billing, channel selection, customer and technical support, DVR satisfaction, installation, signal reliability, user experience, and overall satisfaction.
DIRECTV took top honors, scoring 3.96 out of 5.00. DISH finished 7th with 3.81 (remember, these are customer ratings, not CableTV.com’s).
Final take: What’s the best satellite TV provider?
So which satellite TV service is best? We’re recommending DISH.
Like we said earlier, DISH’s three-year price-lock was the clincher (with a boost from the awesome Hopper 3 DVR). DISH might have fewer channels than DIRECTV, and charge a monthly fee for the Hopper 3, but it’s still much cheaper than DIRECTV in the long run.
Best satellite TV providers FAQ
Our experts employed hours of hands-on testing and crunched the numbers, rating DISH and DIRECTV on bang for your buck, reliability, features, and customer satisfaction.
Then we matched up the satellite TV providers head to head to give a clearer picture of their strengths and weaknesses. For more information on our methodology, check out our How We Rank page.