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.
Compare DISH and DIRECTV head to head
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.
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
|America's Top 120|
|America's Top 120+|
America's Top 200
|America's Top 250|
|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.
DIRECTV packages and pricing
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.
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
DISH Hopper 3
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.
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.
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?
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
* 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.