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
|Contract terms||Requires 2-year agreement||Requires 2-year agreement|
|Installation||Free (for up to 6 rooms)||Free (for up to 4 rooms)|
|Max HD channels||200+||166+|
|DVR Storage||Hopper: 2TB||Genie: 1TB|
|DVR recording hours||2000 SD / 500 HD||1000 SD / 200 HD|
|Equipment service fees||Hopper included |$7/Joey receiver | $10/Super Joey receiver||Free up to 4 units ($7 for each additional unit)|
|On -demand library||6,500+ titles||10,000+ titles|
|View Plans||View Plans|
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 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 3||DIRECTV Genie|
|Main DVR receiver $ or included||Yes||Yes|
|Additional DVRs/receivers||$7/mo – Joey | $10/mo – Super Joey||$7/mo – Genie Mini|
|Installation charges||None (up to 6 rooms)||None (up to 8 rooms)|
|Storage capacity||2 TB||1 TB|
|Record entire season||Yes||Yes|
|# of TVs supported by main receiver||6||8|
|Simultaneous watch in multiple rooms||4||4|
|Simultaneous recordings per main DVR||19||5|
|Total simultaneous recordings possible||19||5|
|Remote control finder||Yes||No|
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.
...watch 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.
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.