DISH® and DIRECTV are the two major satellite TV providers in America. Both are available almost everywhere, and for many people they represent the only provider options for TV service. We delved into the similarities and differences between these two staples of satellite TV to finally answer the big question everyone is asking.
Comparing the Best Satellite TV Providers
Type of Service
Up to 290+ HD
$39.99—$79.99 per month for two years
$10 per month
Type of Service
Up to 325+/200+ HD
$50—$125 per month for one year
Included (Genie DVR and up to three additional receivers
Data effective 5/11/2017. Not all offers available in all areas.
Should you choose DISH or DIRECTV as your TV service provider?
If you’re simply looking for the best deal on satellite TV service, you’ll find it with DISH. The difference in the introductory price per channel offered by DISH and that offered by DIRECTV is negligible. However, DISH keeps its prices the same for the first two years, while DIRECTV raises its prices after one year.
The Hopper® 3 DVR costs $10 per month while the rental cost of the DIRECTV Genie is included in the price of the subscription package. But the superior functionality of the Hopper 3 still makes it a good value.
DIRECTV is a great choice for sports fans, especially fans of NFL football. While DIRECTV costs more, particularly after the first year, it offers far superior sports programming to what DISH offers. DIRECTV includes NFL SUNDAY TICKET for the first year on most packages, which is a great deal for football fans. The DIRECTV Genie meets the needs of most homes, although it isn’t as powerful as DISH’s Hopper 3. DIRECTV also gets higher ratings for customer service. As anyone who’s ever needed help with their TV service can tell you, good customer service can add immeasurable value.
Find and compare DISH and DIRECTV plans and pricing in your area:
Welcome to the best satellite TV guide on the internet. The star ratings used in this guide come from CableTV.com’s 2016 Provider Customer Satisfaction Survey. If you’ve ever wondered how to find the best satellite TV providers in your area for the way you watch TV, the answer is CableTV.com.
Overall Customer Rating
(3.61 / 5)
- More affordable
- More channel options
- Superior DVR functions
- HD Free for Life
- Fewer package tiers
- Lower customer service scores
Overall Customer Rating
(3.63 / 5)
- NFL SUNDAY TICKET
- More package tiers
- Superior customer service
- Convenient bundling w/ AT&T Internet
- Price increase after first year
- Higher early cancelation fee
Installation & Setup
DISH(3.8 / 5)
DISH ranked number two, right behind DIRECTV, for customer satisfaction with installation and setup. DISH earned its high marks by offering free standard professional installation with no added fees.
Additionally, DISH launched the My Tech feature in 2015. My Tech alerts you when to expect the arrival of your DISH installation technician within a seventy-five-minute estimated window. Most other major providers have a window of at least two hours.
The feature also sends a second alert roughly an hour before the technician’s arrival. The second alert provides a photo of the technician with their name so you know who to expect. The second alert also syncs with Google Maps to allow you to track the location of the technician so you can plan for their arrival in real time.
DIRECTV(3.85 / 5)
DIRECTV leads all major TV providers for customer satisfaction in the installation and setup category.
DIRECTV offers installation with no added fees by a professional technician. If needed, the technician will also optimize other components in your home to work with DIRECTV as well as possible and then show you how to use the whole system.
For example, if you have a landline Internet service provider and you order DIRECTV, the technician can check your modem and/or router to make sure it works properly to maximize the features of your new DIRECTV receiver. This helps ensure you can order On Demand programs right from your TV without any issues. It will also help streaming content play more clearly and with fewer disruptions.
DISH Installation Fee: None
DIRECTV Installation Fee: None
DISH(3.65 / 5)
DISH offers four package tiers ranging from 50+ channels up to 290+ channels. DISH just started offering the lowest tier package, FLEX PACK, in August 2016. If you order the FLEX PACK as a base and add several specialty channel packs, you could get up to 330+ channels.
Although it ranked third among all providers, DISH only narrowly trailed DIRECTV for customer satisfaction when it comes to channel selection category. A full year of the flexibility and expandability afforded by the new FLEX PACK option may increase customer satisfaction in this area.
DIRECTV(3.91 / 5)
DIRECTV offers six package tiers as opposed to only four offered by DISH. These additional tiers may help you more accurately find the best balance between the channels you want and your TV budget. However, the channels in these packages remain fixed. You can add to them, but you cannot customize any of the DIRECTV packages the way you can with the DISH FLEX PACK.
DIRECTV holds a big advantage over DISH for NFL fans. The NFL SUNDAY TICKET option, exclusive to DIRECTV, lets you watch every out-of-market NFL game every Sunday. This option comes included for the first year on the top four channel tiers offered by DIRECTV. After the first year, NFL SUNDAY TICKET will cost $281.94 per year.
DISH Channels: Up to 290+ HD
DIRECTV Channels: Up to 325+/200+ HD
DISH(3.8 / 5)
DISH ranks in the middle of the pack among major providers for signal reliability. Keep in mind that ranking includes providers of all types—not just satellite providers. Land-based TV providers sometimes cite the potential for weather-related service disruptions as a big problem for satellite providers. But, DISH receiving nearly four out of five stars for reliability suggests the potential for such problems may be overblown.
DIRECTV(3.91 / 5)
DIRECTV ranked number one among satellite TV providers and higher than all major cable TV providers in this category. Furthermore, it ranked fourth overall among all major TV providers. These high scores contradict the common conception that satellite services lose their signals more often than cable services.
DISH Type of Service: Satellite
DIRECTV Type of Service: Satellite
DISH(3.16 / 5)
DISH offers a low-end package with 50+ channels for an introductory price of just $39.99 per month for two years. The advantage of this package is that you can choose small channel packages to add to it. Those small add-ons range from $4—$10 per month.
DISH’s top-tier package offers 290+ more channels. This package starts at $79.99 per month for the first two years. In the third year, it jumps to $94.99 per month.
While both companies require a two-year contract, DISH will lock in your price for two years. DIRECTV raises its prices after the first year—leaving you contractually obligated to pay the higher rates for the second year.
DISH also offers SHOWTIME®, Cinemax®, STARZ® & DISH Movie Pack™ FREE for three months.
DIRECTV(2.92 / 5)
DIRECTV introductory rates range from $50 per month to $125 per month depending on the package you select. But, despite delivering a lot of channels with those packages, DIRECTV scored lower than DISH for customer satisfaction over their monthly bill.
No TV provider received high marks for customer satisfaction in the monthly bill category, so this number isn’t surprising—especially considering DIRECTV raises its prices after the first year.
While DIRECTV offers great introductory pricing on packages that include things like a Genie HD DVR upgrade, NFL SUNDAY TICKET, and three months of HBO®, STARZ®, SHOWTIME® and Cinemax®, nobody likes paying more for the same services they received at a lower rate the previous month.
DISH Monthly Bill: $39.99—$79.99 per month for two years
DIRECTV Monthly Bill: $50—$125 per month for one year
Tech Support & Customer Service
DISH(3.64 / 5)
DISH offers 24/7 live customer support. You can contact the DISH customer service department by phone, over email, or online through mydish.com.
Despite this highly convenient customer service availability, DISH narrowly trailed DIRECTV for customer satisfaction with its customer service.
DIRECTV(3.77 / 5)
DIRECTV ranked as the top satellite TV provider for customer service and second among all major TV providers.
DIRECTV also offers 24/7 customer service. Its customer care center is only open between 8:00 a.m. and 1:00 a.m. EST, but its automated service options are available 24/7. You can access the automated system by phone or online.
The DISH Hopper 3 makes a clear break in the race when it comes to comparing the two leading satellite television providers. While it will add $10 per month to your bill, its capabilities give you a return on that cost.
With sixteen tuners, the Hopper 3 provides enough capacity for almost all households to record each member’s favorite show at the same time. This virtually eliminates fighting over whose show gets priority. The Hopper 3 also has 2 TB of storage—allowing you to save up to 500 hours of HD programming. These capacities are more than double those of DIRECTV’s Genie.
The Hopper 3 further separates itself from the Genie with the PrimeTime Anytime feature, the integrated Netflix app, and the remote-finder function.
Both the Hopper 3 and Genie come with 4K HD and 3D capabilities. Plus, they both feature specialized, multi-pane viewing features designed for watching several live sporting events simultaneously.
The DIRECTV Genie trails DISH’s Hopper 3 in terms of capacity, but you’ll love its design elements. You can easily navigate the clean menus, and features like QuickTune, Jump to Date and Time, and its myriad sports options add to the convenience. With QuickTune, you select the nine channels you watch the most and they will always appear first when you open your channel guide.
Jump to Date and Time saves you from navigating through page after page to reach the program listings on future dates. Just enter the date and time, and the system will display the corresponding listings.
As you would expect from the exclusive provider of NFL SUNDAY TICKET, DIRECTV delivers sports the way fans want them. The Genie will find all programs associated with your favorite team and list them for you in one place. These programs include live game broadcasts, pre-game and post-game shows, and other team-specific programs.
Both the Hopper 3 and Genie come with 4K HD and 3D capabilities. Plus, they both feature specialized, multi-pane viewing features designed for watching several live sporting events at the same time.
DISH discontinued its dishNET satellite internet offering effective March 16, 2017. However, it still offers dishNET Wireline and DSL service. Additionally, some retailers will pair DISH satellite TV service with local internet service from another provider.
DIRECTV doesn’t offer its own internet service, but you can bundle your DIRECTV with AT&T Internet service where available. If you live in an area where AT&T Internet is not available, some retailers may help you pair your DIRECTV service with a different internet provider.
More About Satellite TV
The big advantage satellite TV holds over landline-based TV services is it doesn’t require the company to install cables into a neighborhood to provide service. Instead it maintains strategically aligned, geosynchronous satellites orbiting the earth to transmit its TV signals wirelessly, allowing them to deliver service to a huge area of the globe. This is especially convenient for rural areas where land-based TV providers have yet to install cables.
The trade-off for the broad availability of satellite TV is the potential for lag and signal disruption. Because the signal must travel farther with satellite, the potential for these problems is higher than with land-based services.
The information in the transmission literally travels to space and back. Travelling such distance takes time, which can cause a lag in the signal. (For satellite internet services, this lag is known as “latency”.) The distance also allows for a greater area in which something, usually weather events, could block the signal. However, results from CableTV.com’s 2016 Customer Satisfaction Survey suggest these disruptions cause less dissatisfaction than those in cable services.
More About the Providers
Founded as EchoStar in 1980, DISH is among the premier satellite TV service providers in America. It is available almost everywhere in the United States. In 1996 EchoStar officially became DISH Network. Then, in 2008 DISH broke away from its parent company and still provides service to nearly 14 million customers.
As one of the largest satellite TV providers, DIRECTV serves nearly 20 million subscribers in the United States and over 17 million in Latin America. It is the exclusive provider of NFL SUNDAY TICKET, which gives it a feature other providers can’t match. In 2015, AT&T purchased DIRECTV. Between DIRECTV and AT&T U-verse TV, the new media giant provides TV service to over 25 million subscribers.
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