After AT&T bought DIRECTV, we wondered if DIRECTV would become more like AT&T’s U-verse TV, which is not our favorite TV service. Luckily, DIRECTV still looks and acts like DIRECTV. It’s arguably the best TV service out there, despite having what might be the most mind-boggling price increase. If you can handle the two-year commitment, DIRECTV delivers one of the best TV experiences.
It carries the NFL SUNDAY TICKET, which you can’t find anywhere else, and DIRECTV’s Genie DVR is easily one of the three best TV service DVRs. We’ve also tried the rest of DIRECTV’s equipment, and we learned things we wish we knew before getting it.
- More HD channels than others
- Exclusive NFL SUNDAY TICKET
- DVR with 200 hrs of HD storage
- Nonsensical price increases
- Two-year contract requirement
- Okay customer service
DIRECTV’s all-inclusive pricing is still a bit mystifying.
DIRECTV packages & prices
|SELECT™||$35/mo.||155+ Channels||View Plan|
|ENTERTAINMENT||$40/mo.||160+ Channels||View Plan|
|CHOICE™||$45/mo.||185+ Channels||View Plan|
|XTRA||$55/mo.||235+ Channels||View Plan|
|ULTIMATE||$60/mo.||250+ Channels||View Plan|
|PREMIER™||$110/mo.||330+ Channels||View Plan|
Not long ago, DIRECTV changed its pricing to make it easier to understand—at least that’s what DIRECTV claims. It used to be that DIRECTV, like every other pay-TV service, would tack on a bunch of nonsense fees to the monthly service charge (DVR fee, receiver fee, etc.). The good news is that’s no longer the case: DIRECTV’s pricing is “ALL INCLUSIVE.” That means the price you see online is the price you pay. For the most part, we found this to be true, so we have to hand it to DIRECTV for no longer badgering customers with fees and more fees.
However, DIRECTV still does something we simply don’t understand—it increases the monthly service charge halfway through the two-year contract.
What a la carte programming does DIRECTV have?
Keep in mind DIRECTV service doesn’t change halfway through the two-year contract, but for some reason the price does. For example, if you go with the ENTERTAINMENT package, the monthly service charge is $40 per month for 12 months. We think that’s an excellent price for what you get (160+ channels and a DVR). But after the first 12 months, the monthly service charge for that same ENTERTAINMENT package goes up to $87 per month. Really. That’s how it works with every DIRECTV package: you pay one price the first 12 months, then a different, higher price for the remaining 12 months. To be fair, every TV service loves surprising customers with price hikes, but DIRECTV just might be the biggest offender. Don’t get us wrong, though—we still think there’s plenty to like about DIRECTV.
Looking for DIRECTV internet?
We’ve harped on DIRECTV’s price increase long enough, but we should point out the first 12 months of pricing are actually quite good for what you get. The all-included price gets you the excellent Genie DVR.
Despite the odd pricing tactics, DIRECTV offers so much to watch that it can be overwhelming.
Video last updated Aug. 2018
DIRECTV channel lineup
It can be hard to decide on a TV package, especially if each carries hundreds of channels. If you’re the type who has to have to have every single channel, then the choice is easy: go with the PREMIER package. Of course, because it has every channel, it’s also the most expensive package.
If you’re more like us and just want to keep up with popular shows so you can join in on water-cooler conversations, we recommend the ENTERTAINMENT package. It carries the cable channels most people watch1—ESPN, USA, AMC, TBS, TNT, Discovery Channel, FX, etc.—so you can keep up with must-watch TV, like Walking Dead, Better Call Saul, Suits, American Horror Story, Teen Mom, and more. There’s so much to watch with 155+ channels that just trying to decide can be a challenge.
There are so many channels—and so many we’ve never even heard of—that we don’t blame you if you feel overwhelmed by DIRECTV’s selection. But if you’re the kind of person who wants to know every single channel available in a given package, you can head over to the DIRECTV channel lineup tool to find listings for every single channel.
We feel confident in our recommendation of the ENTERTAINMENT package, which should work for most people, but if you’re a sports hound, you might want to look at some of the niche sports channels included in the higher-up packages. (We’re fine with just watching highlights on ESPN.) Also, if you’re a movie fanatic, the top DIRECTV package, PREMIER, has about a dozen HBO channels, the STARZ Super Pack (STARZ and Encore channels), another dozen SHOWTIME channels, and a handful of Cinemax channels. It’s pretty much a luxury movie package for cinephiles.
What is NFL SUNDAY TICKET?
I want my MTV—in high definition.
If you don’t like watching TV or movies in standard definition (SD), DIRECTV offers more high definition (HD) channels than any other TV service we’ve reviewed. To compare, DIRECTV lists more than 200+ channels in HD, while DISH lists only 105+ channels. Finding how many HD channels you can get in each package is a little more complicated, but the lowest package (SELECT) includes 55+ HD channels. Both DISH and DIRECTV carry many of the same popular channels in HD (e.g. ESPN HD), but again, it depends on the TV package. You can check the online channel guide to find out what DIRECTV channels are in HD.
Equipment and features
DIRECTV’s equipment is easy to like because it doesn’t get in the way of watching TV.
We tested DIRECTV’s service with the Genie DVR (model HR54), and it worked just as it should, which is to say we had easy access to more movies and shows than we could ever possibly watch. The menus were simple enough to navigate, and after the initial setup of the DVR and remote, we were binge-watching in no time.
The actual remote and DVR are pretty nondescript (see photo). The remote, like the rest of DIRECTV’s interface, feels easy to use. For example, we couldn’t bother to remember 99% of channel numbers, so if we wanted to check what games were on, we just went to the menu and selected SPORTS. Simple. DIRECTV’s equipment (and interface) doesn’t feel as exciting as XFINITY’s X1, especially when it comes to sports, but we almost always found the channels we were looking for. (Most of the time, we were trying to find movie channels or ESPN.)
When testing the Genie DVR, we wanted to find out how well it could handle recording all the shows on our must-watch list. We’re happy to say we didn’t miss recording a single show, even during the very crowded Sunday night prime-time schedule. The Genie can record up to five shows at once, so we didn’t sweat missing out on anything. The Genie also boasts a recording capacity of 200 hours in high definition (HD) or 800 hours in standard definition (SD), so it was more than enough for us. The only thing that really hogged up the DVR was when someone decided to record what seemed like every episode of Law & Order SVU, which we’re pretty sure is always on.
We didn’t stop with just testing out the Genie DVR: we also got our hands on the Genie Minis (receivers you need to connect additional TVs). The Minis are quite small (see photo), and wireless models are also available at the same price ($7/mo). We didn’t notice any difference when using a Genie Mini compared to the Genie DVR, and we quite liked the ability of starting a show in one room and moving to another to finish it. The only thing we really worried about with DIRECTV equipment turned out to be the satellite dish.
DIRECTV’s actual satellite dish wasn’t as big an eyesore as we imagined (see photo), but it still needs to be put somewhere, so make sure it’s in the right place. We say this because we happen to live where it snows, and we made the mistake of putting the satellite dish where it wasn’t easy to access. So it snowed and we lost signal. Turns out if you put it close enough to reach with a broom, you can take care of the snow and get back to watching TV.
This is a mistake we made that you can learn from—do what you can to make sure you can easily reach the satellite dish. If you happen to live in San Diego or somewhere else with perfect weather, you don’t need to worry about a thing, except for sitting back and enjoying some cool DIRECTV features.
Going back in time to watch TV
We’ve all tuned in late and wished we could restart a show. Turns out DIRECTV has made this possible. If you can’t guess, we think the aptly named RESTART feature is pretty cool. It’s included at no charge, but there is a downside: it’s available only on limited channels.
Another DIRECTV feature that grabbed our attention has a somewhat similar concept: the 72 HOUR REWIND. The feature allows you to go back up to three days to check out a show you missed. We dig it! It comes in handy when we hear people talking at work about a TV episode we missed the night before. However, like the RESTART feature, it’s not available for every channel.
We’ve come to expect subpar service from any TV provider, DIRECTV included. But for this review, we’re going to stick with how we were treated this time around.
Have a complaint? Make it count and tell the FCC.
To our surprise, DIRECTV delivered a pretty solid customer service experience. Without disclosing who we were, we pestered DIRECTV numerous times over a period of seven days. The service we received was almost always helpful. For example, when we asked how many HD channels were in the SELECT package, the representative responded with not only an answer, but also a PDF document with the complete listing of the channels in the package, including local channels. And the representative gave us time to review the document, which we appreciated. Other company representatives we contact typically continue with a sales script or question without hesitation. To be fair to others we’ve heard from who’ve had negative experiences, we may have had luck on our side—at least most of the time.
There were other times when a DIRECTV representative would try to sell or upsell us after we asked about packages, channels, etc., but none were too pushy. Also, when we asked representatives to explain fees, they usually gave us clear, no-nonsense answers. Overall, we can say our experience with DIRECTV was positive.
What others say about DIRECTV
We think the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) is one of the best sources for unbiased research on customer satisfaction, and it rates DIRECTV as third in the entire television service industry2—but that’s not necessarily a great thing. TV service as a whole is known for poor customer satisfaction, so being third in an industry that could be better is nothing to brag about.
Source: American Customer Satisfaction Index
Still, DIRECTV beats a handful of other TV providers for customer satisfaction, so we say take it with a grain of salt. DIRECTV is better than most, but it still needs improvement.
Here are the benchmarks ACSI uses to measure customer satisfaction. Keep in mind this is for all TV service providers and not just DIRECTV.
Source: American Customer Satisfaction Index
The bottom line—is DIRECTV good?
DIRECTV is one of the best TV services, despite some pricing shenanigans.
Our recommendation: the ENTERTAINMENT package.
We say go with the ENTERTAINMENT package. It’s got sports channels (ESPN, ESPN2, Fox Sports) and all the popular cable channels and must-watch shows we need to stay in touch with pop culture.
DIRECTV is available nationwide, but if you want to see what other TV service is available in your area, you can use our ZIP code finder.
DIRECTV review summary:
- Genie DVR is powerful
- Best NFL programming
- Available nationwide
- Price-hike after a year
- Owned by AT&T
Q: Where is DIRECTV available?
Because DIRECTV is satellite TV service, it’s available nationwide.
Q: Which DIRECTV package should I get?
Q: Which DIRECTV package has ESPN?
Every DIRECTV package has ESPN except the SELECT package.
Q: Which DIRECTV channels are in 4K?
DIRECTV has a 4K channel with 24/7 programming (channel 104), a Pay-Per-View 4K movie channel (channel 105), and a 4K event channel (channel 106).
Tell us what you think
Do you have experience with DIRECTV? Do you think it’s one of the best TV services? What’s missing from DIRECTV service? What do you wish DIRECTV did differently? What do you think of having a satellite dish on your home? We want to hear from you, and if you have any questions, please ask. If they’re good, we’ll even include them in our FAQs.
2. American Customer Service Index, “ACSI Telecommunications Report 20167”