DIRECTV vs. Time Warner Cable (Spectrum)

Time Warner Cable (TWC) goes by a new name, Spectrum, but does it have any chance of beating out DIRECTV for TV service?


Time Warner Cable (TWC) goes by a new name, Spectrum, but does it have any chance of beating out DIRECTV for TV service? The short answer: no.

Time Warner Cable/Spectrum TV has comparable features, such as a mobile app, rewind and restart functionality, and more, but its DVR is dwarfed by DIRECTV’s Genie DVR. Also, though Time Warner Cable/Spectrum offers no-contract service, which is good, it ends up costing the same if not more than DIRECTV (that’s bad).

Overall winner: DIRECTV

DIRECTV vs. Time Warner Cable/Spectrum—overall comparison

DIRECTV$50–125/mo.*150–325Genie (200 hrs.)View Plans
Time Warner Cable (Spectrum)$64.99–104.99/mo. 125–200Motorola or Cisco (21–45 hrs.)View Plans

*First-year pricing of two-year contract.

DIRECTV vs. Time Warner Cable/Spectrum—quick comparison

DIRECTV offers more programming and a way better DVR.

DIRECTV and Time Warner Cable/Spectrum couldn’t be more different. DIRECTV offers satellite TV service, while TWC/Spectrum is a cable TV provider. TWC/Spectrum doesn’t require a contract, but DIRECTV does (two-years). DIRECTV has six different TV packages, and TWC/Spectrum has only three. Just take a look at these companies yourself.

Time Warner Cable Spectrum TV

TV Select$64.99/mo.125Motorola or Cisco (21–45 hrs.)View Plan
TV Silver$84.99/mo.175Motorola or Cisco (21–45 hrs.)View Plan
TV Gold$104.99/mo.200Motorola or Cisco (21–45 hrs.)View Plan

Time Warner Cable/Spectrum has no-contract TV service, but its DVR won’t hold more than two-and-a-half seasons of Game of Thrones.


SELECT$50.00/mo.150Genie (200 hrs.)View Plan
ENTERTAINMENT$55.00/mo.155Genie (200 hrs.)View Plan
CHOICE$60.00/mo.185Genie (200 hrs.)View Plan
XTRA$70.00/mo.230Genie (200 hrs.)View Plan
ULTIMATE$75.00/mo.245Genie (200 hrs.)View Plan
PREMIER$125.00/mo.325Genie (200 hrs.)View Plan

*First-year pricing of two-year contract

DIRECTV prices are stellar, but they go up after the first year of a two-year contract (not cool!). Still, you get a DVR that can hold every episode of Game of Thrones and more.

Comparing DIRECTV and Time Warner Cable (Spectrum) packages and prices

DIRECTV delivers more channels per plan and better equipment for about the same price.

Not all decisions come down to the almighty dollar, but deciding between DIRECTV and Time Warner Cable/Spectrum is whole lot easier when you take a closer look at the monetary value.

If DIRECTV didn’t increase its prices after the first year of service, it would be the winner for best value.

If DIRECTV didn’t increase its prices after the first year of service, it would be the winner for best value hands down. DIRECTV’s monthly price includes equipment (a DVR and three receivers) to connect up to four TVs , and its Genie DVR blows both of TWC/Spectrum’s DVRs out of the water. Also, DIRECTV’s packages start at $50 a month, which means you can get those three receivers and Genie DVR with more than 150 channels (Cartoon Network/Adult Swim, Comedy Central, FX, HGTV, and USA) for about the price it costs to fill up your gas tank.

If you want to set up multiple TVs for service, we say DIRECTV still has the better value despite the second-year price increase. Because as much as Time Warner Cable/Spectrum touts its no-contract service, you’ll likely be paying just as much or more for a not-as-good TV experience.

For example, when we were ordering Spectrum’s TV Select ($64.99/mo.) package with four DVR/HD boxes, we ended up with an order of $122 (yikes!).

Again to compare, DIRECTV’s competing package, the SELECT, has an all-included price of $50 a month, whereas with TWC/Spectrum you pay separately for service and equipment. Sure, $35 of the Time Warner Cable/Spectrum order was a one-time fee, but that’s still a dinner for two taken straight from our pockets, and the monthly cost still comes to $88.

Fun fact: $88 a month is almost the same price as the SELECT package during the second year (Time Warner Cable/Spectrum’s $88 per month compared to DIRECTV’s $90 a month). We’d rather take a year of savings with DIRECTV than pay the same price for a less robust Time Warner Cable/Spectrum package.

Packages and pricing summary—TWC/Spectrum vs. DIRECTV

  • If you’re setting up more than one TV for service, go for DIRECTV. Its monthly price includes three receivers, a Genie DVR, and installation.
  • If you’re living the single life and just need one television setup, then you might want to get a price quote from both. Still, even if it’s just for one TV, we’d probably still get DIRECTV so we can get a Genie DVR.

Which has better equipment and features, DIRECTV or Time Warner Cable/Spectrum?

Time Warner Cable/Spectrum’s DVRs can’t compete with DIRECTV’s Genie DVR.

DIRECTV’s Genie DVR is one of the best DVRs available from a TV service provider, and Time Warner Cable/Spectrum’s DVRs are, well . . . basic.


Genie DVR

It might sound like we’re giving DIRECTV too much credit, but Time Warner Cable/Spectrum’s DVRs are really just that ho-hum. In fact, you don’t even get to choose the DVR you want from Time Warner Cable/Spectrum—it’ll just send you either a Motorola or Cisco/SA DVR (there’s no way to tell which). Either option records up to two shows at once and holds 21–45 hours of movies and shows. Oh yeah, and either DVR costs $11.99 a month for service.

Compare that to the DIRECTV Genie, which can record five shows at once and hold 200 hours of movies and shows without an extra monthly fee. See? We’re not favoring DIRECTV. Its Genie DVR is simply that much better.


Though it lost out on equipment, Time Warner Cable/Spectrum fares better in this arena with features comparable to DIRECTV. Both DIRECTV and Time Warner Cable/Spectrum have some nifty bells and whistles, like letting you rewind up to three days to watch primetime shows, and both have a restart feature as well. These features aren’t necessities, but it’s nice to know they’re there.

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Good to know

if AT&T is your cellular provider, you can watch DIRECTV NOW on your phone without it counting towards your data.

DIRECTV and Time Warner Cable/Spectrum also offer mobile apps, so if you’re a TV-on-the-go person, you’re safe either way (as long as you have an internet connection). And, though it’s not so much a feature as it is programming, both DIRECTV and Time Warner Cable offer around 10,000 on-demand movies and shows.

Equipment and features summary—TWC/Spectrum vs. DIRECTV

  • DIRECTV’s Genie DVR can record five shows at once and store 200 hours of content.
  • You can’t choose your DVR with Time Warner Cable/Spectrum, which is one of two models (Motorola or Cisco), and each can only hold 21–45 recording hours.
  • DIRECTV and Time Warner Cable/Spectrum’s features are comparable, but none really feel all that necessary.

DIRECTV vs. Time Warner Cable (Spectrum) TV recap

DIRECTV wins for having better equipment and more channels for (almost) the same price as Time Warner Cable/Spectrum.

  • Overall winner: DIRECTV.
  • Packages and prices: Despite the price increase during the contract, DIRECTV offers more value with a higher channel count and the superior Genie DVR.
  • Equipment and features: Not as much of a difference here—both DIRECTV and Time Warner Cable/Spectrum have mobile apps, rewind/restart features, and around 10,000 on-demand movies and shows. Still, DIRECTV edges TWC/Spectrum out for the win.
  • Full reviews: Check out our full-length reviews of DIRECTV and Time Warner Cable/Spectrum.

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  • Steven Bevis

    Direct TV is a sham with fraudulent business practices to increase rates and keep you stuck in a contract. I do not recommend them at all to anyone, and would rather take a hit on picture quality with cable to know what my bill will actually be, and to know I can get out of it. Direct TV has been sued for these fraudulent practices and people are leaving in droves because of it. All it takes is a few weeks of signing up to see it in action when that first bill arrives. That first bill is nothing like the contract.

    • Christina

      I think Spectrum is a sham as going into my second year with them they have increased prices but also say it’s still a discount!!! my bill has gone up almost 35 bucks and I am assuming next year will jump even higher. Now just trying to figure out what my best options are between directtv, sling, or some other streaming service although id miss my dvr!

  • Angela Boor

    If you don’t mind me asking how long do you have to be “away” from DirecTV before you can sign up again? We were planning to switch to Spectrum (for Phone and Internet and MAYBE for TV) but if we don’t like it, how long before we can switch back? Thanks!!

    • Maria Millett

      I am not sure of the exact time but in my experience, companies are happy to have customers back at all times!

    • Karran Martin

      I’m not positive this is 100% correct, but I think you have to be gone from them for 2 yrs in order to get the best pricing. But, like Maria said below, they may be happy enough to get you back they’ll deal with you.

  • Shahriar Rahman

    Wow. So happy to see someone else’s experience mirror our own. We have been very loyal customers of DirectTV sinsce 2012 — 6 years. This past year, in 2017, we paid more than $1500 on our TV ($132 per month… because of HBO and all the movie channels I thought we wanted but did not have time to watch). We had TWC for our internet, for almost 4 years, for which we were paying $90/month for 200Mbps download speed. We decided to switch to save money, an now pay 130 with the SAME movie channels as we had with DTV – with HBO, AND internet included (bundled package). So we are now saving more than $90/month. That’s over $1k savings in year. Sounds great…

    … except it’s not. Even though we do not watch much TV, the quality difference is immediately noticeable. Many On Demand TV shows do not have full episodes available (Twin Peaks) which I read can be fixed with a request for my region – but still. Also, the interface for their unit is frustrating to use — we still haven’t figured out how to do certain basic things with the remote like going up and down the channel lists in the Guide display. All around, Spectrum TV is less elegant, downright clumsy, and with worse picture quality. Now the $1k savings every year does not sound such like a good deal.

  • Rick Quest

    Somehow I ended up on this sight while searching if Spectrum has “4K”? I didn’t see a word of it! I think that would clearly show a winner but there is no mention…and I’m well aware the it’s probably just a matter of time before everyone has it but I’m ready NOW.

  • Anda @ Travel Notes & Beyond

    I started with DirecTV about 20 years ago and have been faithful customer all this time. For a while they were the most successful provider and they were doing a great job. But success got to their head and their service became worse and worse to the point where they I couldn’t watch my HD channels. They explained to me that it’s because I was using an HDMI cable. What? Then what kind of cable should I use? Well, it seems that they want you to use a component cable now because through an HDMI cable their content may be “copied” to a computer or another DVR. So I switched to Charter-Spectrum just to discover that for half of the price I was paying to DirecTV I could actually get twice as many channels, an impeccable image quality and a better internet speed (included in the package).

  • Pantheon

    Just the fact that this review suggests Spectrum’s DVR can only hold 2.5 seasons of GoT makes me suspect of its objectivity. Have had Spectrum for 18 months now and my DVR holds over 200 hours of programming.