A lot of people have the choice between DIRECTV and XFINITY, but what makes one better than the other? Price, the quality of the service itself, and how a company treats its customers are at the top of the list for most of us.
Both companies rank as top TV providers, so which of the two should you choose? We’ve considered the strengths and weaknesses of both TV service providers—we hope our research makes your choice easier.
DIRECTV vs XFINITY — overall comparison
When we compare providers, we consider the variables that affect your wallet and the service you’re buying: pricing, contract terms, installation costs, number of HD channels and on-demand titles, quality and capabilities of DVRs and other equipment, and customer satisfaction scores.
|Contract Terms||Requires 2-year agreement||No-term contract, 1-year or 2-year agreement|
|Max HD Channels||166+||130+|
|DVR||Genie||X1 DVR*, AnyRoom DVR|
|Equipment leasing||Free up to 4 units||$10/mo per unit|
|Equipment service||Free up to 4 units||$10/mo HD Technology Fee|
|On-demand library||10,000+ titles||64,000+ titles|
|Details||View Plans||View Plans|
*X1 DVR included when you sign up for two or more services: TV, internet, voice, or home security.
Our pick: DIRECTV
Our pick is DIRECTV for easy-to-understand pricing, NFL SUNDAY TICKET, nationwide availability, and consistently high customer satisfaction scores. XFINITY is a better option for those who want either a no-term contract or TV and high-speed internet bundled together from a single provider.
We picked DIRECTV because anyone can get it, it has more channels, and costs less. Plus, your bills are easier to understand.
Customer service isn’t high for pay-TV providers as a whole, but DIRECTV beats the other satellite and cable providers.
DIRECTV vs. XFINITY TV — pricing comparison
We favor clear and understandable pricing—not nice promotional prices where the rate is later jacked up with add-ons or hidden fees.
DIRECTV wins for its transparent and consistent pricing. XFINITY puts additional equipment and service fees behind a tempting advertised price—these fees double or triple your bill in some cases. If you sign up for a no-term contract with XFINITY, you face an even greater risk of having a fluctuating price after your promotion ends. For these reasons, we recommend DIRECTV when choosing a standalone TV service, but those who are bundling may still want to consider XFINITY—DIRECTV’s bundles are dependent on which internet provider is in your area, so pricing and speeds will vary.
DIRECTV’s pricing is—well—direct
DIRECTV offers all-included prices for one year as a standalone. If you bundle with another service from AT&T, your price is secure for two years. The only line-item charge that isn’t immediately obvious is a Regional Sports Fee of $3.63, which is an average price for a fee that every TV provider charges (in one way or another).
DIRECTV’s pricing structure makes the most sense for customers. It has smaller increments between packages’ pricing and channel counts. Plus, you get three months’ worth of premium channels for free (but make sure to cancel if you don’t want them after three months).
DIRECTV’s pricing is all inclusive, meaning you won’t be charged for using the Genie DVR or up to 4 other receivers (as long as you return the equipment when your service is up). You won’t pay Broadcast TV Fees as an additional charge, either.
Any additional costs in your bill will only result from additional service (i.e. premium channels or add-on channel packages), not from the company recouping the costs of governmental fees from the customer. Some areas may still charge a Regional Sports Fee.
When it comes to bundling with DIRECTV, your service and price are dependent on your location. Although DIRECTV is national, the company is not partnered with any national internet providers. You can likely save about $10 per month when bundling.
Better to bundle with XFINITY
XFINITY TV as a whole is more costly than DIRECTV, but for some it may be worth it to choose a no-contract service, which eliminates the risk of Early Termination Fees.
XFINITY by Comcast excels in bundling your TV and internet together. You’ll get a bundled discount that saves a lot of money. In some instances, you’re only paying $10 more for internet services.
For example, the Digital Starter TV package with 140 channels goes for $49.99, but with 25 Mbps internet it’s only $59.99. You’ll save more with a 1-year agreement (about $10 a month), but can still opt for a no-term contract.
XFINITY has some of the fastest internet speeds out there (up to 2 GB in some cases, our location’s max speeds were 250 Mbps).
You will be using a single provider, making billing more convenient and technical issues easier to deal with all at once. XFINITY has some of the fastest internet speed with a high data cap (1 TB). The XFINITY X1, which is worth getting, requires you sign up for internet, anyway.
XFINITY starts with a lower price at $19.99 for 45 channels. DIRECTV’s lowest package is $50 for 145 channels. Premium channels are cheaper with XFINITY as a whole (around $10 for most, $15 for HBO), but that’s about it. It charges for additional receivers and service per television set, so unless you’re flying solo, it can add up pretty quickly.
If you want super-fast internet and TV, XFINITY’s pricing makes more sense, but for standalone TV service, we believe you’re better off with DIRECTV.
How do their contracts compare?
Most TV providers require a contract that includes Early Termination Fees. DIRECTV has a 2-year agreement, but XFINITY offers a few different contract options, including a no-term agreement, meaning you’re not locked in, but paying month to month. This has the drawback of no guaranteed price, but it is more flexible to your needs.
No-contract service means freedom for a lot of people. If you’re renting, you might not want or be able to move service to your new residence. Or, you may not want to sign a deal for one or two years without knowing how the service is first.
Even though no-term freedom costs an extra $10 on top of your bill every month, you won’t have the risk of paying Early Termination Fees (up to $480). Remember, you will still be subject to Equipment Non-return Fees if you keep XFINITY’s stuff (duh).
Compare the real costs of DIRECTV and XFINITY
Put to the test, which costs more—DIRECTV or XFINITY? In this example, we assume a household with four rooms that need service. We selected packages with 220 channels and DVR service for each room. As you can see in the table below, what seems like a better offer from XFINITY turns out to be more expensive when you consider all additional (often hidden) fees.
|DIRECTV XTRA ALL INCLUDED||XFINITY Digital Preferred|
|Contract terms||Requires 2-year agreement||Requires 1-year agreement|
|Equipment||Genie DVR + 3 HD receivers||AnyRoom DVR + 3 HD receivers|
|Equipment fees||Included||$10/mo + $30/mo (Hidden)|
|HD Technology Fee||None||$10/mo (Hidden)|
|Broadcast TV Fee||None||$7.00/mo (Hidden)|
|First month bill*||$76.63||$206.98|
*These price estimates are derived from a hypothetical scenario and pricing may change depending on where you live; check with each provider to compare exact package pricing available to you.
Even if you got the same XFINITY Digital Preferred Package above and reduced it to a single TV, your monthly bill would still be $86.99—not including the one-time installation fee of $89.99. It’s pretty apparent that DIRECTV offers better pricing, plus it’s less confusing. Remember, both companies will raise their rates after your first-year promotional period ends.
Bottom line on pricing: DIRECTV gives you HD television throughout your home with a simple all-included package. Even if you want non-DVR service for a single TV, you won’t get a cheaper price with XFINITY TV alone. XFINITY is more financially viable when you bundle TV and internet.
DIRECTV vs. XFINITY TV — package comparison
We know not everyone is looking for the same service, so we’ve listed a few different options for what’s out there and already tailored to your needs.
Which provider has better sports packages?
When it comes to programming best-suited to sports fans, we think DIRECTV takes the cake—mostly because they give you access to NFL SUNDAY TICKET.
NFL SUNDAY TICKET delivers every out-of-market NFL game. Diehard fans and fantasy league players will love watching up to eight games at once. You can access NFL SUNDAY TICKET ONLINE with your desktop or mobile device; simply download the app and enter your directv.com username and password.
Note: Preseason and postseason NFL games are not included—check your local channels, NFL Network, and ESPN.
DIRECTV has every major sports network
ESPN and ESPN2 are both available in the ENTERTAINMENT packages on up. If you want even more sports from DIRECTV, you can get over 30 regional sports networks like MLB Network Strike Zone and Outdoor Channel for an extra $14 a month with the sports add-on package.
DIRECTV also has NBA League Pass and NHL Center Ice, which are similar to the NFL SUNDAY TICKET. These options give you 40 out-of-market games.
XFINITY has the most “live” sports
Most XFINITY packages cover sports with the big hitters like ESPN, NBC Sports Network, NFL Network, NBA TV, NHL Network, MLB Network, Fox Sports 1, and NASCAR (DIRECTV also carries these channels). And if you need more, XFINITY’s Sports & Entertainment Package, which includes NFL RedZone, is an additional $10 add-on.
XFINITY claims “the most live sports,” but that claim includes more niche interest sports—otherwise it has the same sort of sports selection as DIRECTV.
The cheapest package
XFINITY’s Digital Economy is the absolute cheapest TV package we’ve seen. At $19.99 a month before additional fees, you’ll get 40+ channels and catch most primetime shows.
You won’t get a lot of sports coverage or any premium channels without add-on packages, but you can keep up with the network hits.
The best of everything package
DIRECTV’s PREMIER package has the most channels out of all the packages we reviewed. It also includes premium channels free for three months, NFL SUNDAY TICKET MAX, and the equipment you need to watch TV in up to four rooms.
According to the FCC, most pay-TV service complaints surround billing (40%), while a much smaller percentage comes from the experience of watching TV itself.
- Billing (40%)
- Availability (18%)
- Indecency (11%)
- Loud commercials (11%)
- Equipment (10%)
- Interference (5%)
What that says to us is that people think with their wallets first and foremost. According to a U.S. Senate report, both DIRECTV and XFINITY “automatically” provide full refunds to overcharged customers. However, DIRECTV’s method is far more “automatic” from a customer perspective.
DIRECTV prevents problems
DIRECTV identifies past errors, but it also continuously corrects errors before the bill is sent out. This extra step to prevent billing errors eliminates problems without the customer ever having to worry. This isn’t to say you shouldn’t be diligent about keeping track of your cable bills, but it’s nice knowing the company tracks errors, too.
XFINITY amends past issues
Comcast’s error-checking team doesn’t identify billing issues as frequently as DIRECTV does, but at least it does check. XFINITY will refund all past billing issues automatically after an issue is raised and investigated. Plus you won’t be stuck doing the math to prove how much the company owes you.
Customer satisfaction scores, compared
In the ASCI ratings for 2016, DIRECTV scored six points higher than XFINITY with a score of 68 to 62. It’s hard to argue with the customers themselves: for 16 years in a row, DIRECTV beat ALL other satellite AND cable TV providers (this doesn’t include fiber TV providers like Verizon FiOS or A&T U-Verse). This demonstrates that DIRECTV listens to its customers as it continues to grow.
XFINITY gets points for guaranteed two-hour service appointment windows; if your tech doesn’t show up, you will be credited $20. XFINITY has dramatically increased its ACSI rating over the past year from 54 to 62, a 15% increase. Big efforts have been made ($300 million) to provide better customer service.
JD Power and Associates
DIRECTV won the awards for satisfaction in the East and South, and ranks higher than XFINITY in the West and North Central regions. XFINITY earned a 2 out of 5 rating in nearly every category and every region.
We love the idea that anyone in the United States can sign up for DIRECTV. Rural and remote customers who can’t logistically get cable to their homes can still receive satellite with 99% reliability.
Xfinity by Comcast technically has more subscribers at 22.43 million compared to DIRECTV’s 20.78, and XFINITY is available in over 40 states, which is more coverage than any other cable provider. However, if you live in a rural or remote area, Comcast may have to run a cable line out to your home—which can be an expensive option, if it’s even an option at all.
If you’re still not sure about availability, you can type in your ZIP code below to see what TV providers service your area.
The bottom line
- Choose DIRECTV for standalone TV service. DIRECTV has affordable and transparent pricing that won’t leave you guessing what your bill will look like. The company covers the most-watched channels in a majority of its plans at a price that’s typically cheaper than XFINITY. You also get full service to your whole home without additional fees.
- Choose XFINITY if you want to bundle. XFINITY takes the advantage when it comes to bundling TV with high-speed internet. We recommend getting the X1 DVR platform for full functionality between your TV and internet, including cloud storage of recordings, online viewing, and downloading to your mobile device.
Check our frequently asked questions below if you’re still not sure what service seems right for you. If you have a question after reading the FAQ section, please let us know in our comments!
FAQ about DIRECTV vs. XFINITY TV services
How much are DIRECTV’s and XFINITY’s installation fees?
- DIRECTV’s installation is free as part of its two-year contract
- XFINITY charges $89.99 (Note: price varies according to location and services)
How much are DIRECTV’s and XFINITY’s Early Termination Fees (ETFs)?
- DIRECTV requires a two-year contract that charges Early Termination Fees and Equipment Non-return Fees. Your ETF can be up to $480; it’s calculated by taking the number of months left in your contract and multiplying by $20, and then adding a $15 Disconnection Fee.
- XFINITY’s 1-year and 2-year term contracts potentially charge both Early Termination Fees and Equipment Non-return Fees. Your ETF can be up to $480; it’s calculated by taking the number of months left in your contract and multiplying by $20.
- XFINITY’s no-term contracts do not contain Early Termination Fees, but you can still be charged for not returning leased equipment.
How many HD channels does DIRECTV/XFINITY have?
- DIRECTV has 166+ HD channels
- XFINITY has 130+ HD channels
Tip: When it comes to high definition channels, it’s not just a matter of quantity. It’s important to note which provider carries YOUR channels in HD.
Is there a difference in video quality?
- Essentially: No, we’ve heard it from both sides enough—cable and satellite are basically the same in terms of audio and video quality.
- Technically: Yes, there are many variables that depend on your equipment and location. Brand to brand, you would have to try both services to see the differences.
Does satellite service TV have problems?
- No TV service is issue free, be it cable, fiber, or satellite.
- DIRECTV is a satellite provider; not every neighborhood allows for satellite dishes to be visible—or installed at all in some cases. This is not a problem for most customers. Always check with your homeowners association or landlord before ordering satellite services.
- The only other caveat with satellite dishes has to do with extreme weather conditions. If you’re in a rain- or snow-heavy area, our advice is to keep your dish in an accessible area with a clear view of the southern sky (meaning not blocked by trees, buildings, etc.).
Is cable more reliable than satellite?
- Not necessarily. It’s true: extreme weather conditions can disrupt your satellite service. DIRECTV advertises 99% reliability, but we know problems exist. If you’re in a heavy snow or rain area, this is worth consideration.
- Cable isn’t perfect, either—we’ve had glitches from XFINITY, too (particularly in on-demand and recorded titles). In most cases, you won’t notice a difference.
What is the Comcast XFINITY X1?
The XFINITY X1 is a receiver that connects your TV, internet, and phone. It is sometimes called the X1 Entertainment Operating System. With it you can watch shows on all your devices. It’s also a DVR that records your shows, allows real-time control of your TV, and provides an easy scheduling system. You can use the voice remote or your phone to find your programs easily on its channel guide.
How do I get the Comcast XFINITY X1 DVR?
You must subscribe to two services (“Double Play” packages) from XFINITY: TV, Internet, phone, or home security.
What do I need to watch in 4K resolution?
Currently DIRECTV is better for 4K; it even has an on-demand channel dedicated to it. XFINITY does not currently support 4K without a workaround, but it has promised to deliver more 4K programming in 2017.
For both providers, you’ll need a 4K TV, obviously, but each brand has additional requirements:
- DIRECTV requires a Genie HD DVR (Model HR54 or later), professional installation (free), 4K account authorization (simply saying you’ll use this service, no additional charge), and subscription to ULTRA or PREMIER packages. Additional TVs can use a 4K Genie Mini (Model C61K)
- As of this writing, 4K content from XFINITY is only available via the Ultra HD Sampler app on select Samsung and LG Smart TVs (mainly 2015 or newer). The UHD sampler app only allows certain On Demand content to play in 4K, so this is NOT a 4K solution across the board.
What is the difference between NFL SUNDAY TICKET and NFL SUNDAY TICKET MAX?
NFL SUNDAY TICKET MAX allows mobile devices access to live coverage (regular NFLST does not). It also adds RED ZONE CHANNEL and DIRECTV FANTASY ZONE.
Are Comcast and XFINITY the same thing?
Comcast brands its TV, internet, and other telecommunication services as XFINITY. The two names are often used synonymously, but Comcast is a larger entity that XFINITY is part of. Comcast XFINITY is the largest cable TV and internet provider in the United States.
If you have a question you need answered and don’t see it in the comparison, let us know!