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How Do I Choose a Satellite TV Provider?

Despite all the commotion about cutting the cord, 83 percent of households still pay monthly for their television service, with millennials spending 109 hours per month watching live TV. Whether it’s the access to so many HD channels, the better sports coverage, or wide availability, you know you want satellite TV. The big question is, which provider do you choose? While there are several different cable TV providers, there are just two main satellite TV providers — DIRECTV® and DISH®. Both providers offer unique features and pricing, so it’s important to know what you’re looking for as you compare the pros and cons of each before choosing one.  

What to Look for When Picking a Satellite Provider

Despite there being only two real satellite TV contenders, it’s still good have a list of things to consider when you’re deciding which to sign with. Price is often a big factor when picking a plan, but it shouldn’t be the only point you check out. As you’re exploring different packages, take some time to look at details like contract length, bundling options, equipment usability, channel availability, and additional perks. To give you a better idea of how DIRECTV and DISH stack up, we’ve provided an overview of the above factors for both providers.  

What DIRECTV Has to Offer

DIRECTV has been providing satellite services since 1994 and, as of 2015, is a subsidiary of AT&T®. Calling themselves “America’s #1 Satellite TV,” DIRECTV boasts a customer base of 37 million and a high-ranking customer satisfaction rating that topped all other pay-TV providers in 2014.   Packages and Pricing: DIRECTV offers six well-advertised packages, all of which require a 24-month agreement. The smallest advertised package, Select™, provides more than 145 channels for just $19.99 per month for 12 months. The middle-of-the-line packages, Choice™ and Xtra, include more than 175 channels for $29.99 per month for 12 months and more than 220 channels for $34.99 per month for 12 months, respectively. The most comprehensive package, Premier™, includes more than 315 channels for just $89.99 per month. The caveat is that after the first 12 months are over, pricing jumps up significantly. The Select™ plan more than doubles to $51.99 per month, and Premier™ jumps to $144.99 per month. Choice™ and Xtra increase to $74.99 and $81.99, respectively.   Bundles: As DIRECTV was purchased by AT&T, customers now have the ability to bundle DIRECTV satellite TV with AT&T Internet and home phone lines. Prices start at $34.99 per month for 12 months for TV and Internet, and $54.99 per month for 12 months for TV, Internet, and home phone.   Premium Channels: With DIRECTV, you can pay an additional monthly fee for premium networks, including HBO®, SHOWTIME®, STARZ®, and CINEMAX®. What DIRECTV is best known for, however, is its premium sports lineup. From NFL SUNDAY TICKET and MLB EXTRA INNINGS™ to NBA LEAGUE PASS and NHL® CENTER ICE®, DIRECTV offers sports packages for football, baseball, basketball, hockey, soccer, golf, tennis, and more.   Equipment: DIRECTV provides its customers with all necessary TV equipment, including receivers and remotes. Its top-of-the-line HD DVR is the Genie®. With the Genie, you can record five shows at once, save up to 200 hours of content, watch two channels at the same time on one screen with Picture-in-Picture, and experience full HD DVR functionality on every television in your house. You can also watch or record shows in any room in your home via one single DVR by connecting with a Wireless Genie Mini.   Extra Features: With DIRECTV Everywhere, you can stream live TV on your smartphone, tablet, and computer; watch popular shows with On Demand; and catch newly released blockbuster movies with DIRECTV CINEMA™. DIRECTV also offers a dedicated 4K Ultra HD channel. Available 24/7, you can watch travel shows, original series, and nature documentaries in 4K Ultra HD, which has four times the resolution of 1080p HD.  

What DISH Has to Offer

DISH has been providing satellite services since 1995 and now provides satellite TV to more than 14 million customers. While DIRECTV emphasizes its high level of customer satisfaction, DISH focuses on its competitive pricing.   Packages and Pricing: DISH offers three well-advertised package options, all of which require a 24-month agreement. The smallest advertised package, America’s Top 120™, provides more than 190 channels for just $34.99 per month for 12 months. The second tier package, America’s Top 200™, offers more than 240 channels for $44.99 per month for 12 months. The top tier package, America’s Top 250™, provides more than 290 channels for $49.99 per month for 12 months. Like DIRECTV, these prices increase after the first 12 months of service. America’s Top 120™ nearly doubles to $64.99 per month, America’s Top 200™ increases to $79.99 per month, and America’s Top 250™ jumps to $89.99 per month. However, if you’re worried about these prices increasing again in the future, you can choose DISH’s 3-Year TV Price Guarantee offer. While you’ll pay more per month for the first 12 months, you lock into a price that is lower than the post-12 month cost. America’s Top 120™ package costs $49.99 per month for 36 months, America’s Top 200™ for $64.99 per month, and America’s Top 250™ for $74.99 per month.   Bundles: DISH also offers bundle deals, with DSL and satellite Internet speeds ranging between 7 Mbps and 40 Mbps, depending on the package selected. The most popular bundle combines America’s Top 120™ TV package, the Better DSL Internet package, and Nationwide Phone package for $99.98 per month for 12 months with a 24-month agreement.   Premium Channels: For an additional monthly fee, DISH offers premium networks, including HBO®, SHOWTIME®, STARZ®, CINEMAX®, and ENCORE®. While only DIRECTV offers NFL SUNDAY TICKET, DISH does offer NFL RedZone, MLB EXTRA INNINGS, NBA LEAGUE PASS, and NHL® CENTER ICE®, as well as Spanish-language packages.   Equipment: DISH offers its customers advanced remotes, receivers, and Hopper® Whole-Home HD DVR systems. With the latest Hopper model, the Hopper 3 Smart DVR, you can record a whopping 16 programs at once and support seven TVs simultaneously. The Hopper 3 also includes 4K ultra HD resolution and a turbocharged quad-core processor for a fast, streamlined, and intuitive experience. The DVR includes the Hopper Remote, which has voice-recognition technology.   Extra Features: For an additional $99, subscribers will soon be able to get the new HopperGO, which lets you load 100 hours of DVR content onto a pocket-sized device. Wirelessly connect it with up to five devices to watch your favorite programs without needing an Internet connection. Additionally, the company offers app-based streaming with DISH Anywhere, meaning you can use DISH’s app to watch live TV, recorded TV, and On Demand selections on your tablet, smartphone, or computer.   With satellite TV, the options are seemingly endless, making it an ideal option for customers who want hundreds of channels, access to premium content, and special sports packages for a competitive price. Once you’ve compared the features, pricing, and packages available from DIRECTV and DISH, use our ZIP code finder to see if your preferred option is available in your area.   *Pricing and plans are current as of writing. Pricing and plans are subject to change. Not all offers available in all areas.