DIRECTV vs. CenturyLink Prism
Data effective 1/8/2018. Pricing subject to change. Not all offers available in all areas.
Is DIRECTV or CenturyLink Prism the best TV provider for you?
Choose DIRECTV for nationwide availability and outstanding sports programming.
DIRECTV is one of the highest-rated television services available. The combination of reasonable pricing, good channel selection, great customer service, and wide availability makes DIRECTV easy to recommend to most people. Satellite TV isn’t the universal choice, though—if only because not everyone wants to deal with the hassle of a satellite dish on their roof. DIRECTV also requires a two-year contract in an era when contracts are going the way of the dinosaurs.
Choose CenturyLink Prism for great channel selection and fast fiber performance.
CenturyLink Prism is a great answer for people who want solid TV service without a satellite dish. Because it relies on fiber technology, CenturyLink offers a reliability advantage for customers located in areas where satellite interference might be a problem. It also offers more channels than many competitors—including DIRECTV. Although CenturyLink struggled with their customer service in our 2017 survey, they’ve really come alive this year—in fact, they’ve blown past much of the competition in the customer service category, making them an easy provider to recommend.
Find and compare TV services in your area:
Installation & Setup
DIRECTV enjoys a solid reputation for customer service, and that good reputation extends to installation and setup. That’s great news—unless you’re so hardcore that you want to be stuck mounting a satellite dish to your roof without help. And while DIRECTV does charge a small activation fee, the installation itself is included with your package at no additional charge.
CenturyLink Prism(4.13 /5)
CenturyLink was dead last in this category last year, but they’ve nearly doubled their score going into 2018. How? CenturyLink offers free professional installation, which is always worth getting excited about in an industry that tries to slap a fee on everything. It also provides detailed documentation to help you prepare for installation day, including a checklist and video guide. Like most providers, CenturyLink charges an activation fee, though the amount varies depending on which services you order.
DIRECTV Installation Fee: $35.00 activation fee
CenturyLink Installation Fee: Activation fee will vary
With over 325 channels to pick from, DIRECTV offers a solid selection. All your basics are covered, as well as premium channels like HBO® and Cinemax®. But where DIRECTV really pulls ahead of other providers is with its sports programming. In addition to standard sports channels like MLB Network, DIRECTV has exclusive rights to some games through its excellent NFL SUNDAY TICKET offering, the dream package for loyal football fans.
CenturyLink Prism(4.0 /5)
CenturyLink Prism offers slightly more channels than DIRECTV, but apart from that, the selection is pretty basic. You can get the same premium channels as other providers, like HBO® or STARZ®. As for sports, there’s no NFL SUNDAY TICKET, but you can get the usual favorites, like NFL RedZone and MLB Strike Zone.
DIRECTV Channels: 325+
CenturyLink Channels: 350+
You might be concerned that DIRECTV, as a satellite provider, won’t be reliable should the weather turn sour. While this might have been a concern years ago, this reputation is largely unfounded now. There is technically still a possibility of interference during severe weather conditions, but DIRECTV advertises 99% signal reliability, and that holds true for most customers.
CenturyLink Prism(3.97 /5)
CenturyLink—and the entire TV industry, really—had some hiccups related to reliability in our 2017 survey, with scores dropping left and right. That said, CenturyLink’s problems were clearly related to rapid expansion, and, as expected, the company has since improved dramatically in the reliability department. Its rating this year is where we expect a fiber provider to be.
DIRECTV Type of Service: Satellite
CenturyLink Prism Type of Service: Fiber
DIRECTV’s pricing covers high-value budget packages to channel-packed luxury plans and everything in between. The pricing at both ends is very competitive, starting at just $35.00 per month. We think the best deal lies in the middle, though: the ULTIMATE package is just $60.00 per month and comes with 245+ channels. DIRECTV also includes your DVR rental fee in the package price, so that’s one less fee you’ll see on the bill each month.
CenturyLink Prism(3.82 /5)
CenturyLink also includes the DVR rental fee in the advertised package prices, but its prices are a little less competitive than DIRECTV’s. Prism TV packages start at $69.99 per month and run up to $124.99 per month, but again, we think the best choice for most customers is in the middle. Our pick is the Prism Preferred package, which offers over 320 channels for $89.99 per month.
DIRECTV Price: $35.00–$110.00 per month
CenturyLink Prism Price: $69.99–$124.99 per month
Tech Support & Customer Service
As an industry, TV providers have a pretty poor reputation for customer service. DIRECTV defies that expectation, though, with consistently solid scores from our satisfaction survey and the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) benchmarks. DIRECTV lands in third place in the ACSI benchmark, beating the ACSI industry average of 64.
CenturyLink Prism(3.83 /5)
CenturyLink offers a helpful support site featuring a prominent search function and clean layout. We found answers to all the questions we asked, from troubleshooting slow internet to programming the DVR. The real story here, though, is the dramatic change from last year’s survey. Satisfaction with CenturyLink’s customer service rose dramatically this year—an almost 44% increase from 2.66 to 3.83. It seems the provider finally grew into its rapidly expanding market.
CenturyLink Prism Whole Home DVR
Google Play Rating: (4.1 /5)
Apple Store Rating: (4.7 /5)
Channel Guide: Yes
Stream Live TV: Yes
Manage DVR: Yes
Remote Control Function: Yes
Additional Features: Apple Watch app; video transfer from device to TV
CenturyLink Prism TV
Google Play Rating: (3.8 /5)
Apple Store Rating: (1.30 /5)
Channel Guide: Yes
Stream Live TV: Yes
Manage DVR: Yes
Remote Control Function: Yes
Additional Features: Apple Watch app, easy sharing features
DIRECTV doesn’t offer its own internet service. However, because it’s owned by AT&T, customers have the option of bundling AT&T internet service (and phone) with DIRECTV service. AT&T internet service is fast and reliable, and it’s priced reasonably. The one major downside is the 1 TB data cap on most plans—it’s pretty high but may still be limiting for some customers.
The shining star of AT&T’s internet lineup is definitely the AT&T 1000 plan, with fiber speeds up to 1,000 Mbps and no data limit. This plan isn’t available everywhere, but if you can get it, it’s highly recommended—especially for heavy streamers and downloaders. It’s also priced reasonably, at just $80.00 per month.
CenturyLink internet is available as a stand-alone service or bundled with Prism TV and phone. Whichever way you go, you’ll get a solid service at a reasonable price. Packages start at $45.00 per month for up to 20 Mbps, though the actual speeds you’ll see can vary pretty widely depending on where you live. And, like AT&T, some areas have access to gigabit fiber service. The CenturyLink 1 Gig package brings speeds up to 1 Gbps for $85.00 per month.
More About the Providers
DIRECTV ranks among the largest satellite service providers in the world. DIRECTV was purchased by AT&T in 2015 and now serves over twenty million customers in the United States. DIRECTV is one of the few television providers with services available nationwide.
CenturyLink is one of the largest telecom companies in the US, providing TV, phone, and internet service to nearly sixty million people. CenturyLink service is available in thirty-six states across the country, with the largest coverage in Utah, Arizona, and Colorado.