Best Satellite TV Service Providers – 2017

DISH and DIRECTV are the dominant satellite TV providers. Available nationwide, each offers a huge variety of live TV channels, sports, and on demand programming.

Best Overall
  • Better DVR features
  • Sub par customer service
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Best NFL Programming
  • Better NFL programming
  • Slightly more expensive
Read Review

Best Satellite TV Service Providers – 2017

Product Recommended Rating
DISH Network Best Overall 4.4 / 5
DIRECTV Best NFL Programming 4.2 / 5

The best satellite TV providers of 2017 are DISH and DIRECTV. Aside from a few evangelical providers, these two companies are the only ones in the game. So which company works better for you? Both brands are available nationwide, so it’s fair to compare their prices, channels, equipment, features, and customer service.

Check out our Best Satellite Internet Services of 2017 comparison for details on satellite internet service.

We consider pricing to be the most important factor in satellite television, but beyond that we look at contract terms, installation costs, the number of HD channels and on-demand titles, the quality and capability of DVRs and other equipment, and customer satisfaction scores.

DISH vs. DIRECTV: Comparison


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Pricing$39.99–$74.99 $50–$125
Contract termsRequires 2-year agreementRequires 2-year agreement
InstallationFree (for up to 6 rooms)Free (for up to 4 rooms)
Max HD channels200+166+
DVR StorageHopper: 2TBGenie: 1TB
DVR recording hours2000 SD / 500 HD1000 SD / 200 HD
Equipment service feesHopper included |$7/Joey receiver | $10/Super Joey receiverFree up to 4 units ($7 for each additional unit)
On -demand library6,500+ titles10,000+ titles
Availability NationwideNationwide
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DISH vs. DIRECTV — satellite TV comparison

With more DVR storage and channel offerings that rival most TV providers, we recommend DISH to the average TV viewer.

DISH TV service

DISH offers plenty of packages for sports, movies, and your favorite TV shows. Its digital video recorder, the Hopper, has twice the capacity of DIRECTV’s Genie. Plus, the Hopper is loaded with innovative features like voice control via remote, Bluetooth integration for headphones or speakers, a remote control locator, and 4K video support. DISH’s pricing is a great value, plus they have no additional fees.

DISH also offers twice the amount of on demand titles, which are integrated into the universal search along with live TV, Netflix, and your DVR recordings. Plus, you can watch all this content wherever you want with DISH Anywhere—all you need is an internet connection.

DirecTV logo
When it comes to programming for NFL fanatics, DIRECTV has the edge over DISH because of Sunday Ticket.

DIRECTV TV service

Perhaps the best reason to go with DIRECTV over DISH is NFL SUNDAY TICKET. Football is consistently the most watched television programming, so this exclusive package is a dealmaker for diehard fans. You can keep track of stats with the Genie DVR’s split-screen mode and also pause and rewind live TV–perfect for getting an instant replay on your own terms.

Even if you’re not a sports fan, DIRECTV has a wide range of packages for every budget with features comparable to DISH. With DIRECTV’s app, you can stream and watch on demand programming wherever you have an internet connection.

DISH vs. DIRECTV — DVR comparison

Digital Video Recorders (DVRs) not only record TV programs, but also act as your receiver. They can control live television by pausing, rewinding, or even skipping ahead.

When you compare the DISH Hopper to the DIRECTV Genie, you’ll find they have a lot in common: the ability to record multiple shows at once, large amounts of storage, the ability to record single shows as well as entire series, 4K resolution capabilities, and more.

So what makes the Hopper and Genie different?

DISH Hopper 3DIRECTV Genie
Main DVR receiver $ or includedYesYes
DVR service$15/mo$15/mo
Additional DVRs/receivers$7/mo – Joey | $10/mo – Super Joey$7/mo – Genie Mini
Installation chargesNone (up to 6 rooms)None (up to 8 rooms)
Storage capacity2 TB1 TB
HD/SD hours500/2000200/800
Highest resolution4K4K
Record entire seasonYesYes
# of TVs supported by main receiver68
Simultaneous watch in multiple rooms44
Simultaneous recordings per main DVR195
Total simultaneous recordings possible195
Remote control finderYesNo
Bluetooth compatibleYesNo

DISH Hopper review

The Hopper is capable of recording up to six programs at once. Each Hopper has three satellite tuners, which means you can connect up to three Joeys for every Hopper. Joeys are the mini-receivers that access the Hopper’s DVR functionality so you can pause and rewind live TV on any equipped television set. Probably the coolest feature of the Hopper and Joeys is the ability to watch a recorded program, pause it, then pick up where you left off in another room. You can also join a show already in progress if it is being watched in another room. a recorded program, pause it, then pick up where you left off in another room.

The Hopper has 2 TB (terabytes) of storage, which translates to 2,000 hours of standard definition (SD) or 500 hours of high definition (HD) programming. Part of the storage space is reserved for DISH Unplugged features as well as PrimeTime Anytime functionality (which allows you to recall prime time shows even if you didn’t schedule a recording). Having internet access to the Hopper increases the amount of on demand programming available.

It’s worth mentioning that both DISH’s Hopper 3 and DIRECTV’s Genie offer on-the-go streaming, separate app, voice search, offline downloading, the ability to pause and rewind live TV, picture-in-picture options, and parental controls.

Don’t worry if you lose the remote—with DISH it’s simple: just press the button on the front of the Hopper receiver and the remote will light up and make sounds to help you find it. The Hopper remote control is also universal, so it can be programmed to control up to three more devices.

DIRECTV Genie review

Genie from DIRECTV is a powerful HD DVR that can record as many as five different shows simultaneously, meaning a single recording device can satisfy the varied interests of different family members. Genie can automatically record every show in a TV series, and you can also search and schedule recordings up to two weeks in advance.

...a single recording device can satisfy the varied interests of different family members.

Genie offers significant recording capacity with 1 TB of storage that holds 200 hours of HD and 500 hours in standard definition. Technology employed by Genie enables viewing in a number of different rooms without the need for a set top box in each room. An interesting side feature recommends programming you may want to watch based on the content of your recordings.

Perhaps the most convenient feature of the Genie is the ability to connect with the main HD DVR in other rooms through a small device called the Genie Mini. This device enables you to record, pause, or delete in any room, and you can watch live or recorded TV in up to four rooms, even starting a show in one room and finishing watching the show in another room.

Want to watch two different football games or watch your favorite TV drama and keep track of breaking news? Genie’s picture-in-picture feature on your main TV allows you to watch two shows side by side.

Find the best TV providers in your area.

Satellite TV FAQ

What is the cheapest satellite TV service?

DISH currently has lower pricing in every package tier, but satellite TV offers fluctuate often in an attempt to gain new customers. Because of the competition between DIRECTV and DISH, you can find promotional deals year round. DISH starts at $34.99/monthly for America’s Top 120 package, whereas DIRECTV packages start at $50/monthly with the Select package.

What is the best satellite TV deal?

We get asked that question a lot, but the “best” deal really depends on what you want.

If you are a big sports fan and are interested in watching NFL games, then DIRECTV is the best with NFL SUNDAY TICKET. If you’re looking for something that will be easy on your budget, then we recommend DISH because they have no hidden fees.

Satellite dish TV providers usually have excellent offers that include discounts on monthly services for a limited time, or free premium channels like HBO, STARZ, Showtime, or Cinemax. Both DISH and DIRECTV are currently offering premium channels free for 3 months, but be aware that the regular price will kick in unless you cancel after the 90 days.

DISH’s 2-Year Price-Lock and DIRECTV’s 2 Year Price Guarantee are both good routes to go if you want consistent pricing free of rate increases. Keep in mind that if you disconnect services before your term is up, you’ll face Early Termination Fees (ETFs).

How can I save on satellite TV service?

Almost all satellite service providers offer TV, internet, and phone services individually, but they usually offer a discount when the services are combined. It’s easier to go through a single provider. All of your contracts will be handled simultaneously, saving you time and energy. On the provider’s end, it’s cost effective to manage accounts with two or three services rather than just one, and its ability to keep you as a customer improves significantly.

DISH offers either satellite or cable internet via dishNET. Satellite internet will be slower than their DSL offering, but either option is nice for anyone in a remote or rural area looking to upgrade from dial-up speeds.

DIRECTV has partnered with the following internet providers: AT&T, CenturyLink, Exede, Cincinnati Bell, HughesNet, Windstream, Verizon, and Mediacom. As always, pricing and availability depend on your location.

How do I get TV service on the go?

DISH offers mobile satellite services with The Tailgater. You can get satellite TV on the road while traveling cross country or during camping trips. It’s perfect for long trips or tailgating for your favorite sports team. DIRECTV has the DIRECTV MOBILE CHOICE package that allows you to watch 145–185 of your favorite channels in your car, van, RV, or even boat. You can take your entertainment into the sky with DIRECTV AIRBORNE OFFICE CHOICE, which is great for jetsetters and travel enthusiasts.

How does satellite TV work?

Simply put, an encrypted television signal is sent from the provider to an orbiting satellite, which then sends the signal to your home satellite. From there, the signal is translated by your set top box to display your programming. Using synced orbit, the space satellite rotates at the same speed as Earth.

Is satellite TV service reliable?

Gone are the days of worrying about the weather. With improvements in technology over the years, DISH and DIRECTV both claim 99% signal reliability (100% reliability is an impossibility with any type of TV service). Unlike cable, where a distribution network connects a lot of homes together, satellite TV operates on an individual system.

When there’s a problem, such as adverse effects from weather (lightning storms, excessive winds, etc.), your satellite TV system may be affected, but it can usually be fixed quickly with a simple adjustment; with cable TV it can take longer because they must troubleshoot the entire network.

So who is the best satellite TV provider?

While “best” is definitely subjective, when you have two providers who can cover all your favorite channels at reasonable prices, you can’t really go wrong. Both DISH and DIRECTV are excellent providers, but if we absolutely had to choose, we’d go with DISH for the Hopper DVR, transparent pricing, and a great selection of on demand programming available anywhere.

See all TV providers available in your area.

  • ZandarKoad

    The satellite provider space is the US is kind of boring with only two providers. But there are actually others. SDA Dish and Glorystar provide free to air television (no monthly cost – they just sell you the hardware). Companies like Skyvision will actually sell subscriptions to access very popular channels for very cheap… but you need a huge 6′ dish to pick them up.

    • nik

      You forgot to mention that SDA Dish and Glorystar have an agenda…

      • ZandarKoad

        They mostly serve up religious programming, so there is that agenda for sure. But there are also some general interest and family channels. I would say everyone else at least has an agenda to make money. I have no problems with agendas unless they are intentionally and deceptively hidden (or otherwise evil of course).

        • nik

          Good point! They are very straightforward with their position on what programming they broadcast whereas the mainstream companies are deceptive with how they intend to rip you off.

      • stun ned

        What agenda do they have?

    • wow

      In canada we only have 2 big providers which basically own everything in the TV space and most of the cellular space. While our reception is ahead of the world with LTE almost nation wide years ago. We have one of the most expensive tv and cell bill in the world. With TV our packages are garbage and cell phone we have never had “unlimited data”.

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  • Steve Prescott, Esq.

    Direct TV is a Con
    I took your advice and since I had phone & internet with Century Link, I added the “bundle” with Direct TV. Installation was a week later, and they it was 8 to noon!, but OK. I took off work (a Tuesday) and was here. They didn’t come. I spend unto 6:00 PM on the phone. First they said, the installer cancelled the installation, they didn’t know why. Then they claimed that he came, but I was not home. A lie, I never left all day. Third story my installation was 3 days later. I real them the email confirming my appointment including the headers with their information. Then they admitted that it had been cancelled and the records changed when I complained. Three people were supposed to call me back, none did. Finally a “supervisor” said she would call the dispatcher. The dispatcher said he didn’t care, I could “quit my job” and be there on Friday. I told them I could not be there Monday, Wednesday, or Friday, but could on Tuesday, Thursday, or Saturday. I was informed that they would reschedule a week later (they didn’t feel like doing it on Thursday or Saturday), but the installer might choose to cancel again without notifying anyone. I told them that was unacceptable, and they suggested that I find a different provider. That I agree with.
    In 9 days I will be 60 years old (yeah a old guy), and in all my years this is by far the most outrageous behavior by a business I have ever encountered.
    GET REAL, tell the truth about Direct TV. Maybe, the service is good, how would one know. This is not isolated. I checked the internet, installations scheduled and no one showing up seems to be SOP with Direct TV, at least in some areas.

    • Trevor Wheelwright

      Hey Steve, appreciate your feedback, just curious if you ended up switching providers, and if so, who did you go with?

    • C los

      Agree. Direct tv are thieves with loads of hidden fees taxes charges and love tochange the subjected names on sur charges every month in efforts to double charge. Also most importantly they will use any card ever used in their data base to collect what ever moneys they feel is owed to em wether you agree or not. Via termination from them and all without your consent and theres nothing you can do about it. Smh. Speaking from personal experience. Never more

  • Dylan Campbell

    The ONLY reason you should ever have Directv is if you want the NFL Sunday Ticket. That’s it. That is the only thing advantage that Directv has over Dish. I was a long time (5 years) customer of Directv. In September 2016 I had a new roof put on my house and needed a simple realignment of the dish after the work was completed. Directv told me when I called on September 21st that they couldn’t have a tech there until October 11th!!! Are you kidding me? Three frickin weeks to get a tech out for a 2 minute job? That’s the start of football season, beginning of the fall lineup, start of MLB playoffs, etc. So I called DISH and they said they could be there in the morning to do the full setup at no charge. I was set up by noon the next day. I was able to get the America’s top 250 package with DISH (best package) on 5 Tvs for $32 less per month than I was paying for the Choice package (middle package) with Directv. $143 vs $111 and my price is guaranteed for 2 years with DISH. Directv will always jack up your rates and then you have to call in and threaten to disconnect your service at which time they will give you some discounts. Despite the fact that Directv would not get a service tech to me for 21 days, they still hit me with a $120 disconnect fee. That’s what you get for 5 years of loyalty to Directv. Dish has better channels, better service, and better features. There is no comparison on the DVR and Joey system compared to Directv. DISH blows Directv out of the water with technology. You also get Netflix directly on the DISH Hopper (you still pay the subscription price) so you don’t need a Bluray or Roku in every room to get Netflix. DISH also has Sirius XM in their channel lineup. I’m getting them for free right now. I’m not sure if that is a permanent deal or not, but that would be another feather in the cap of DISH. Customer service? I get directly to a person within a few minutes when I call DISH. I called Directv yesterday and was on hold for a total of 48 minutes before I got to the person who could solve my minor problem (returning the equipment). The AT&T/Directv merger may have been the worst thing that ever happened to Directv. Their customer service has plummeted and they no longer give a damn about their customers at all. It’s too bad, because I would have never left and found out how much better DISH is if they had just provided the service you would expect from your satellite provider.

  • Sjh

    You’re forgetting a very big difference. The dish anywhere app allows you to watch your TV and dvr anywhere with your tablet or laptop. So if you’re away from home, you can still watch the programs you recorded on dvr from your office, hotel room, on the train, anywhere. NOT so with Directv. Sorry guys! You actually have to be in the same room as your genie and then download programs onto your tablet before you can watch them. A deal breaker for us. The genie only has half the memory of the hopper. Sorry ATT. Get with the times!

  • Monte Kivo

    At the top you state that the Genie gets 300 hours of recording in HD, but further down you say it’s 200 hours. So which is it?

    • Trevor Wheelwright

      The Genie stores 200 HD hours, Monte. We’re currently in the process of updating this post for 2017. Thanks for reaching out!

  • Chris Guy

    I’ve had directv for 5 years. Loved it until they were bought out by the greediest company in the world. Since then, prices have continued to increase. My bill has increased 3 times since at&t took over. It just went up again this month. Really looking at switch to dish, but they don’t really have a lot of good reviews. Still, I have to keep my monthly costs reasonable, and I have to keep my Science chanels