Your Complete Guide to Satellite HDTV

Learn more about satellite television and how it works.


dish vs directvSo, now that you have opted to go with a satellite television service. Your next step would be to choose which is the best satellite TV provider i.e. DIRECTV or DISH Network?

Both service providers offer remarkably comparable channel packages, but you will find some serious differences between the two of them. If you’re searching for details about what it is like to be a customer to each of these service, you have come to the perfect place.

We’ve put together this helpful yet comprehensive comparison to provide you with an in-depth summary about each of these services, and how they compete when it comes to TV programming, equipment, and pricing systems.

DIRECTV Packages vs. Dish Network Packages

The content packages DISH and DIRECTV are offering are quite similar, but there are some significant differences which can probably drive your decision in picking one service provider over the other.
To begin with, here are some of the features which are common between both satellite service providers:

  • Both providers offer 300+ channels (exact number varies between packages)
  • 200 high-definition channels offered
  • 3 months of free HBO, STARZ, Cinemax, and Showtime.
  • Access to locally broadcast programming
  • 4K Ultra HD support

Keeping these similarities in mind, you should know that there are incentives to pick one over the other, based on your viewing requirements.

One of the major difference amongst the services is the network options featured in their sports packages — particularly those outside the domain of Disney’s ESPN channel package. The lion’s share of sports packages — including MLB Extra Innings, ESPN GamePlan, NBA League Pass, Fox Soccer Plus, NHL Center Ice, and MLS Direct Kick — are offered on both. Both providers also consist of common pay TV options like Fox Sports and NFL Red Zone, the latter of which provides a commercial-free way to watch scoring plays from every NFL team that plays each Sunday.

With regards to differences, DISH’s special sports packages consist of Outdoor Sports and Racetrack Television Network. DIRECTV, however, has got the dominance on NFL Sunday Ticket, which includes every regular season NFL game, irrespective of your market. That’s quite a big point favoring DIRECTV. It’s worth noticing, however, that each of these plans are supplementary add-ons to your base network package, and might cost you a little bit extra.

Lastly, considering the language options each service offers differs quite a bit. DISH has 29 different languages which range from Spanish and Italian to Tagalog and Urdu. DIRECTV provides just eight options, particularly Spanish, Brazilian, Korean, Chinese, Russian, Filipino, Vietnamese and South Asian.

At the end of the day, DIRECTV’s Support for NFL Sunday Ticket tilts the weighing scales in DIRECTV’s favor, despite the extra cost that is added to your subscription. Unless you have got a specific language requirement that DISH provides, those looking to buy the most content will certainly choose DIRECTV.

Price Comparison Between High Definition Packages

DIRECTV defeats DISH Network in price for High-Definition and in overall HD-network lineup. This once was the opposite back in the day of High-definition but DIRECTV has been working a lot on their HD functionality.

DIRECTV FULL HD charges somewhere between $10-15/month based on the programming plan while DISH network could cost $20 with no local HD channels and $25 with local HD networks.

Both service providers have offers for free HD packages for up to 6 months.

DIRECTV however still has a lower cost for services with HD programming and they do not charge an extra $5/month for local HD channels, like DISH Network which makes DIRECTV more desirable in this case.

Cost of DVRs & Other Equipment

New DIRECTV customers need to pay a rental or upgrade receiver cost right after registering for the service. You will not purchase your receiver. You give it back to DIRECTV after you’re done with their service.

DISH Network has been leasing their DVR equipment but these days they also sell receivers, even though the cost to acquire a receiver is high. But, you will not be paying the monthly leasing expense for every receiver you have.

Since the lease or upgrade, the fee is at the time of choosing service. However, you do not have a monthly leasing fee on DIRECTV.

Users normally purchase the standard receivers for free with both service providers. Standard receivers are digital devices without DVR or HD features.

As far as HD and DVR receivers are concerned, the pricing details are as follows:

Digital Video Recorders or DVR Receivers: DIRECTV has an upgrade fee of $99 but there is usually an instant rebate that covers the cost of the full cost of the receiver – making it free. DISH Network doesn’t charge an upgrade fee but they have a leasing fee of about $6/month or you can buy it for $349. A second DVR upgrade through DISH Network costs about $100.

High Definition (HD) Receivers: DIRECTV has the same deal as the DVR – new subscribers can upgrade for $99 but there is an instant rebate that gives you the HD receiver for free. DISH Network does the same for their HD receiver as their DVR. You pay a monthly leasing fee or you can buy it for $249.

HD-DVR Combo Receivers: DIRECTV has an upgrade fee of $299 but they sometimes have a $100 rebate, which brings the price down to $199. DISH Network has the same deal as their DVR and HD receiver. You can lease the receiver for a small monthly charge or buy it for $499.

Even, in terms of equipment and DVR costs over the long-term, DIRECTV has a much better offer in place because their lease fee is a one-time cost (if any) compared to DISH Network’s monthly fee.

HD Network Selection

DIRECTV says they provide 70 nationwide High Definition channels. DISH Network claims that they offer 38 country wide HD channels. Both say a lot more are on their way.

Both satellite companies strive to provide you with your local HD networks without an OTA antenna but things are getting better. They have many markets available and you’re able to use a tool on their respective website to find out if local channels in your region are available in High-definition. If not, you can however use an antenna that connects to the satellite dish to get your local channels in HD.

DIRECTV Packages once again proves to be a better choice here, as their HD package not only costs less, but they offer almost twice as many channels than Dish Network Packages.

Convenience and Mobility

DIRECTV and DISH Network both use mobile satellite systems which are portable and convenient.

DIRECTV’s model has a 17” LCD monitor, antenna and satellite receiver. It will cost you $999. It has component and composites A/V inputs in case you want to connect a game console or DVD player. It also has a composite A/V output, phone jack, and USB connection. You can use AC or DC power or the unit’s rechargeable 1-hour battery.

DISH Network offers a product called PocketDISH that is much like a video iPod. The PocketDISH Web site does not have much details about this service but you can play pre-recorded programs on a portable console. You would need to download these programs into the PocketDISH. The cost for PocketDISH is $400 and up depending on which of the three versions you choose.

Since Live portable television is preferable than taped TV. DIRECTV wins this round too!

Overall Pricing for both DIRECTV & DISH NETWORK

Pricing for the two satellite service companies is as follows:

Pricing & Deals
Popular Packages & PricingFlex Pack (new) - $29.99/mo for 24 mos (50-115 channels)SELECT - $50/mo for 12 mos (145 channels)
America’s Top 120TM - $34.99/mo for 12 mos*Entertainment - $55/mo for 12 mos (150+ channels)
America’s Top 120+ - $39.99/mo for 12 mos* (190+ channels)CHOICETM $60/mo for 12 mos (175+ channels)
America’s Top 250 - $49.99/mo for 12 mos* (320+ channels)Ultimate - $75/mo for 12 mos (240+ channels)

DIRECTV has a much more competitive entry-level package, while DISH has the advantage in regards to the middle-tier packages. Both top-level packages are almost the same, though each company’s special deals and promotions are likely to increase your buying decision. Below is a summarized rundown of what each service offers overall, but don’t forget that the marketing promotions tend to change occasionally.

4K content4K Content

Free installation for up to seven TVsA free Genie upgrade
Free HD programming for lifeFree DIRECTV On-Demand, which is DIRECTV’s streaming service with hundreds of movies
Hopper upgrade with 24-month contractFree professional installation in up to four rooms
2-year price guarantee with contract1-year price guarantee with contract signing

The major take away here is the differences in price guarantees. Where DISH seems to be a little bit cheaper than DIRECTV. That being said, saving money and compromising on quality won’t do you any good! Switch to DIRECTV today and enjoy a hassle-free entertainment option.


DIRECTV is amongst the largest pay-TV providers in the United States – and with good reason. DIRECTV features a powerful variety of channels and offers numerous pricing tiers to attract various users. Using the Genie DVR/set-top box combination, which presents a significant enhancement over the company’s previous set-top box/DVR technology, DIRECTV competes efficiently against all pay-TV providers.

DIRECTV’s ability to create unique packages (such as pricing breaks for individuals with AT&T cellular service) and its 12-month introductory pricing deals for first time customers is remarkable. If you’ll be able to put up with a few disadvantages, you’ll enjoy DIRECTV’s great customer service, great channel package tiers, and enjoying your favorite NFL team every week, regardless of where you live.