Comparing Satellite TV Providers

In 1972, Lou Reed released one of the most essential songs in his canon, “Satellite of Love.” Indeed, you could reasonably argue that it is one of the most essential songs in the overall canon of American music. The song has been covered by U2, Beck, Morrissey, and many others. I’m sure it was also featured on the soundtrack for that indie film from the 90s you loved.

As much of a Lou Reed fan I am, I’m not really 100% what a satellite of love is supposed to be. Is it a satellite that transmits the emotion of love into those who need it? How much is the monthly bill? Do I get love anywhere I go, or are there remote parts of Wyoming–or in other words, Wyoming–where I won’t get it?

Now that Lou Reed is tragically deceased, I suppose we’ll never get answers to these questions. But while the satellite of love may be forever nebulous, we have actual, concrete answers about the satellite of television.

Satellite television is one of the most popular options for television in America. But when it comes to options and satellite TV, there are only two options: Directv and Dish Network.

Sometimes only having two options can be frustrating (see: how most voters felt during the 2016 election). Other times, two options will suffice. It depends on the reliability and effectiveness of those two options.

In the case of Directv and Dish Network, it’s fair to say that the options suffice.

The two satellite providers have dominated the market for years and years, and there’s no reason to expect that will change anytime soon. So the question then becomes: which one is the best?

Thanks Bowie, but we’re good. Keep making that undoubtedly phenomenal music with Lou up in Heaven.

Here are the ways in which Directv and Dish Network compare.


The first thing you want to know when it comes to ordering a television package would of course be the channel options. If you’re a fashionista, it doesn’t matter if provider A has exceptional customer service and every sports channel under the sun; if the package excludes “Project Runway,” then it’s useless. You’ll be on the phone with a customer service, asking them to:

Without the right channels, a television package is meaningless. Thankfully, Directv and Dish Network have *all* the right channels. Or the overwhelming majority of them, anyway.

Of course, Dish and Directv offer multiple packages, each with a different amount of channels. So let’s look at the most comprehensive packages from both providers to measure which one offers more channels. Directv has the Premier Package, which comes with over 315 channels. Dish Network has the Everything Pack, which features over 330 channels. Advantage Dish Network, right?

Maybe not “wrong,” necessarily, but it’s a little bit more complicated. Both the Premier Package and the Everything Pack have an abundance of music channels. And I don’t mean MTV (yeah, as if they have anything to do with music). I mean channels that are basically radio on the TV – not to be confused with the band TV on the Radio. These are channels, usually divided by genre, that only play music; no video content. For some consumers, these channels matter. For others, not so much.

If you fall into the latter category, the aforementioned channel amounts need to be adjusted. When you exclude the music channels, the Directv Premier Package offers 255 channels. The Dish Everything Pack channel amount falls down to 234.

So if you’re a music fan, and you don’t have a Spotify or Pandora account, you’re not really a music fan, but Dish might be the better option for you. If, however, you are looking for the most amount of channels with regular programming, Directv should be your preferred option.


For a large swath of television consumers, sports are paramount. Television without sports is just a box with some wires inside of it. Indeed, most Americans prefer to watch sports on television than putting up with parking and overpriced beer in person; I’m one of those Americans. And on television, you get to hear commentators like Jeff Van Gundy ogle over Rihanna, while missing one of the biggest plays of the NBA finals. Hey Van Gundy, listen to Rihanna and get to work work work.

As such, most professional sports leagues have specialized television packages. And many of these packages are shared amongst the satellite television providers. MLB Extra Innings, NBA League Pass, and NHL Center Ice are such examples. But not all sports packages are shared.

Dish has a few packages not available through Directv. The Outdoor Package is the most popular one of those. The Outdoor Package combines channels like the Outdoor Channel, Outside Television, the Sportsman Channel, and the World Fishing Network at a low cost.

Of course, Directv also has sports packages exclusive to them. You might have heard of one of the sports they specialize in.

Directv offers NFL Sunday Ticket, probably the most popular sports package in America. After all, football is an unimpeachable cultural touchstone here. You could probably get more Americans to disassociate themselves from water before they would disassociate themselves from football. Sunday Ticket allows fans to watch every out-of-market game, and provides channels like the Fantasy Zone Channel and the Red Zone Channel.

So if like most Americans you are glued to your television on Sundays, Directv is what you’re looking for.

Customer Service

As good as both Directv and Dish Network are, nothing in this world is perfect. No television provider is perfect. No business of any kind is perfect. Not even Emma Stone is perfect (close call in her case).

Things go wrong, and when things go wrong, you want to be able to talk to someone who can effectively manage/solve your problem.

Both Directv and Dish prioritize customer service; they rank above just about every cable provider in this category.

Customer service is tough to judge holistically. Complaints/issues vary from person-to-person. There are, however, surveys and awards that can help point the way.

In 2016, Dish scored two points better on customer satisfaction than the national average for television providers in an ACSI survey. They also won the JD Power and Associates Award for the north central region.

That’s all commendable, and Dish should be proud. Directv, however, has an even better record. They scored three points above the national average. That represents only a one point difference between the two satellite providers, sure, but one point can be meaningful. Just ask the Cleveland Indians.

Take that, team I’m indifferent towards!

Directv won the JD Power awards for the all of the remaining regions as well. For 16 years running, they’ve claimed the highest customer satisfaction rating among television providers. That’s an extraordinary run.


The fact of the matter is that when picking a satellite TV provider, you will be making a good choice either way. Both Dish and Directv hold certain advantages over the other, but there’s no huge difference between the two. So to paraphrase the aforementioned Lou Reed, get the satellite of television you love.