SATELLITE TV

How to Select the Best Provider
DISH vs. DIRECTV - Compare all the Pros and Cons

As you probably know, satellite TV is only available from 2 providers, DISH Network and DIRECTV. Because the science and programming associated with satellite service is still fairly new and complex, it's not always easy choosing between the two.

That's where we can help. By the time you're finished reading this page, you'll be a bona fide satellite TV expert! All it takes is a few minutes of your time; once done, you'll completely understand the most important, decision-making features of both DISH Network and DIRECTV  (for an even quicker comparison, jump to our side-by-side chart).

Summary of the Current Specials

Satellite TV providers are constantly competing to win your business... with plenty of freebies and bonuses. Here are the deals currently available to new subscribers:

• Free NFL Sunday Ticket
• Free Genie DVR upgrade
• Free Movie Channels (3 mths)
• Prices start at $29.99/month
• Lock-in prices for 2 Years
• Free Professional Installation
[ learn more ]
 
• HD FREE for 24 Months (new)
• Free Hopper® upgrade^
• Free Movie Channels (3 mths)
• Prices start at $19.99/month*
• Free Blockbuster @Home™ (3 mths)
• Free Professional Installation
[ learn more ]
At a Glance: DISH vs DIRECTV Programming

We go into more detail in the table below, but from our experience and the feedback our visitors have sent over the years, here's where each provider sets itself apart...
Without a doubt, DISH excels most in price, highlighted by the lowest-priced plan in the industry -- Smart Pack at $19.99/mo*. Another popular feature is their International Programming, which includes over 29 languages as well as the relatively rare South Asian packages.
When it comes to sports programming, DIRECTV has no rival. They have the exclusive rights to the NFL Sunday Ticket™ and a handful of other leagues/sports. And thanks to licensing deals with leading movie studios, DIRECTV subscribers get first dibs on a ton of popular TV shows and movies.
DISH vs. DIRECTV Equipment - It's a Tech Battle

Without reliable and responsive receivers, it's nearly impossible to enjoy even the best programming (ever had your receiver re-boot itself or flicker out of control?) Not fun. Satellite TV boasts the most technologically-advanced HDTV and DVRs around. Here's a quick overview of their key features:

High-Definition (HDTV) Quality
Hands down, HDTV is the best way of watching television. With an advanced resolution profile, it broadcasts MUCH more detail/quality than regular digital or analog television (of course, an HDTV-capable receiver and TV is required). The total number of HD channels you can watch is always evolving - currently, DIRECTV carries a total of 195 full-time HD channels while DISH offers 200.
Whole-Home Digital Video Recorders (DVRs)
There's nothing better than watching TV on your time, and high-tech DVRs let you do just that. From commercial-skipping to intelligent syncing throughout your entire home, it doesn't get much better than the new Genie and Hopper whole-home DVR systems. Read on for more details...
Hopper's main advantages over Genie and other DVRs are its ability to easily skip commercials and superior storage capacity. It can save up to 500 hours of HD and 2,000 hours of SD recordings (vs 200 and 1,000 hrs, respectively, for the Genie). In addition, it's the only DVR system that lets you stream live TV while on the road (Hopper with Sling required).
DIRECTV's Genie leads the pack in overall ease-of-use and wireless connectivity. It may not have Hopper's hard drive but with the Genie Minis, it's incredibly easy to turn any room into a standalone DVR hub (where you can independently playback, record and manage your DVR). If you have a large household, this system lets you connect an industry-leading 8 TVs to your main Genie box.
[ more on Hopper vs Genie ]
DISH vs DIRECTV: Side-by-side Comparison

Over the past three decades, I've tried every TV provider out there -- from local cable to 30-foot dishes. I stick with technology that's both cost-effective and easily integrates into my lifestyle (I tend to travel and upgrade equipment a lot). For my money, you just can't beat satellite TV. It's incredibly feature-rich and, value-wise, priced at least 30% less than cable (across all comparable plans).

For the most part, DISH and DIRECTV offer similar plans, so it really boils down to your specific needs. If it's price, go with DISH. If you're more concerned about sports (especially the NFL), side with DIRECTV. Either way, check out the table below, where we compare each of the key features. At the end of the table, we review the current specials and bonuses, which could wind up being your ultimate tie-breaker.


FEATURE
DISH NETWORK
DIRECTV
PROGRAMMING
Max # Channels 320+ (America's Everything™ plan) 290+ (Premier plan)
Premium Movie Offer Free for 3 months:
HBO®
Showtime®
Cinemax®
STARZ®
Free for 3 months:
HBO®
Showtime®
Cinemax®
(no STARZ)
Local Channels 99% coverage 99% coverage
Sports Plans
(all available in HD)
(no NFL Sunday Ticket)
• MLB Extra Innings
• NBA League Pass
• NHL Center Ice
• ESPN College Football
• ESPN Full Court (college basketball)
• MLS Direct Kick
NFL Sunday Ticket
• MLB Extra Innings
• NBA League Pass
• NHL Center Ice
• ESPN College Football
• ESPN Full Court (college basketball)
• MLS Direct Kick
HDTV Total of 200 HD channels
(100+ are split HD/SD)
Monthly HD fee: FREE for 24 months
Total of 195 HD channels

Monthly HD fee: $10/month
Music SiriusXM: over 70 commercial-free music channels
The most popular include: '70s on 7, Viva, Jam On, Symphony Hall, etc.
• Hopper also has a Pandora-integrated app which lets you easily stream from your Pandora account
XM Radio: over 65 commercial-free music channels
The most popular include: XM Pops, The 80s, The Groove, Radio Disney, etc.
International Programming 29 languages:
(Spanish, Italian, Chinese, African, Arabic, Armenian, French, German, Japanese, Russian, Greek, Korean, South Asian, Polish, Urdu, Farsi, Israeli, Portuguese, Tagalog, etc.)
9 languages:
(Spanish, Brazilian, Korean, Mandarin, Cantonese, Russian, Filipino, Vietnamese and Italian)
ADDITIONAL FEATURES
Whole-home DVR Hopper:
500 hours of HD recordings
2,000 hours of SD (standard definition)
$12/month for DVR service
Genie:
200 hours of HD recordings
1,000 hours of SD
$10/month for DVR service
Extra TVs $5.00/month 2nd & each additional TV $4.99/month 2nd & each additional TV
PRICING & FEES
Popular Packages & Pricing
Smart Pack - $19.99/mo*
(55+ channels)
America's Top 120™ - $29.99/mo*
(190+ channels)
America's Top 200™ - $39.99/mo*
(235+ channels)
America's Everything™ - $89.99/mo*
(320+ channels)
Entertainment - $29.99/mo
(140+ channels)
CHOICE™ - $34.99/mo
(150+ channels)
XTRA - $39.99/mo
(185+ channels)
Premier - $92.99/mo
(290+ channels)
Current Specials
FREE HBO, Cinemax, Showtime & Starz for 3 months
FREE Hopper Upgrade^
Blockbuster @Home service FREE for 3 months
HD FREE for 24 Months
FREE professional installation (up to 6 rooms)
Plans starting at $19.99/month
FREE NFL Sunday Ticket
FREE HBO, Showtime & Cinemax for 3 months
FREE HDTV DVRs (including Genie)
DIRECTV Cinema (hundreds of FREE programs & movies)
FREE professional installation (up to 4 rooms)
Plans starting at $29.99/month
Activation $0 $0
COMPANY PROFILE
# Customers 14+ million subscribers 22+ million subscribers
Customer Service Hours 24/7 support 9am - 1am EST, 7 days/week
Our Overall Performance Score
(as of 9/2/14)
92/100 94/100
*For 12 months. Promotional price requires 24-month commitment. Available for new and qualifying former customers. Restrictions apply.
^Monthly fees apply: Hopper, $12; Joey, $7; Super Joey, $10
More on satellite TV...
The Worldwide Leader

Satellite TV is the preferred form of entertainment in over 35 million homes. Driving that growth is the fact the satellite industry invests more in research and development (better DVRs, program guides, etc) than all the other providers combined. Here's why satellite television is a customer favorite (particularly vs cable):

 
•  Costs about 25% less than cable
•  Exclusive programming (NFL Sunday Ticket, etc)
•  Unparalleled, U.S. based customer service
•  99% local channel availability
 
•  Best picture clarity in the industry
•  Superb On-Screen Program Guides
•  Most technologically-advanced HD DVRs
•  Largest library of international programming
 
Crystal-Clear Reception, without Compromise

With a satellite connection, you get a 100% digital feed of a reliably crisp picture and sound. That clarity doubles every few years and, led by both DISH Network and DIRECTV, their subscribers get first access to the sharpest picture available. The feed is delivered direct to your home, unlike cable which uses on a complex network of local relay stations (every transfer effects quality).

Mobile Access to your DVR Playlist

Both providers offer mobile equipment that you can hook up to your network at home (allowing you to access your DVR wirelessly or on the road) and phone/tablet apps that let you stream the content. Here's a quick look at each:

DIRECTV's GenieGo is a mobile extension of DIRECTV's Genie DVR. Previously called the nomad™, GenieGo is a small device (the size of a paperback), that integrates into DVR network. Once setup, you just need to install the GenieGo app on your computer, iPhone, tablet, etc. Provided you have an internet connection, you can stream any program in your DVR library...from anywhere. While the technology is still fairly new, it's an impressive step-up from the original line - we rate it an 8.5/10.

DISH's mobile solution is coined DISH Anywhere™. Equipment-wise, they rely on a third party solution, the Sling. It's already integrated into the Hopper or can be added separately if you have a ViP 722 or 722k DVR (no other DVRs are compatible). Once connected, install the app and you're off and running. In our opinion, the app could be a bit more intuitive and easy-to-use, but it is quite stable, even under low bandwidth conditions. Overall, the current version checks in at a rating of 7.5/10.




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