DISH vs. DIRECTV: Satellite TV Review

With transparent pricing, DISH is best for almost everyone. But if you love college sports, DIRECTV scores big with ESPN College Extra.

Best Price
Dish
Dish
4 out of 5 stars
4
Starts at
$84.99
/mo
Prices
$84.99-$114.99
Channel Count Range
190-290
Best for Sports Fans
Directv
DirecTV
3.5 out of 5 stars
3.5
Starts at
$69.99/mo
Price Range
$69.99-$159.99
Channel Count Range
75-150
Chantel Buchi
Jan 17, 2024
Icon Time To Read7 min read

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When it comes to satellite TV providers, DISH and DIRECTV rule the roost. While other satellite TV providers are available on the market, these two providers stand tall against the rest. Let’s take a closer look at which satellite TV provider is best for your entertainment, sports, and movie needs.

If you're a big movie or TV fan, DIRECTV is a top choice, thanks to its generous bundle of free premium channels. But DISH has the best DVR option with the Hopper and more channels. Before you install a satellite dish on your home, keep reading this review to learn which option might be best for you. 

How do DISH and DIRECTV compare?

ProviderDishDirectv
Price$84.99-$114.99*$59.99-$159.99
Channels190-29075-150
Max DVR hours500 HD hrs.200 HD hrs.
Details
Data as of 04/05/2023. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.
* All offers require credit qualification, 2-year commitment with early termination fee and eAutoPay.
All prices include $5 Autopay & Paperless Bill discount, which may take 1-3 bill cycles to begin (pay $5 more per month until discount begins). New approved residential customers only. 24-mo. agreement required. Offers may be discontinued at any time.

How much are DISH and DIRECTV packages?

DISH blasts past DIRECTV, thanks to transparent pricing and no contract options

At first glance, DIRECTV and DISH might appear neck and neck with pricing. But things quickly change when you compare DISH's three-year price lock to DIRECTV's two-year contract. 

With that in mind, pricing is one of DISH’s biggest advantages. DISH is now offering "inflation-free TV" with their new 3-year TV price lock and free installation. Making DISH TV not only cheaper in the long term, but you also get a little more for your money.

DIRECTV used to have huge price hikes after its two-year contract pricing ended. After your contract is up, your price will revert to DIRECTV's current package rates on a month-to-month contract. Needless to say, we like that way more than package prices doubling after 24 months.

How much does DISH cost?
Plan
Price
TV channel count
Details
America's Top 120$84.99/mo.190
America's Top 120 Plus$99.99/mo.190
America's Top 200$104.99/mo.240+
America's Top 250$114.99/mo.290+
All offers require credit qualification, 2-year commitment with early termination fee and eAutoPay. Prices include Hopper Duo for qualifying customers.

DISH scores major points for having the clearest pricing, but do its packages add up?

We think so. We’ll dive into DISH channel selection in a bit, but we think it’s pretty great that each DIRECTV and DISH package comes with ESPN, the Disney Channel, HGTV, and Food Network. Seriously, that hits all our binge-watching needs—and your family’s too.

How much does DIRECTV cost?
Plan
Price
TV channel count
Details
ENTERTAINMENT $69.99/mo.^75+
CHOICE™ $84.99/mo. for 24 months plus taxes and fees°105+
ULTIMATE $114.99/mo. for 24 months plus taxes and fees°140+
PREMIER™ $159.99/mo. for 24 months plus taxes and fees°150+
^ w/ 24-mo. agmt. AutoPay and Paperless Bill req’d. Advanced Receiver Service Fee $15/mo. is extra and applies.
° w/ 24-mo. agmt. AutoPay and Paperless Bill req’d. Advanced Receiver Service Fee $15/mo. and Regional Sports Fee up to $13.99/mo. are extra & apply.

New approved residential customers, price incl. TV pkg & equip. fees for first TV. Add’l fees may apply to non-qualified customers. Early agmt termination fee applies ($20/mo.) & add’l fee(s) may apply if equip. not returned. Credit card req’d. Restr’s apply. $19.95 activation & equipment lease req’d for satellite customers. Equipment lease req’d for DIRECTV via Internet customers in some sales channels.

If you want more information on the difference between each DIRECTV package, check out our DIRECTV review. But in a nutshell, ENTERTAINMENT gives you your basic favorite channels, CHOICE gets you lots of sports channels, ULTIMATE is perfect for movie watchers, and PREMIER is best for TV and film buffs, providing over 45 premium channels. And international sports fans are in luck with access to Fox Deportes and Fox Soccer Channel.

DIRECTV used to be a football lover’s dream offering a free season of NFL Sunday Ticket. Going forward, since the 2023 NFL season, the new home for NFL Sunday Ticket will be YouTube TV. 

Already have DIRECTV and looking to switch?
Deals

If you're interested in swapping out your DIRECTV service with DISH, these perks could be yours:

  •  $300 prepaid Mastercard
  • 3-year TV price guarantee
  • Eligibility to receive rewards for each eligible DISH subscriber
  • Eligibility to participate in a DISH contest for big prizes

Use offer code DTV2DISH to get the deal here.

Do DISH and DIRECTV have a contract?

DIRECTV requires you to sign a two-year contract with its satellite plans, whereas DISH gives you a no-contract or two-year contract option (the two-year contract option saves you $10–$15 per month.)

With DIRECTV, your bill went up almost double after 24 months. Now that your prices will match DIRECTV's prevailing rates when your contract is up, choosing between providers comes down to the nitty-gritty details. So, if you don’t mind dropping some exceptional sports coverage for a more straightforward monthly bill, we highly recommend DISH.

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How much are the equipment, installation, and early termination fees?

Sadly, almost every service you sign up for comes with additional fees. DISH and DIRECTV are no exception, so make sure you budget for these costs.

How much do DISH's and DIRECTV's fees cost?
ProviderDishDirectv
Activation feeUp to $50$49 one-time activation fee for add'l receivers
First DVR receiver fee$5.00–$10.00/mo.Included
Additional DVR receivers fee$5.00–$10.00/mo. each$7.00/mo.
Regional sports fee$0-$3/mo.Up to $15.99/mo.
Local channels fee (optional)$12.00/mo.NA
Data as of 04/05/2023. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.

We’ll start by explaining DISH’s receiver fees because they can get a little confusing.

When you order one set-top box for your home, you’ll get the Hopper Duo (125 HD hours) with DVR service included without any upfront cost. You can upgrade to the Hopper 3 or a Joey for an extra $5 a month.

It pays to have a big family because when you get the Hopper 3, you’ll get to enjoy 500 or HD storage hours. 

The additional receivers you order for your child’s bedroom and TV room downstairs are called Joeys. Joeys are $5 per month each (except for the $10-a-month Super Joey.) And you can connect up to six Joeys to your Hopper.

DIRECTV so kindly includes the Genie DVR (200 HD storage hours) with your satellite plan, and it’ll cost $7 per month for each additional receiver plus a one-time $49 activation fee.

If you're trying to switch and don't want to spend a ton of extra money, we’ve put together a quick guide on how to avoid all those pesky fees when you’re ready to swap TV providers.

Which channels do DISH and DIRECTV have?

DISH features channels for every interest under the sun, but DIRECTV trumps all when it comes to premium channels

It can be hard to tell DISH and DIRECTV apart because they both have a well-rounded channel selection.

DIRECTV includes the most popular premium channels in all of its packages, but DISH has more total sports channels and better college sports coverage with ACCN, Big Ten, SEC, PAC-12, and ESPNU. 

And both will have your local, lifestyle, and kids channels. So check out DISH’s channel lineup and DIRECTV’s channel lineup to see if one has a more complete channel lineup than the other for you.

Which popular channels do DISH and DIRECTV have?
ChannelDISHDIRECTV
BravoAll packagesAll packages
The CWAll packagesNot available
Disney ChannelAll packagesAll packages
ESPNAll packagesAll packages
Food NetworkAll packagesAll packages
Fox NewsAll packagesAll packages
HGTVAll packagesAll packages
Lifetime ChannelAll packagesCHOICE, ULTIMATE, PREMIER
MSNBCAll packagesAll packages
TBSAll packagesAll packages
UnivisionAmerica’s Top 200 and upAll packages
USA NetworkAll packagesAll packages

Data effective 11/02/2023. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.

Which premium channels do DISH and DIRECTV have?

Both satellite TV services are comparable when it comes to premium channels, but we think DIRECTV's freebies rank a bit higher.

When you order one of  DIRECTV's packages, you'll get free subscriptions to Max, Paramount+ with SHOWTIME®, STARZ, MGM+, and Cinemax for three months. And with the PREMIER package, you get all these channels (minus MGM+) included in your package.

DISH also offers a free 3-month subscription to STARZ, Paramount+ with SHOWTIME®, and DISH Movie Pack (11 movie channels, including Sony Movie Channel and MGM HD).

How much are DISH's and DIRECTV's premium channels?
ChannelDISH priceDIRECTV price
Max®$15.00/mo.$15.99/mo.
CINEMAX®$10.00/mo.$10.99/mo.
Paramount+ with SHOWTIME®$10.00/mo.$10.99/mo.
STARZ®$10.00/mo.$10.99/mo.
STARZ ENCORE$6.00/mo.Included with STARZ subscription
MGM+$7.00/mo.$5.99/mo.
Details

Data effective 11/02/2023. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.

You can also grab add-on packages with extra movie channels from both DISH and DIRECTV. This might save you some cash if you can’t get enough premium channels and movies.

  • DISH Movie Pack: $10/mo. (includes 11 movie channels such as Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, and Movieplex).
  • DIRECTV Movies Extra Pack: $4.99/mo. (includes nine movie channels such as Hallmark Movies & Mysteries and Sony Movie Channel.)

Whichever satellite TV provider you choose, you'll most likely be able to get your favorite premium channel.

Which sports channels do DISH and DIRECTV have?

If you’re anticipating the next season more than an 8-year-old anticipates their birthday, it’s worth making sure you can view your games on DISH or DIRECTV.

Both satellite TV providers offer a pretty beefy sports channel lineup if you’re willing to pay for higher-tier packages—both even offer the NFL RedZone Channel if that’s your jam.

Here’s a quick look at how DISH and DIRECTV compare when it comes to sports.

DISH has the following sports channels:

  • ACC Network (ACCN)
  • beIN Sports
  • beIN Sports en Español
  • Big Ten Network
  • CBS Sports Network
  • ESPN, ESPN2
  • ESPNews
  • ESPNU
  • FOX Sports (FS1), FS2
  • Golf Channel
  • Longhorn Network
  • MLB Network
  • MotorTrend
  • NBA TV
  • NBC Sports Network
  • NFL Network
  • NHL Network
  • Olympic Channel
  • PAC-12 Network
  • SEC Network
  • Sportsman Channel
  • Tennis Channel
  • TUDN
  • TUDNxtra 1–11
  • Zona Fútbol

If you’re looking for the best satellite TV service during the NBA and MLB seasons, DISH is definitely our choice. DISH made our top providers list for the NBA season and the best way to get both NBA LEAGUE PASS and MLB Extra Innings.

DIRECTV has the following sports channels:

  • Big Ten Network
  • CBS Sports Network
  • ESPN, ESPN2
  • ESPN College Extra
  • ESPNews
  • ESPNU
  • FOX Sports (FS1), FS2
  • Golf Channel
  • MLB Network
  • NBA TV
  • NFL Network
  • NHL Network
  • Olympic Channel
  • SEC Network
  • Sportsman Channel
  • Tennis Channel
  • TUDN
  • TVG

Does DISH or DIRECTV have the best DVR and equipment?

If we could choose only one DVR, it’d be the DISH Hopper 3
dish-hopper-3-dvr-and-remote

Image: DISH

With DVRs, we look at HD storage space, the number of simultaneous recordings it can handle, and the price. Unfortunately for DIRECTV, DISH’s Hopper 3 DVR stomps the Genie DVR in the first two categories.

DIRECTV's Genie DVR is "included" with your satellite TV package, but with a $15/month receiver fee, you might as well be renting your device. Similarly, DISH charges $5–$10 per month. Many providers charge a fee for the primary receiver, even though using the service is necessary.

We should also mention DISH comes with a voice remote, and DIRECTV allows you to download an app to use as a voice remote. Watch what you want within seconds with just a few words!

The DISH Hopper 3 DVR and DIRECTV Genie DVR comparison
FeaturesDISH Hopper 3DIRECTV Genie
Storage capacity2 TB1 TB
HD hours500 HD hrs.200 HD hrs.
4K supportYesYes
Simultaneous recordings165
# of TVs supported74
IntegrationsAmazon AlexaAmazon Alexa
Main receiver price$5.00–$10.00/mo.Included
Additional receivers$5.00–$10.00/mo./receiver$7.00/mo./receiver + one-time $49 activation fee
Details

Data effective 1/17/2024. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.

Those are some crazy-good specs. 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—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 might be 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 Blue Bloods?)

The Hopper 3 also automatically skips commercials, which is the icing on top for us. That said, the Genie is still an outstanding DVR, so if you choose DIRECTV, you won’t be too far behind.

Recap: Which is better, DISH or DIRECTV?

We think DISH is the best satellite TV for most, especially if you’re on a budget and want to avoid mid-contract price hikes. But when it comes to premium channel freebies, DIRECTV is hard to beat. 

  • Pricing: DISH, hands down, has the best pricing. While DIRECTV’s and DISH’s pricing looks similar, DIRECTV’s monthly cost returns to its current price after the second year of your contract, and DISH promises a 3-year price lock. That means you’ll save money overall if you choose DISH.
  • Channels: Both DIRECTV and DISH have an excellent assortment of channels, while DISH offers a few more sports channels. 
  • DVR: 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 it has much less storage space than the Hopper 3.

Want to dig into the details? Check out our in-depth DISH and DIRECTV reviews.

Methodology

At Reviews.org, we have 8+ years of experience in testing, researching, and reviewing TV and streaming companies. DISH and DIRECTV have been in the TV game for years, and we understand that these services are for a specific audience. So, we aim to bring that specific audience our honest review of these two satellite TV providers to help you in your decision of which service to order. 

When comparing the two best satellite TV providers, we took the following aspects into consideration:

  • Dollar-to-channel ratio 
  • Contracts and fees
  • Variety of channels
  • DVR storage and quality of equipment
  • Price increases once your contract is over
Chantel Buchi
Written by
Chantel Buchi
Chantel is all about finding the best tv or streaming service to watch as many football games as possible to keep her Fantasy Football team in check. Prior to being a TV and Streaming Tech Reporter for Reviews.org, she worked for NFL Network and The Alliance of American Football. Before that, she received a B.A. of Communication at the University of Utah and an M.S. in Sports Journalism at USC. Go Utes and Fight On. Contact her at chantel@reviews.org

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