Spectrum vs. DIRECTV
At a Glance
Data effective 1/12/2018. Pricing subject to change. Not all offers available in all areas.
Is Spectrum or DIRECTV the best TV provider for you?
Choose Spectrum for convenient bundle options and no contract.
Spectrum’s biggest strength is how easy it is to bundle its services. This is especially true in this matchup, since Spectrum TV on its own can’t really stand up to DIRECTV. When you add in internet and voice service for only a minor price increase, Spectrum’s deal gets much sweeter. So if you’re looking to bundle or don’t want to deal with the potential issues of satellite, go with Spectrum.
Choose DIRECTV for nationwide availability and unbeatable sports programming.
If you need service in remote parts of the country, you can’t beat satellite. DIRECTV makes a compelling option anywhere, though, with a solid channel selection, affordable prices, and the best sports packages in the business (like NFL SUNDAY TICKET). If availability and great TV service are your biggest priorities, DIRECTV is the way to go.
Installation & Setup
This was an interesting year for Spectrum. Despite the actual score increasing by .32 points, Spectrum’s place in the rankings dropped from the middle of the pack to the bottom. If we had to guess the reason, we’d say customers are getting tired of the drawn-out merger process the company has been working through. Outside of that, the company charges a modest fee for professional installation, but it’s not the highest we’ve seen, so that’s a plus.
DIRECTV has been known as a leader in customer satisfaction in this area for years. DIRECTV offers free professional installation, but there is still a $35 activation fee for new subscribers, so it’s not totally free. Still, you’ll be glad for the professional help when it’s time to install a satellite dish on your roof. The dish must be aimed at the correct satellite point to ensure the best picture—that’s not really something you want to fiddle with yourself.
Spectrum Installation Fee: $49.99
DIRECTV Installation Fee: $35.00 activation fee
This is one area where we think Spectrum’s low score is probably deserved. Let’s be real—200 channels just don’t cut it these days when the competition is offering so much more (and for less money). Spectrum covers the basics and that’s about it. You can still get your favorite premium channels, like HBO® and Cinemax®, though. It’s also worth mentioning Adult Swim, home of the popular Rick and Morty, is absent from Spectrum’s lineup, so fans of the show will want to look elsewhere.
DIRECTV does a little better on the channel count and a lot better on the unique programming. That’s thanks in large part to the provider’s excellent sports selection and exclusive NFL SUNDAY TICKET football package. If you’re a sports fan, there’s a lot to love about DIRECTV. Game of Thrones fans don’t have to worry, either—you can still get HBO® and all your other favorite premium channels here.
Spectrum Channels: 200+
DIRECTV Channels: 330+
As a cable service, Spectrum is usually pretty reliable. Generally, that’s exactly what we’ve found. That said, the provider is going through a heavy period of transition right now as it brings its three brands (TWC, Charter, and Bright House) under one roof, so we wouldn’t be too surprised to see a hiccup or two, at least until the merger is complete.
DIRECTV provides great reception for the most part—the company advertises 99% signal reliability, and we’ve found that to be pretty standard to the customer experience. It is a satellite provider, though, which means customers need to be prepared for possible weather interference. If you live in an area prone to a lot of rain or snow, you may have some issues here.
Spectrum Type of Service: Cable
DIRECTV Type of Service: Satellite
There are two ways to look at Spectrum’s prices. On one hand, you get less bang for your buck than with other providers, including DIRECTV. On the other hand, though, you don’t have to lock into a two-year contract, which means no early termination fees if you decide to switch providers. The TV Silver package is our favorite Spectrum package with 175+ channels for $84.99 per month. It offers a great balance of price and channel count.
DIRECTV offers a wide range of packages for different budgets, and they all offer a lot for the money. Our favorite is the ULTIMATE package with 245+ channels for $60.00 per month. That value comes at the cost of freedom, though—you’ll be locked into a two-year contract with DIRECTV, and getting out of it before the time is up will cost you early termination fees ($20 for each month remaining on your contract).
Spectrum Price: $64.99–$104.99 per month
DIRECTV Price: $35.00–$110.00 per month
Contract: 2 years
Tech Support & Customer Service
Spectrum customer support is in an unfortunate spot right now. Because many of the company’s customers still have service from the pre-Spectrum days (Charter, Time Warner, and Bright House), the company has to provide support to all three under one roof, which makes things a little convoluted.
Visiting the support site presents you with a menu for each of these old providers, and each one redirects to a different website. Depending on where you live, your service experience can vary considerably. Hopefully Spectrum starts getting these issues ironed out over the next year.
DIRECTV and its parent company AT&T both have a great reputation for customer service in the industry, from installation to online tech support. Speaking of, the support website is clean and well designed, though we found it oddly difficult to locate on the main DIRECTV site. We had to dive down to the menus tucked away at the bottom of the page to locate it.
The Spectrum DVR system is really basic. If you need something more robust, check out our roundup of the best DVRs on the market. For a universal DVR you can use with Spectrum and other providers, we recommend the TiVo.
Spectrum is also working on its own enhanced DVR system, called the WorldBox 2.0. This system is expected sometime in 2018, but there aren’t many concrete details yet.
TV and Internet Bundles
Spectrum internet is about as basic as it gets. The speeds are fast, but you won’t find anything near a gigabit connection here, and it lacks the symmetrical upload and download speeds of fiber. Internet-only packages start at $44.99 per month and offer speeds up to 60 Mbps. Some areas also have access to faster speeds (up to 100 Mbps). The packages and speeds available to you depend heavily on where you’re located, so be sure to enter your zip code below and see what’s offered near you.
While DIRECTV itself doesn’t offer internet, its parent company AT&T does, and you can bundle DIRECTV service with a variety of AT&T internet plans. The speeds available vary depending on location, but many areas are getting access to AT&T’s excellent fiber internet service, the AT&T Internet 1000 plan, which offers fiber speeds for $80.00 per month.
Enter your zip code below to see what’s available in your area—if you can get AT&T 1000, we highly recommend it.
More About the Providers
Spectrum is the result of a big merger between Charter Communications, Time Warner Cable, and Bright House Networks. The result is one of the largest cable television networks in the United States with availability in many of the nation’s largest cities. Plus, Spectrum offers the bonus of TV, internet, and phone service.
DIRECTV is one of the largest satellite TV providers in the world. DIRECTV is typically known as a TV provider, but the company was purchased by AT&T in 2015, and the two now partner to offer bundles with DIRECTV satellite TV and AT&T internet to more than twenty million subscribers in the US.
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