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DISH vs. DIRECTV: Who Is the Best Satellite TV Provider?

We’ve done hundreds of hours of hands-on testing, online digging, and over-the-phone research to help you find the right satellite TV plan.

Best overall

Price: $42.99–$99.99/mo.*
Channel count: 190–290+
Max DVR storage: 500 HD hrs.†

Best for sports

Price: $64.99–$134.99/mo.**
Channel count: 160–330+
Max DVR storage: 200 HD hrs.

Data effective as of post date. Not all offers available in all areas. See full disclaimer regarding pricing and features for more information.

DISH is the best satellite TV provider for the money, and the Hopper 3 DVR is bar none the best DVR out there. That said, DIRECTV offers more HD channels and is the best satellite TV service for sports fans.

DISH vs. DIRECTV pros and cons

DISH

2-yr. price guarantee
Best DVR
Best kids programming
Expensive plans

DIRECTV

NFL SUNDAY TICKET
Free DVR
Best sports programming
Expensive plans
Price hike after 1st yr.

Compare DISH and DIRECTV head to head

Provider
DISH
DIRECTV
Price Channel count DVR storage Simultaneous
recordings
Details
$42.99–$99.99/mo.* 190–290+ 125–500 HD hrs.† 2–16† View plans
$64.99–$134.99/mo.** 160–330+ 200 HD hrs. 5 View plans

Data effective as of post date. Not all offers available in all areas. See full disclaimer regarding pricing and features for more information.

DISH’s strong points are its industry-leading Hopper 3 DVR and two-year price guarantee. But keep in mind that it has smaller channel lineups, which can make it difficult to get the exact channels you want. Oh, and did we mention that the Hopper 3 will cost you $15 extra per month?

DIRECTV has the best sports programming around, and every plan comes with an included Genie DVR. But the Genie isn’t as powerful as the Hopper 3, and DIRECTV prices increase drastically after the first year of your two-year contract.

Wanna know more before you sign up? We’ve dug into packages, features, and more, so you can find the right DISH or DIRECTV plan for you.

Because DISH and DIRECTV are satellite TV providers, they’re available almost everywhere in the US.

Enter your zip code below to confirm that DISH and DIRECTV are available near you (and maybe even check out some other TV options while you’re at it).

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Packages and pricing

With nine packages to choose from, things can get a little, um . . . confusing. But have no fear! We’ve made it easy to pick a plan by researching every DISH and DIRECTV package and listing up-to-date pricing, channel counts, and popular channels.

DISH packages and pricing

Price Channel count Popular channels Details
$42.99/mo. 50+ AMC, CNN, and more View plan
$64.99/mo. 190 Disney Channel, ESPN, and more View plan
$79.99/mo. 190+ NFL Network, Pac-12 Network, and more View plan
$89.99/mo. 240+ Disney Junior, Hallmark Channel, and more View plan
$99.99/mo. 290+ Nicktoons, STARZ® ENCORE, and more View plan

DISH is cheaper and offers more packages than DIRECTV. And DISH’s two-year price lock is a rare find in an industry that thrives on raising prices after promotional periods.

That said, DISH packages include fewer channels and sports networks.

Pro tip: America’s Top 120 and America’s Top 120+ pretty much share the same name and channels. The difference is that America’s Top 120+ has more sports channels, like NFL Network and Pac-12 Network.

We recommend America’s Top 200 for true-blue TV fans because it includes more than 250 channels, like Disney HD and Investigation Discover, for the decent price of $89.99 per month.

For more insights into TV service from DISH, read our full review of DISH plans, channel lineups, and more.

DIRECTV packages and pricing

Price Channel count Popular channels Details
$64.99/mo. 160+ ESPN, ESPN2, and more View plans
$69.99/mo. 185+ FX, IFC, and more View plans
$84.99/mo. 250+ Boomerang, FLIX, and more View plans
$134.99/mo. 330+ HBO®, CINEMAX®, and more View plans

No doubt about it, DIRECTV has unbeatable deals and promotions. You can get NFL SUNDAY TICKET or NBA League Pass and HBO Max free for a year when you sign up for its CHOICE All Included plan and above.

Pro tip: You can’t get HBO or CINEMAX with DISH, but you can get them included with your DIRECTV PREMIER All Included package. That’s something to keep in mind if you’re trying to keep up with shows like Barry and Westworld.

What’s more, all DIRECTV packages include the Genie DVR free of charge. DISH includes the Hopper Duo DVR with its plans, but it charges a $5.00 service fee and a $10.00 upgrade fee if you want the far superior Hopper 3 DVR instead.

But the main catch with DIRECTV is that ridiculous price hike after the first year of your two-year contract. For example, our recommended package, CHOICE All Included, jumps up from $69.99 a month to $122.00 a month after the first year—zoinks!

Still, if you gotta have all the sports, and you want a really solid DVR for free, go with DIRECTV.

To learn more about TV service from DIRECTV, read our comprehensive review of DIRECTV plans, channel lineups, and more.

DVRs

TBH, a DVR can make or break your TV experience.  Luckily, you can’t lose with the DISH Hopper 3 and DIRECTV Genie.

DISH Hopper 3 vs. DIRECTV Genie

Price Storage Simultaneous
recordings
Video
quality
Details
$15/mo. 500 HD hrs. 16 Up to 4K Ultra HD Read review
Included 200 HD hrs. 5 Up to 4K Ultra HD Read review

DISH Hopper 3

DISH Hopper 3 DVR

While DISH has more than one DVR, we recommend the Hopper 3 if you want an amazing DVR experience. While the Hopper Duo comes included with most DISH packages, it’s basic af.

On the other hand, the Hopper 3 is the best DVR out there, with sixteen simultaneous recordings and 500 hours of HD storage capacity. If DVRs are your thing, you should probably go with DISH.

DIRECTV Genie

DIRECTV Genie DVR

The Genie DVR ain’t too shabby, either. With five simultaneous recordings and 200 hours of HD storage, it’ll get the job done for most people.

It’s especially nice if you’ve got NFL SUNDAY TICKET because you can program a Mix Channel that allows you to watch up to eight live games at once.

Pro tip: You can learn more about how the Hopper 3 and the Genie compare head to head by reading our in-depth vs. article.

Installation

When you sign up for DISH, your service includes the cost of standard installation from a professional.

To make installation even smoother, you can view your technician’s photo, monitor their location, and review your scheduled time with the appointment feature in the MyDISH app. In this user-friendly world, it’s a feature we appreciate and think more TV providers should implement.

While DIRECTV charges a $20 activation fee to start your service, it doesn’t technically charge anything for installation. Still, 20 bucks is 20 bucks, amirite?

Watch out: DIRECTV has other hidden fees, too. Check out our Hidden Costs of DIRECTV guide for more details before you sign up.

It would be nice if DIRECTV got a technician-tracker tool like DISH. There are a few complaints online that make us concerned about technicians arriving late or rescheduling last minute.

In the end, we think DISH is the clear winner when it comes to installation.

Streaming apps

The DISH Anywhere app and DIRECTV app are on-the-go streaming apps that turn your phone or tablet into a tiny mobile TV.

DISH Anywhere app

DISH Anywhere home page

DISH Anywhere lets you watch live and on-demand TV, or you can transfer your DVR recordings to enjoy offline. You can even manage your DVR library and recordings from your phone.

DIRECTV app

The DIRECTV app has similar capabilities to the DISH Anywhere app, along with an extra remote control feature. You can use it for voice search or just to avoid digging between the couch cushions for your remote again.

Both apps are solid, but if we had to choose, we’d say the DIRECTV app is the winner by a hair.

Internet bundles

Some internet service providers (ISPs) bundle with DISH or DIRECTV. You can bundle Frontier internet with DISH and AT&T internet or CenturyLink internet with DIRECTV.

Bundling DISH with Frontier internet will net you a $10 per month savings on your overall bill. Likewise, bundling AT&T internet with DIRECTV will save you $10 a month on your total bill.

Winner: AT&T internet has faster max download and upload speeds than Frontier internet. DIRECTV and AT&T internet bundles are the clear winner here.

Just be aware that there’s no bundling discount when you bundle CenturyLink internet with DIRECTV.

Not sure which ISPs are in your area? Enter your zip code below to see internet providers in your neighborhood.

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Final take

While both premium TV providers have unique strengths, for most folks, DISH is the way to go. DIRECTV is best for sports fans with NFL SUNDAY TICKET and a slew of sports channels. But DISH is cheaper, has a two-year price guarantee, and boasts the industry-leading Hopper 3 DVR.

Methodology

Our experts did dozens of 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 titans 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.

DISH vs. DIRECTV FAQ

Where is satellite TV available?

Satellite TV is available across the US anywhere you can set up a south-facing satellite dish.

This might be an issue for some apartment buildings without a clear shot of the southern sky.

Is satellite TV reliable?

Yes, satellite TV technology has come a long way and can provide a reliable signal through most weather conditions.

What is the cheapest satellite TV package?

The cheapest satellite TV package is the DISH Flex Pack package for $42.99 per month.

What is the best satellite TV deal?

America’s Top 250 from DISH has the best cost per channel between all DISH and DIRECTV plans. Of course, if you aren’t going to watch all those channels, or if it’s missing any of your favorites, it might not be the best deal for you.

Are there low-income options for satellite TV?

While participants in the U.S. Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) can get assistance with internet bills, TV isn’t considered a utility and doesn’t come with the same benefit.

But over-the-air and streaming TV can be affordable alternatives. Check out Free and Low-Cost Cable TV guide for more information.

Which is the worst satellite TV package?

Speaking purely to cost per channel, PREMIER All Included from DIRECTV is the worst value. However, since that cost includes a DVR and all the most popular premium channels like HBO, STARZ, SHOWTIME, and CINEMAX, it’s a pretty awesome “worst package.”

How does satellite TV work?

Satellite TV involves a TV provider sending a signal into space, where it bounces off of a satellite and back down to the dish on your roof, which routes the signal to your receiver.

 Are there other satellite TV options besides DIRECTV and DISH?

There really isn’t an alternative to DIRECTV or DISH, which are the only satellite TV providers in the US. But if you’re open to other types of TV service, you can check out cable TV providers or streaming TV services.

Disclaimers:

* DISH: for 24. months. New customers only. All offers require 2-year commitment with early termination fee and eAutopay. Price includes Hopper Duo for qualifying customers.

** DIRECTV: for 12 mos. plus taxes and Regional Sports Fee w/24-mo. agmt. Autopay & Paperless bill req’d. Prices higher in 2nd year.  Regional Sports Fee up to $9.99/mo. is extra & applies.

DISH Hopper 3 DVR costs $15/mo. for 500 HD hours of storage & 16 tuners.