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Best Satellite TV Providers 2020

Get the dish on DIRECTV, DISH Network, and Orby TV with our expert review.

Best overall

Price: $59.99–$94.99/mo.

Channel count: 190–290+

DVR storage: 500 hrs.

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Best for premium channels

Price: $59.99–$134.99/mo.

Channel count: 155–330+

DVR storage: 200 hrs.

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Cheapest package

Price: $40.00–$50.00/mo.

Channel count: 44–68+

DVR storage: 100 hrs.

View plans

Data as of 08/10/20. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

Bottom line

DIRECTV and DISH are established, experienced brands—and, for ages, they were the only satellite TV providers around. The duopoly twins have high channel counts, good DVRs, and killer perks. 

But duopolies, like monopolies, do gross stuff. In satellite TV, that’s requiring contracts, charging activation, cancellation, and reconnect fees—and having convoluted monthly bills.

So which dish-dealer is best? Well, Orby TV tries to simplify satellite TV service—by eliminating those annoyances—while offering one affordable channel package. Orby is the simpler, cheaper satellite provider, but it has high startup costs and poor customer service.

DIRECTV has more channels, more plans, no fee for its Genie DVR (the swanky DISH Hopper 3 is $15 a month), high customer satisfaction scores, and amazing NFL SUNDAY TICKET and HBO Max™ offers for new customers. But the 30–40% price increases in the second year just suck.

DISH has fewer channels (and no HBO®) and packages, and best DVR of the bunch (Hopper 3). But its two-year price guarantee is the clincher, earning our recommendation. Even with the $15 a month Hopper 3 fee, you’ll be better off here than with DIRECTV.

But each satellite provider has its upsides, so check out more details below.

Best satellite TV providers

Specs and Features Comparison

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TV providerPriceCost per channelChannel countChoose your plan
DISH$59.99–$94.99/mo.$0.32–$0.33190–290+View plans
DIRECTV$59.99–$134.99/mo.$0.39–0.41155–330+View plans
Orby TV$40.00–$50.00/mo.$0.74–$0.9144–68+View plans

Data effective 08/10/20 Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

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Best overall: DISH Network

Price: $59.99–$94.99/mo.

Channel count: 190–290+

DVR storage: 500 hrs.

View plans

Pros

  • Free installation
  • 2 yr. pricelock
  • Hopper 3 DVR
  • Multiroom viewing w/ Joey devices
  • No-contract plans (extra fee)
  • Bundle w/ Frontier internet

Cons

  • No HBO
  • 2 yr. contract
  • $15 monthly fee for Hopper 3 DVR

DISH has four plans (DIRECTV has six), and the prices are within $5 of DIRECTV’s until the highest tier. That’s where DISH’s America’s Top 250 ($94.99 a month, 290+ channels) outshines DIRECTV’s ULTIMATE ($84.99 a month, 250+ channels). 

Like DIRECTV, DISH also has contracts, but it locks in your price for the duration of the contract—nicely countering DIRECTV’s second-year price hike. And, if you’re willing to pay an extra monthly fee, DISH will forget the contract.

DISH also has the best DVR in the business: the Hopper 3, which records up to 16 shows at once and stores a whopping 500 hours of HD movies and shows. But it does cost an extra $15 per month, which affects the value comparison with DIRECTV. 

If you don’t wanna pay the extra $15 for the Hopper 3, DISH offers the Hopper Duo at no additional cost. The Duo stores only 125 hours of content and records only two shows at once, but that’s plenty for smaller households. DIRECTV’s Genie is way better, though, with 200 hours of storage and five concurrent recordings.

Our recommended DISH package:

America’s Top 120+

Price: $74.99/mo.*

Standout feature: 190+ channels, Hopper 3 DVR

* for 24. months. Everyday Price $94.99/mo. New customers only. All offers require 2-year commitment with early termination fee and eAutopay. Price includes Hopper Duo for qualifying customers.

If you’re not a big sports or HBO fan, DISH’s America’s Top 120+ has 190+ channels for $74.99 a month. That’s right in line with DIRECTV CHOICE—you just won’t get NFL SUNDAY TICKET included with your package. You also won’t get HBO, since DISH doesn’t even carry that channel.

Pro tip: Do you want to sign up for DISH, but also want HBO? You can always subscribe to HBO Max for $14.99 and still have a cheaper payment than you would in your second year with DIRECTV.

You will, however, be able to get the Hopper 3 and its volumes of storage so you can hoard every precious episode of your favorite series.

Best for premium channels: DIRECTV

Price: $59.99–$134.99/mo.

Channel count: 155–330+

DVR storage: 200 hrs.

View plans

Pros

  • Free installation
  • Largest channel selection
  • More sports channels than DISH
  • Genie DVR included
  • Multiroom viewing with Genie Mini
  • Bundle discount (through AT&T)
  • NFL SUNDAY TICKET
  • HBO Max free for a year

Cons

  • 2 yr. contract
  • $35 activation fee
  • Heart-attack inducing 2nd-year price hike

DIRECTV has the most channels and packages, plus seductive perks like free NFL SUNDAY TICKET (current season) and HBO Max (one year) for new customers. It also has more sports channels than DISH and Orby TV, and you can save money bundling with AT&T internet. 

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.

Our recommended DIRECTV package:

CHOICE

Price: $69.99/mo.*

Standout feature: 185+ channels, free NFL SUNDAY TICKET and HBO Max.

*plus taxes. For 12 months w/24-mo. agmt. Autopay & Paperless bill req’d. Pay $50/mo plus taxes until discount starts. $110/mo. in months 13-24 (subject to change).

We think DIRECTV’s CHOICE™ package ($69.99 a month for the first year, 185+ channels) is a fine deal, especially when you consider the added value of free NFL SUNDAY TICKET and HBO Max.

For perspective, DISH offers 190 channels for $59.99 a month (America’s Top 120) or 190+ channels for $74.99 monthly (America’s Top 120+). But these packages don’t include NFL SUNDAY TICKET or HBO Max, or—heads up, sportsball fans—as many sports channels.

Cheapest package: Orby TV

Price: $40.00–$50.00/mo.

Channel count: 44–68+

DVR storage: 100 hrs.

View plans

Pros

  • Cheapest package
  • Simple packages
  • No contract if you purchase equipment
  • No cancellation or reconnection fees
  • Free access to local channels w/o Orby package

Cons

  • High startup costs (up to $350)
  • Contract for renters 
  • Dodgy 30-day, risk-free trial
  • No sports channels
  • Low DVR storage
  • Bad customer service

Until now, we’ve talked a lot about DIRECTV vs. DISH. Orby TV is quite different. 

With Orby TV, you buy the Orby receiver ($100) or receiver/DVR ($200) from Best Buy or direct from Orby. There’s no contract if you purchase your equipment, but renters must sign a two-year agreement and pay an additional $10 monthly. 

You then choose professional installation ($150) or self-installation ($70, plus $20 for a signal meter). Both fees include the Orby dish and over-the-air (OTA) antenna. 

Orby has only one plan: the Essentials Package ($40 a month; 44+ channels). DVR service is an extra $4 a month.

If you miss a payment, you’ll lose your channels, on-screen guide, and DVR, but you’ll still get your local channels through the Orby antenna. To resume service, simply pay for another month. 

But Orby hasn’t entirely simplified the satellite TV experience. In some ways, it’s worse, with high startup costs, a weak DVR, and awful customer service. Also, the 30-day risk-free guarantee isn’t risk-free at all. For more details, see our Orby TV review.

Given Orby TV’s flaws, we hesitate to give it our wholehearted recommendation. But if you’re done with DIRECTV or DISH, Orby is an affordable (and the only) alternative.

Our recommended Orby TV package:

Essentials package w/ 44 channels ($40/mo.) + HBO ($18/mo.) + DVR ($4/mo.) 

Price: $62.00/mo.

Standout feature: No contract, no monthly bill, no cancellation or reconnect fees, and you can keep your local channels even if you let your package lapse.

If you decide to take a chance on Orby, we suggest the Essentials pack with DVR service and the HBO add-on. With 44 (mostly popular) cable channels, four HBO channels, and potentially dozens of local network affiliates and subchannels (via the antenna), it’s a solid deal.

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.

Channel count

For TV providers, channel count is a crucial stat. The higher the number, the more impressive. 

But quality also matters: If you go with DISH, can you deal with no HBO for two years? If you’re considering Orby TV, is Newsmax an acceptable substitute for the FOX News Channel? Verify that your prospective provider carries the channels you must have.

DISH, DIRECTV, and Orby TV channel lineups

DVR 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?

Mobile apps

Most cable and satellite TV 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 (DISH has two, actually). Orby TV has a browser-only app for account management purposes (bill pay, vacation holds, etc.).

Perks, deals, and other promotions

DIRECTV, DISH, and Orby TV sell pretty much the same product for the same price. So, to get your business, they regularly offer deals to entice new customers to sign up.

DIRECTV

  • Get the current season of NFL SUNDAY TICKET free with any package from CHOICE to ULTIMATE.
  • Get CINEMAX®, EPIX, HBO, SHOWTIME®, and STARZ® free when you sign up for any package from SELECT through ULTIMATE
  • HBO Max free for a year with CHOICE through PREMIER plans.
  • Get a $150 AT&T Visa Reward and a Wi-Fi gateway free for a year when you bundle DIRECTV with AT&T internet.
  • Get a free year of HBO when you order the DIRECTV CHOICE package.

DISH

  • First responders, veterans, and active-duty military can get the Stars & Stripes Pack (eight channels including STARZ ENCORE Westerns and the Justice Network) free, plus a free monthly movie rental.
  • Health care workers get the Heartland Pack (nine additional family-friendly channels including Discovery Family and the Hallmark Channel) free, plus a free monthly movie rental.
  • Customers aged 55 and older get 2,000 hours of DVR space, 30 free premium channels, DISH Protect Plus (free tech visits and equipment replacement), and more—free.
  • Did we mention the two-year pricelock?

Orby TV

For a limited time, you can get 50% off professional installation.

Customer satisfaction

It’s always smart to see what other customers think of a provider before you commit. 

In our 2020 customer satisfaction survey, we asked customers of the top 10 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.

Orby TV was too new to include this time, but 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).

Our final take

So which satellite TV service is best? Well, we hate contracts and fees, but we can’t recommend Orby TV yet. Maybe if/when it gets its customer service and advertising (see its “risk-free” guarantee) acts together and figures out a way to lower its startup costs.

So we’re givin’ the top recommendation to DISH

Like we said earlier, DISH’s two-year pricelock was the clincher (with a boost from the awesome Hopper 3 DVR). DISH might have fewer channels than DIRECTV, including HBO—one of the most popular premiums—but that’s so much better than paying up to 40% more in the second year. And you can always subscribe to HBO Max separately.

Satellite TV providers FAQ

What are the best satellite TV providers?

Out of the three satellite TV providers in the US, DISH is best. It has 290+ channels, the Hopper 3 DVR (500 hours of storage, 16 simultaneous recordings), and a two-year price guarantee.

What is the difference between cable and satellite TV?

Cable TV comes through a cable. Satellite TV bounces from Earth to a satellite in space and back to the dish on top of your house.

What are the best satellite TV deals?

DIRECTV, DISH, and Orby TV all have some good deals right now for new customers. 

DIRECTV

  • The current season of NFL SUNDAY TICKET is free with any package from CHOICE to ULTIMATE.
  • HBO Max is free for a year when you sign up for any plan from CHOICE to PREMIER.
  • Three free months of CINEMAX, EPIX, HBO, SHOWTIME, and STARZ with any package from SELECT through ULTIMATE (new customers only).
  • Get a $150 AT&T Visa Reward and a Wi-Fi gateway free for a year when you bundle with AT&T internet.

DISH

  • First responders, health care workers, and members of the military get free bonus channel packs.
  • Customers aged 55 and older get extra perks: 2,000 hours of DVR space, 30 free premium channels, and DISH Protect Plus (free in-home tech visits and equipment replacement) with six months of upgraded Identity Protection.

Orby TV

For a limited time, you can get 50% off professional installation.

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