Best Satellite TV Service Providers 2018

DISH and DIRECTV dominate the satellite TV market across the country. Both have tons of channels, but DIRECTV has the best sports offerings.
Best Overall
Better DVR features
Price: $59.99-$89.99/mo.
Best for Sports
Better sports programming
Price: $35-$110/mo.

OVERVIEW

There are only two main satellite TV providers on the market—DISH and DIRECTV. There are a few other niche choices, but for the most part, DISH and DIRECTV are your satellite options. And we’re here to give you the inside scoop and tell you which provider is better. Or, at least, which one’s better for you.

DISH and DIRECTV prices, channels, and features

FeaturesDISHDIRECTV
Price$59.99–$89.99/mo.*$35–$110/mo.**
Channels190–290+155–330+
Max DVR hours500 HD200 HD
Contract2 yrs.2 yrs.
Learn moreSee plansSee plans

Data effective 9/14/2018. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.
*For 24 months with a 2-year contract and eAutoPay.
**For 12 months with a 2-year contract, paperless bill, and autopay. Price increases for months 13–24.

We love DISH’s Hopper DVR, and the fact that, unlike DIRECTV, DISH doesn’t jack up its prices in the middle of your contract. But if you love football and never want to miss a game, then DIRECTV’s NFL SUNDAY TICKET package is hard to beat.

DISH vs. DIRECTV price comparison

DISH might seem pricey at first, but only until you notice DIRECTV’s sky-high price hikes.

If you take a quick look at DISH and DIRECTV’s pricing and channels, then DISH tends to look a bit spendy at first.

DISH prices and plans

PlanPrice*ChannelsLearn more
America’s Top 120™$59.99/mo.190View plan
America’s Top 120+™$69.99/mo.190+View plan
America’s Top 200™$79.99/mo.240+View plan
America’s Top 250™$89.99/mo.290+View plan

Data effective 9/14/2018. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.
*For 24 months with a 2-year contract and eAutoPay.

You’ll pay around 31¢ per channel with DISH vs. 22¢ with DIRECTV. So DIRECTV is cheaper, right?

Not quite.

DISH’s prices might start out higher, but DIRECTV’s catch up pretty fast. See, while DISH keeps your price the same for the whole length of your contract, DIRECTV has a little surprise in store for you at the one-year mark.

DIRECTV prices and plans

PlanPrice*ChannelsLearn more
DIRECTV SELECT™ All-Included$35/mo.155+View plan
DIRECTV ENTERTAINMENT™ All-Included$40/mo.160+View plan
DIRECTV CHOICE™ All-Included$45/mo.185+View plan
DIRECTV XTRA™ All-Included$55/mo.235+View plan
DIRECTV ULTIMATE™ All-Included$60/mo.250+View plan
DIRECTV PREMIER™ All-Included$110/mo.330+View plan

Data effective 9/14/2018. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.
*For 24 months with a 2-year contract and eAutoPay.

After your first year with DIRECTV, your prices shoot up—usually more than double what you were paying before. Your price per channel doubles too, and suddenly DISH looks downright affordable.

Even with DIRECTV’s price jump, it evens out to be roughly the same price as DISH. But we hate surprise price hikes and we give DISH bonus points for keeping its pricing steady.

DISH vs. DIRECTV contracts

Unless you want to cut the cord, you’ll usually have a contract with your TV provider. Both DISH and DIRECTV make you sign on for two years at a time. And don’t forget, DIRECTV raises your plan’s price after year one.

If you back out in the middle of your agreement with either DISH or DIRECTV, you could end up paying a ton of money in early termination fees. So don’t sign on unless you plan on keeping your service for the full two years.

DISH early termination fee:

  • Up to $480

DIRECTV early termination fee:

  • Up to $480

DISH vs. DIRECTV hidden fees

DISH and DIRECTV both charge some DVR fees. DIRECTV includes a first receiver with your plan but charges $5–$10 for each additional receiver. DISH includes a Hopper Duo with your package, but charges $3 if you want to upgrade to the Hopper 3.  You’ll also pay $7 per month for each additional DISH receiver.

DISH vs. DIRECTV extra fees

FeesDISHDIRECTV
Installation feeInstallation included for 6 TVsInstallation included for 4 TVs
First DVR receiver feeHopper Duo included. $3 extra to upgrade to the Hopper 3First receiver included
Additional DVR receivers fee$7/mo.$5–$10/mo.
Regional sports feeNone$7.49*
Broadcast TV feeNoneNone

Data effective 9/14/2018. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.
*Applicable for CHOICE package and above in some markets.

DIRECTV has one more fee up its sleeve: a regional sports fee. Depending on where you live, you might pay $7.49 per month if you choose the CHOICE package or above.

DISH vs. DIRECTV channels

Both DISH and DIRECTV will give you all the top channels, but DIRECTV has the most channels overall.  

You’ll get most of your favorite channels with either DISH or DIRECTV. You can tune into NBC News or watch Chopped Junior with either provider. But bad news for telenovela lovers—DISH and Univision couldn’t make it work and DISH recently dropped Univision from its lineup.

If you love channel surfing (and Univison) and just want the most channels possible, then DIRECTV is your friend. It has more channels overall than DISH.

DISH vs. DIRECTV premium channels

Both DISH and DIRECTV offer premium channels as add-ons, but DIRECTV charges more for them. (Plus, it doesn’t offer EPIX.) On the flip side, DISH’s premium add-ons are a bit cheaper.

DISH and DIRECTV premium channels

ChannelDISH priceDIRECTV price
HBO®$15/mo$17.99/mo.
SHOWTIME®$10/mo.$13.99/mo.
CINEMAX®$10/mo$13.99/mo.
STARZ®$10/mo.$13.99/mo.
STARZ ENCORE®$6/mo.Included in STARZ® add-on
EPIX®$7/mo.N/A
Learn moreView plansView plans

Data effective 9/14/2018. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.

You do get premium channels included for three months with most DIRECTV packages. Just keep in mind that after those three months are up, you’ll have to pay the regular monthly price for each premium channel you keep unless you cancel.

But beware, one former DIRECTV customer told us that he had to call DIRECTV each month for three months to correct billing issues regarding the premium channels promo.

DISH vs. DIRECTV sports channels

DIRECTV takes the sports channel prize because of one big feature: NFL SUNDAY TICKET.

NFL SUNDAY TICKET lets you watch every out-of-market NFL game, which includes any Sunday games your local broadcasting stations don’t carry. And NFL SUNDAY TICKET comes included in the top four DIRECTV packages (DIRECTV CHOICE™ and above) for your first year, so you don’t have to pay an arm and a leg in extra subscription fees.

DISH is no rookie when it comes to sports, either. You can get a Multi-Sports pack for $13 per month that will still give you access to some football games, as well as non-football channels, like NHL Network and MLB Network.

For the hardcore football fan, we definitely recommend DIRECTV over DISH. But if you just want the highlights and a few games, then you’ll be fine with DISH.

DISH vs. DIRECTV DVR

Here’s where we have to give DISH the clear win—its Hopper 3 DVR is easily one of our favorites. With two terabytes of storage, you can essentially record endless shows without even thinking about your storage space. Even for HD recordings, the Hopper gives 500 hours of storage. Wowza.

DIRECTV’s Genie DVR isn’t bad either—you still get 200 hours of HD recording. Plus, DIRECTV includes the cost of the first receiver in your plan price, whereas DISH makes you pay extra.

But we think if you mostly use your TV service to record shows and watch them later, then the Hopper 3 DVR is worth it.

DISH vs. DIRECTV customer service

As of 2018, DISH gets a better ACSI rating than DIRECTV.  

No cable or satellite TV provider gets glowing customer service reviews. But at least for 2018, DISH gets a better score from the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI)1 than DIRECTV.

2018 ACSI rating:
DISH: 67/100
DIRECTV: 64/100

Despite the scoring difference, the customers we talked to about DIRECTV customer service didn’t have too many complaints.

One person said she’s “never had any problem with calling DIRECTV.” Another said when she called to change out her DVR, DIRECTV’s representatives were “easy to work with, helpful and quick. Not frustrating at all.”

For us, we like that both DISH and DIRECTV have a live online chat option. Live chats can be faster and easier than phone calls. We talked to some agents about channels through live chat, and they responded fast and gave helpful answers without making us sit through a sales pitch.

Most live chats also give you an option to print your conversation, which we recommend, so you have a record of it in the event that you have to call (or chat) back more than once regarding the issue.

Recap—DISH vs. DIRECTV

DISH and DIRECTV are both good TV service options, but DISH is the best service for most people (especially non-football fans).

As traditional TV providers go, DISH and DIRECTV are both good services with a wide range of channels and add-on packages. We have to give DISH the edge for its lower long-term pricing and its DVR, but DIRECTV is definitely the top pick for gridiron aficionados who want to catch every out-of-market NFL game.

  • Pricing: DISH looks more expensive up-front, but DIRECTV has a surprise price hike after the first year that evens it out to roughly the same price as DISH.
  • Contracts: Both DISH and DIRECTV require two-year contracts, and both providers charge the same early termination fees.
  • Channels: DIRECTV has a higher channel count than DISH, but you’ll pay more per channel after the one-year price increase. DIRECTV also has NFL SUNDAY TICKET, which is the best option for football lovers.
  • Customer service: The ACSI ranks DISH as higher than DIRECTV, but not by much. And we’ve had positive customer service experiences with both providers.

Want to explore other TV service providers?

Check out our other reviews:

See all TV providers available in your area.

Sources

1. American Customer Satisfaction Index, ACSI Telecommunications Report 2018

  • 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.

    • http://dev-reviewsorg.pantheon.io/ 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!

  • http://www.BettorsChat.com/ 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?

    • http://dev-reviewsorg.pantheon.io/ 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

  • Christian Gillespie

    I live in South Jersey. Closing on My first home dec 8th. I’ve always had Comcast my entire life. I’m a Sixers and Phillies fan any chance Comcast sports net/ now NBC Sports Philadelphia coming to satellite? Can you still get satellite Internet with Dish? I’m moving out to the sticks, can only get satellite Tv/ Internet.

  • Elaine Alvord

    Thank you for putting this together, it was a huge help in deciding on who to choose. My husband had placed an order with Direct TV and I am on hold trying to cancel the install and my account. I’m not even a customer and already frustrated. You have to call an 855 number to cancel, and no matter which option I pick, every time it goes to transfer me to cancel my order I get hung up on. I called customer service and got the order cancelled, but not my account. They are trying to cancel my account and I have been transferred 4 times to someone who could ‘help’ me just to find out they can’t. After being on hold for 25 minutes I was told by the system that my call cannot be processed and I need to hang up and dial again. Typical AT&T treatment…. Happy with my decision to stay with Dish.

  • Dave Hull

    How does 4K viewing differ?

  • Betsey Kirkemo

    Trevor, do you have any insight into other inconveniences that I seem to consistently have with Dish (vs. Comcast or DTV) regarding the outages they seem to have in spades? I don’t see others with the same problem that Dish does regarding losing channels while they renegotiate terms? We lost CBS in November which meant no football. (Yes, Thanksgiving Day. My guests were pissed.) We lost Fox last year for at least 6 weeks as well. Dish seems to own the lion’s share of dropped coverage and the viewers are the ones who suffer. While I appreciate better prices, I also want consistent service–something that Dish plainly doesn’t prioritize. My ex-husband has had Comcast for 10+ years and has never suffered outages of major networks. I’m considering jumping out of this hell, but it seems as though all of them have big consumer issues.

    • http://dev-reviewsorg.pantheon.io/ Trevor Wheelwright

      Hi Betsey,
      Unfortunately, when providers and networks renegotiate, it’s usually a pretty quiet affair. On top of that, it doesn’t usually affect every service area the same.

      Ah, sorry to hear about Thanksgiving, that’s a big disappointment. Recently, CBS became one of the first broadcast networks to offer a standalone service (CBS All Access) to those who may be excluded by their regular provider.

      Would we recommend jumping ship? Hard to say, you may want call to try to re-negotiate for a lower Dish price given your grievances, but if you’re facing early termination fees make sure to do the math beforehand to see if it’s really worth it. It’s usually $20 x the number of months left in your contract.

      My family’s had Comcast for probably 10+ years too, and it’s been a mostly positive experience without any major networks (that I watch) being dropped. Keep in mind Comcast, nor DIRECTV or any other provider, will ever have a permanent channel lineup due to ever-changing licensing agreements.

      Thanks for your question, hope this helps!

  • Tina York

    Ive been with directv for 22 & 1/2 years ive been on the phone with them for 3 days now think im calling dish tomorrow they did us terrible tech came to install genie 2 cancelled old boxes then took new ones with him marking job complete & said we canceled, he got paid by the job said he needed a jumper cable funny wireless dint need jumper cables

  • John Jennings

    I am moving from the Midwest where competition between TV/Internet is fierce. In my old neighborhood, we had Google Fiber, AT&T, Spectrum (formerly Time Warner), and Consolidated Communications, all offering 1 Gbps. I am now moving to a small town 20 miles outside Phoenix and I am finding I am moving into the Stone Age of internet providers. Centurylink might be able to provide up to 40 Mbps internet to my home which is in a 1500+ home development but they are not sure what speed for is available until they send a technician to test. Centurylink, you ran service and wire into a 1500+ development and you don’t even know what speed is available to my area?????????? Unbelieveable!!!! My other choice for internet is a regional provider which offers 100 Mbps internet but based on reviews read on internet has the consistency of having tv rabbit ears with foil on the end. Where is the FCC in all of these fiascoes? With every big merge between cable/internet providers allowed by FCC and Fed Anti-Trust, each provider have promised better TV/Internet, more fiber to more smaller communities, fast internet speeds, increased competition between large providers which would mean more price competition. None of which has happened. What a croc!!! Ok, I feel better now but not happy. My question is this about Dish, if I sign on with Dish and choose Hopper w/wireless Joeys, how much internet speed is required to operate this hardware? Looking to connect 5 TV to Dish system. Thanks

    • kgbkgb1967

      I get 3Mbps from century link where I live, they are the only provider. You should be grateful.

  • Rich D.

    I like old tv shows. Dish has laff, and they just added GET TV. I have Direct TV, but I’m pretty close to switching.

  • Rex Mahnensmith

    We live in a Home Owners Association now – outside Disc Dishes are not allowed. I have tried indoor antennae and our service is limited – too limited – cable is too expensive – DISH appeals — is there an Indoor DISH option that will receive stations – NBC CBS ABC public TV Hallmark ESPN etc – – thanks

  • Angela H

    I want to point out and clarify something above….If you get Dish’s Hopper 3 which has the 16 streams for DVR, you would not need a super joey, just regular joeys. The super joey only comes into play if you get the Hopper with Sling which only has 3 streams, each super joey adds 2 streams which is why it would be needed for those with 4 or more TVs. For most customer’s the Hopper 3 has a one time $50 leased receiver fee while the Hopper with Sling does not (this may vary based on credit qualification). So if you get the Hopper 3, the monthly price is even cheaper then stated above since you would not need a super joey…

  • Mary Wyatt

    Looking to rid myself of Comcast & Direct TV. Want to know if Dish is as bad as the reviews I’ve seen. I like their 2yr price guarantee but have seen reviews where it so very difficult to cancel even after the 2 years. I live n California in the San Francisco Bay area & would like to hear of any experiences good or bad that people have had with Dish.

  • Larry

    I have my own DVD recorder. If I want to archive a program by copying it from the Dish DVR and burning it to a DVD, is it possible to do that? And how do you connect the two devices together?

  • Dicussused

    Just about a month ago Directv CHANGED the guide. Calling them they the csr in the phillipeans said it’s going to be universal. We do not have a HD 5k tv. The new guide and movie quality suck(sorry) but that’s being polite!! It’s on a gray background with white lettering. IMPOSSIBLE IMPOSSIBLE!!! To see let alone read!!!!!! Ready to switch. It’s applauding to think we HAVE TO BUY a HD 5k tv when we have a perfectly great 60”Sony digital tv!!!! What can we do???

    • TJL

      Agree. I may have to switch

  • American Veteran

    we have dish! but what you don’t know is that since having dish for ten years you would think they would show customer appreciation. Wrong! i have watched very carefully and as the years go by,so do various channels go bye bye. very sneaky,but they are slowly disappearing. what is up is they want you to purchase a bigger package and its all about money! Direct TV are not sneaky about it,they want your money and they don’t hide it. pay or else. What we need is some Real Competition in the Satellite TV Business, That would Open Their Eyes!

  • Aaron

    Had direct tv 18 years, bill was up to 132 with no movie channels. Switch to dish and got exactly same package for 92 dollars. So far impressed with dish!!

    • Maria Millett

      Hi Aaron! This is awesome. Glad you could save money!

  • TJL

    DirecTV just changed the program software – too much info now crammed into the screen for recorded programs. One-third of the screen is now devoted to a totally unnecessary vertical list of genre categories. This results in the critical info showing up in what looks like an 8 point font – OK if you are in front of a computer monitor but unreadable from 10′-15′ away while watching a TV screen under 60″. Have users ever complained about DISH’s programming screen format? If not, it must be OK and user friendly. I may have to switch to DISH solely on account of this new issue. I called DirecTV – there is no option to change back to the old format

  • Ray Quesnell

    Does Direct TV or Dish Network offer any technology that uses Infrared remotes and extenders