When it comes to satellite TV, you really have only two choices: DISH® and DIRECTV. And both of these companies know it, which makes it even harder to decide which one will beam down the TV shows you’ve been needing to binge-watch.
Our vote is for DISH, and here’s why: its pricing is more straightforward than DIRECTV’s and it comes with the Hopper 3 DVR, which sets the standard for DVRs everywhere. But honestly, DIRECTV isn’t far behind DISH—and it’s a pro choice for sports lovers thanks to the much-coveted NFL SUNDAY TICKET channel.
Those differences aside, here’s how DISH compares with DIRECTV for price and equipment.
DISH compared to DIRECTV
|Price||$59.99–$89.99 per mo.*||$35–$110 per mo.†|
|DVR storage||500 HD hours||200 HD hours|
|Contract||2 years||2 years|
|Details||View Plans||View Plans|
Data effective 3/4/19. 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-yr contract, paperless bill, & autopay. Price increases for months 13-24.
For extra in-depth reviews of these two services, check out our guide to the Best Satellite TV Providers.
Best for most: DISH
For most people, we think DISH is the way to go. DISH has a lot of advantages over DIRECTV—clear pricing, more affordable packages, a significantly more powerful DVR, and consistently high scores for customer service and consumer satisfaction. While DIRECTV puts up a good fight, DISH’s complete package is just hard to beat—unless you’re a sports fan, that is.
Sports is the undisputed domain of DIRECTV, and not just among other satellite providers. Why? Three words—NFL SUNDAY TICKET. No other sports package comes close, and it’s a DIRECTV exclusive. Beyond that, the provider also offers more HD sports channels than DISH. If you’re a sports nut and want the very best programming, look no further than DIRECTV.
DIRECTV and DISH—packages and pricing
DIRECTV offers more channels and NFL SUNDAY TICKET—but its prices skyrocket past DISH’s costs after 12 months.
At first glance, both DISH and DIRECTV seem to be neck and neck in terms of pricing and channel count. But things quickly get out of hand when DIRECTV’s prices increase during the second year of your two-year contract.
With that in mind, pricing is one of DISH’s biggest advantages compared to DIRECTV. DISH is not only cheaper in the long run, but you also tend to get more for your money.
DISH satellite TV prices
|America's Top 120||$59.99 per mo||190||View Plan|
|America's Top 120+||$69.99 per mo.||190+||View Plan|
|America's Top 200||$79.99 per mo.||240+||View Plan|
|America's Top 250||$89.99 per mo.||290+||View Plan|
Data effective 9/18/18. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.
*For 24 months with a 2-year contract and eAutoPay
For example, you get 290+ channels with DISH’s America’s Top 250 package—but 250+ channels with DIRECTV’s ULTIMATE package will cost you more than $45 more per month once you hit that second year of your contract.
Basically, America’s Top 120+ gets you some additional sports and specialty channels and is probably worth the extra $10 a month if you’re a sports fan.
On the other hand, DIRECTV’s prices start out looking great. You get more channels for a lower price compared to DISH. But once your first 12 months are up, things sadly take a turn for the worst when the price goes up.
|Packages||Price*||Year 2 price||Channels||Details|
Data effective 1/25/19. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.
*For 12 months with a 2-yr contract, paperless bill, & autopay. Price increases for months 13-24.
However, DIRECTV still offers more channels with each package—up to a maximum of 330+.
It’s not obvious what the difference is between each package (something that frustrates us with most TV providers). We’ll save you some time—ENTERTAINMENT gets you a few extra sports channels, and ULTIMATE adds more movie channels.
We should also note that, while you get a lot of channels with PREMIER (much more than you can get with DISH’s top package), the huge price jump might catch you off guard.
One huge incentive for sports fans to choose DIRECTV is that all packages from CHOICE on up get a year of NFL SUNDAY TICKET included at no extra cost.
The price of NFL SUNDAY TICKET tends to change every season, but it’s a value of several hundred dollars. So if you’re signing up specifically for the sports packages, it’s a nice bonus.
Heads up: don’t forget to cancel your NFL SUNDAY TICKET subscription
DISH is definitely our pick here for its straightforward pricing.
DIRECTV gets you more channels, but it’ll cost you after your first year. But if you like variety, or if DISH is missing that one obscure channel you can’t get enough of, it might still be a good fit. Especially if you want to root for your team while watching NFL SUNDAY TICKET.
DISH compared to DIRECTV: DVR and features
DISH’s Hopper 3 DVR beats the competition.
The main things we look at in a DVR are HD storage capacity, the number of simultaneous recordings it can handle, and the price. Unfortunately for DIRECTV, DISH’s Hopper 3 DVR stomps it in all three categories, offering up some crazy good specs.
CableTV.com chose the Hopper 3 as the best DVR of 20181, and we chose it as the best provider DVR of 2018 in our comprehensive DVR roundup. That said, the Genie is still an outstanding DVR (it was the runner-up in our DVR roundup, in fact), so if you choose DIRECTV you won’t be too far behind.
DISH Hopper 3 DVR compared to DIRECTV Genie DVR
|DISH Hopper 3||DIRECTV Genie|
|Storage capacity||2 TB||1 TB|
|# of TVs supported||6||8|
|Main receiver included||Yes||Yes|
|DVR service fee||Additional $5 per mo.||Included in Price|
|Additional receivers||Joey ($5 per mo.) | Super Joey ($10 per mo.)||Genie Mini ($7 per mo.)|
|Details||See Hopper||See Genie|
As you can see, both of these DVRs are pretty capable, with high recording capacities, 4K support, and the ability to watch and record on a houseful of TVs at once. Both providers also include the main box in the cost of service, which is nice—a lot of providers charge a fee for the primary receiver, even though it’s basically necessary to use the service. The DVR service fee, which feels like a great way for service providers to nickel-and-dime you, is fairly low for DISH, and DIRECTV’s is included in the monthly price.
There are some notable differences in hardware, though. With 500 HD recording hours, the Hopper 3 can store more than twice the amount of HD content as the Genie—that’s nearly three straight weeks of continuous watching. As for the simultaneous recordings, the Hopper 3 can handle a whopping 16 at once, whereas the Genie is limited to just five.
You may think you’ll never need to record 16 shows at one time, and you’re probably right. That’s the point, though—with the Hopper 3, you basically never have to worry about recording conflicts, whereas with the Genie, there’s a very real possibility that you may run into them. Recording conflicts are something you only think about when they crop up, and they can be very frustrating. Who wants to decide between the big game and the latest episode of This Is Us? Not us.
For a more in-depth comparison of these DVRs, check out our complete review of the Hopper vs. Genie.
Winner: DISH Hopper 3 DVR
This is a clear victory for DISH. The Hopper 3 is just an awesome DVR, no two ways around it. That’s not to say DIRECTV’s Genie is bad, though; it’s still one of the best DVRs on the market. So while DISH takes this round, you can’t really go wrong either way.
DISH and DIRECTV—customer service
DISH takes the lead, but it’s a close race.
Both DIRECTV and DISH rank above average according to the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI).1 But above average in the TV service provider world isn’t that great, to tell the truth.
DISH vs. DIRECTV Customer Service Ratings
|ACSI||67 out of 100||64 out of 100|
Still, you could do worse than DISH’s or DIRECTV’s customer service, since those scores still put both providers in the top five for subscription television services.
DISH is our choice here, but honestly, we’d love to see both services improve their customer service.
DISH vs. DIRECTV—which should you choose?
Talk about a close race. But unless you’re a die-hard sports fan, here’s why you should switch to DISH:
- Pricing: DISH. While DIRECTV’s prices start out cheaper, they’ll go up during the second year of your contract. That means you’ll likely save money overall if you choose DISH.
- Packages and channels: DIRECTV. We think DISH has a good assortment of channels, but it’s missing out on some serious sports content. Plus, DIRECTV is pretty much the only way you can get NFL SUNDAY TICKET.
- DVR: DISH. DISH’s Hopper 3 is the most powerful DVR on the market—and as a result, DISH takes this category by a landslide. DIRECTV’s Genie is still great, though.
- Customer support: DISH. Both services could benefit from improving their customer service, but DISH edges slightly into the lead based on ACSI ratings.
Do you have DISH or DIRECTV? Let us know what you think in the comments below.
Where is DISH service available?
DISH service is available nearly everywhere in the United States—in fact, if you couldn’t get DISH, we’d be surprised. This is because the signal is routed from space. All you need is a receiver rather than complex cable infrastructure that other providers need.
Where is DIRECTV service available?
Same as DISH, DIRECTV should be available basically anywhere in the United States thanks to its satellite technology.
Are satellite signals reliable?
Generally, yes. There is a popular notion that satellite is unreliable, but while weather-related interference is technically possible, you’ll only see issues during particularly heavy precipitation. Both DISH and DIRECTV advertise “99% signal reliability,” and in our experience, that’s about what you can expect. That said, if you happen to live in an area that gets a lot of rain or thunderstorms, you might be better off with a cable provider rather than satellite. We’ve reviewed all the major cable providers as well, so you’re in the right place! Click the TV Service button up top to check them out.
Do I need to worry about weather interference with satellite TV?
See above. Weather interference with satellite services is technically possible, but you’ll only have issues in extremely heavy precipitation. For the most part, your satellite signal will come in loud and clear.