Although streaming TV services have become wildly popular within the past decade, satellite TV and cable TV are still highly viable options for watching your favorite shows and movies in the comfort of your home. With its availability in rural areas, satellite TV is still one of the top options for people who can't access other services as easily. DISH and DIRECTV remain two of the best satellite TV options across the nation.

DISH vs DIRECTV

  • Overview
  • Channels
  • Pricing & Packages
  • Service Bundling
  • Add-ons
  • Equipment
  • Contracts
  • Special Discounts

The right satellite TV provider may provide benefits that cable TV providers don't, like lower DVR fees and access to more channels. Customers in rural areas can also benefit from installing a satellite dish for satellite TV when cable service is unavailable.

When it comes to choosing the best satellite TV service in the United States, DISH Network and DIRECTV are the two main options to consider. They are both longtime runners in the satellite TV service space, each continuously improving their services to cater to customers across the United States from New York to California. 

DISH and DIRECTV offer many similar services, features, and options. Still, each satellite provider comes with its own set of perks and packages.

What’s the Best Satellite TV Provider?

When it comes to home connectivity, there’s a lot to consider. You want to give your household the equipment and services it needs for productivity, entertainment, and convenience. From determining the best internet providers to deciding which home security system offers the best protection for your money, it's crucial to weigh your options to find the best setup for you and your family.

TV service is an important component of a well-thought-out and connected home. Although many people look for the best TV streaming service, others still prefer cable or satellite TV provider services. This is especially true for households that like a wide range of channels and prefer to spend money on one service to get them rather than multiple monthly or annual subscriptions.

Cable providers have more affordable TV plans with fewer service interruptions than satellite TV providers. For these reasons, cable is the more popular option. Still, you shouldn't count out satellite television, especially if you live in a rural area and love the idea of having lots of channels. Satellite TV packages typically include more sports channels and live TV content than cable providers do.

For rural areas, satellite TV is often the only option. Some locations don't have access to cable TV or reliable internet for streaming services, therefore making satellite TV the only option. With satellite TV, you don't need physical cables, so it can be available in almost any geographic area by installing a satellite dish. 

DISH vs DIRECTV

DISH TV and DIRECTV are two of the best satellite TV providers in the country. Both include DVR options to record your favorite shows, and they offer hundreds of channels for you to always find something you love on TV. 

However, there are a few key differences between the two satellite companies that prospective customers should know before committing to a service, which we'll dig into below.

Overview

DISH and DIRECTV are two powerhouses in the satellite TV industry. Both companies have similar customer satisfaction ratings and are worthy satellite company contenders to consider. Here are the basics of each company you should know.

DISH Overview

DISH Network might be the company's full name, but you'll often hear it referred to simply as DISH. The company is one of the largest satellite providers in the country, and it even boasts an extensive wireless network covering over 20% of the U.S. population.

Founded in 1980, DISH did not make its move across the country until 1995, when the Echo I Satellite spread satellite TV nationwide. Since then, DISH has kept up with modern technology and TV-watching trends, releasing its own DVR system in 2001, wireless TV in 2013, and Google Voice integration in 2018.

DISH has also won multiple awards, proving its commitment to customer satisfaction, including ranking number one by J.D. Power in 2021 for customer service, cost, and performance and reliability.

To keep up with the popularity of streaming television, DISH created DISH Anywhere, a service allowing DISH customers to stream content on their devices.

DIRECTV Overview

DIRECTV began its venture into the satellite dish TV industry in 1994, right around the time that DISH became a nationwide satellite provider. 

DIRECTV is probably best known for the NFL Sunday Ticket, its proprietary offering that lets football fans across the United States tune into any NFL game they want, regardless of whether it is viewable in their geographic market. 

Since then, DIRECTV has been responsible for some of the most exciting innovative technologies, like in-flight television, high-definition local channels for satellite TV, and 4K UHD content.

More recently, DIRECTV has also branched into streaming services with DIRECTV Stream, an offering that sets itself apart from DISH's DISH Anywhere by being a standalone streaming product.

Channels

DIRECTV offers more than 340 channels, while DISH includes a comparable 290+ channels. Both lineups are relatively similar, offering many of the same local and live TV channels for customers nationwide. With either service, you can watch everything from CNN and ABC to the Disney Channel and Comedy Central.

Both companies include the option of premium paid channels, such as Epix, MLB Extra Innings, and Showtime, so you can get all the sports and movie content you'd like with your plan.

The primary difference between DIRECTV and DISH's channels is DIRECTV's proprietary NFL Sunday Ticket. DISH doesn't quite offer the same for NFL fans, although you can opt in to add the Multi-Sport Pack for $13/month, NFL RedZone touchdown highlights, plus additional sports like MBA, NHL, and college basketball.

However, NFL Sunday Ticket from DIRECTV lets you watch full NFL Sunday games. Adding the package to your plan also gives you in-game stats you wouldn't see otherwise, plus streaming via the NFL Sunday Ticket app for mobile devices wherever you have Wi-Fi internet service. DIRECTV also offers more sports in 4k resolution.

For the 2022 season, NFL Sunday Ticket is included in DIRECTV Choice or above packages for free, but you'll need to commit to a 24-month agreement to get the deal.

Pricing & Packages

Like top cable companies, satellite TV providers typically give customers several package options to find the right plan. Satellite TV packages may include different channels, DVR recording features, and on-demand options.

Let's start with DISH's offerings. DISH has four primary TV packages designed for different types of TV watchers:

  • All-Time Favorites and Locals for $69.99/month: The entry-level DISH package has 190 channels, primarily focusing on must-have local channels and some of the most popular entertainment channels, like ESPN and E!
  • Everything Sports for $84.99/month: This package includes everything from the premier package, plus some extra channels like Fox Sports 2, NFL Network, and PAC-12 Network. 
  • Everything Sports and Entertainment for $94.99/month: This package adds about 50 more channels and increases the 28,000 in-demand titles to 35,000. Additional channels include BBC America, CBS Sports Network, and Game Show Network.
  • Everything Sports, Entertainment, and Movies for $104.99/month: The top-tier DISH package offers 290+ channels and more than 36,000 on-demand titles. GAC Family, FOX Movie Channel, and Epix Drive-In are a few channels you can only get with this package. 

DIRECTV also has four main packages:

  • Entertainment for $64.99/month: The base plan gives 165+ live TV channels and 45,000 on-demand titles. Customers also get must-have sports networks, like ESPN and ESPN2. 
  • Choice for $69.99/month: This package includes over 200 channels and 50,000 on-demand movies and shows. Nick Jr., Up TV, and CNBC World are a few additions in Choice.
  • Ultimate for $89.99/month: Ultimate is a good option for movie lovers, as it adds Starz Encore channels to the mix, boosts live channels to 270+, and adds another 10,000 on-demand titles.
  • Premier for $139.99/month: Premier includes all of DIRECTV's premium channels, like Showtime and HBO Max. Subscribers also get 70,000 on-demand titles and more than 340 live TV channels.

DIRECTV only offers its introductory pricing for the first year, with second-year pricing nearly double the first on each plan. Meanwhile, DISH subscribers are locked into their introductory pricing for two years with DISH's two-year price guarantee, making it potentially the cheapest satellite TV provider of the two in terms of long-term pricing. 

Service Bundling

Satellite TV package pricing is just one element to consider when determining affordability. If you also plan to sign onto satellite internet, you might also want to know what the best satellite TV option is for bundled services. 

When bundling services like TV and internet, you can typically shave off some of the costs you'd pay to separate providers. Cable TV providers are better known for their incredible savings when bundling cable TV and internet, especially for the promotional period, but it's possible to do the same with the right satellite TV provider.

Currently, DISH does not offer its own internet service. Instead, it partners with trusted internet service providers to conveniently bring satellite internet to its customers. 

Because it doesn't provide internet services directly, DISH does not have packages that bundle internet with TV. However, some of its partnered internet services, like Frontier and TDS, include bundling promotions for customers to include both their internet services and DISH's satellite TV services at a discounted price. You'll need to get in touch with DISH or a partnered internet service provider near you to determine potential bundles for your area.

DIRECTV does include bundling with its partner, AT&T. Customers can choose between DIRECTV's satellite TV or streaming services, with bundle prices varying depending on the type of television. However, packages typically start at $129.99/month. 

With this bundle, you'll benefit from AT&T's lightning-fast fiber internet with speeds up to five gigs and 99% reliable uptime. The bundle also includes locked-in 12-month pricing, so you can guarantee not to see any price hikes during that time. 

Add-ons

While DISH and DIRECTV include hundreds of channels and benefits in their basic packages, they both also offer optional add-ons. Add-ons can be a great way to include extra channels and features in your package without paying for stuff you may not use.

One of DISH's most popular add-ons is the Multi-Sport add-on featuring top sports channels for baseball, basketball, football, and other sports superfans. This add-on includes professional and college sports on channels like Big10 Network, PAC-12 Networks, and NBA TV. 

DISH also offers a Latino Bonus Pack with 30+ Spanish channels, an international package with live TV channels from all over the world, and family-focused add-ons with family entertainment like the Hallmark Channel and Discovery Family. Movie packages, adult entertainment, and pay-per-view add-ons are also available from DISH.

As for DIRECTV, NFL Sunday Ticket has been its number one add-on for years. However, the satellite TV provider sometimes includes it with specific packages as part of a promotional bundle. This is how it set up its packages for 2022, for example. With the add-on included, you'll pay just one monthly price to get access to in and out-of-market NFL games plus the usual channels and features for the subscription you chose.

When this bundle isn't available, customers pay per-season pricing for access to NFL Sunday Ticket, which typically ranges between $290-$400, depending on your chosen plan. 

DIRECTV also offers add-ons for movie fans with premium movie channels like Showtime, Starz, Epix, and HBO Max for on-demand viewing. These premium channels cannot be bundled, so you'll need to pay for them separately. Costs range from $5.99-$14.99/month. 

With some satellite TV packages, you can get three months of these channels for free to test them out before you commit. If they aren't for you, you can cancel them before your three-month trial to avoid charges.

Other add-ons DIRECTV lists are its Spanish entertainment add-on and international channel add-on. 

Equipment

DISH – Hopper 3

Satellite TV providers offer equipment to improve your entertainment experience. DISH's Hopper 3 is the company's top-tier DVR system that lets you record up to 16 channels simultaneously. Two terabytes of storage space leave plenty of room to record your favorite shows and movies and store them until you have time to watch them. Customers can also watch up to four channels at a time on one device with multi-view.

DISH – Joey

Rather than add a Hopper 3 to each room you watch TV in, you can add one of DISH's Joeys. Joeys act like a smaller version of Hopper 3, taking up less space but allowing you the same capabilities as the Hopper 3 to record and watch stored programming.

The drawback of Hopper 3 is that it costs $10/month to include in your package in addition to your regular DISH pricing. Each Joey or Wireless Joey will cost another $5/month, so the costs can add up quickly.

DIRECTV – Genie HD

DIRECTV includes its Genie HD DVR with your package, so there's no extra cost associated with using the equipment. However, Genie HD DVR doesn't offer all the same benefits as the Hopper 3. For starters, you can only record up to five shows at once rather than the 16 that DISH allows. Also, storage space is lower with Genie HD DVR, giving about 200 hours of recordings compared with Hopper 3's nearly 500 hours. 

Genie HD DVR lets you stream two channels on one screen from connected devices, not four like Hopper 3. You'll also need to pay for each Genie Mini – comparable to DISH's Joeys – if you'd like DVR capabilities on other TVs in your home. They cost $7/month in addition to your regular subscription costs. 

Both companies have their ups and downs regarding the equipment you'll need for DVR. Most importantly, consider how your costs will add up, depending on where you'd like to use your DVR system. 

Contracts

DISH and DIRECTV both require contracts to continue your services. All DISH contracts are for two years, and DISH locks in the price during that entire period. This means that, throughout your contract, you will not experience any price increases for your plan or equipment services.

DIRECTV offers contracts in 12-month or 24-month terms. However, only existing customers can request a 12-month commitment. New customers must start with a 24-month contract. After the first year, the price increases significantly. Depending on your plan, the price increase can almost double your first-year costs. However, the equipment pricing stays the same: free DVR access with monthly fees for each Genie Mini you include.

Both companies charge a $20/month fee for each month remaining on your contract if you terminate it early. So, for a contract with six months left, you'll owe $120 to cancel it early. 

Special Discounts

When you have to shell out money for TV service each month, it only makes sense that you'd want to save some cash if you're eligible for special discounts. Consumers can typically find teacher, first responder, military, and other types of discounts at retailers, restaurants, and more, so why not do the same with your satellite company and service?

DISH includes lots of ways for people to save. Here's a look at its special packages and discounts:

  • Military members offer: Active-duty servicemembers and veterans can receive the Stars & Stripes package for free, a free upgrade to a Hopper DVR, and free monthly movie rentals.
  • 55+ offer: Customers aged 55 and older can sign up for this package, which includes free in-home tech support visits, free monthly movie rentals, and free identity protection for six months.
  • First responders offer: First responders get a free Stars & Stripes pack, free monthly movie rentals, and a Hopper upgrade at no extra cost.
  • Healthcare worker offer: As a healthcare worker, you're eligible for a free Heartland Pack with family-friendly channels, plus one free movie rental each month.

DIRECTV does not currently offer discounts for special groups. When discounts are available, they are usually reserved for customers bundling AT&T and DIRECTV services. 

DISH vs DIRECTV: Which Is the Best Satellite TV?

There's no right or wrong answer when choosing between DISH and DIRECTV. Both offer some of the best satellite TV services you can buy, which is why they're top contenders in the satellite TV industry. 

However, there are a few points to consider when deciding which satellite TV provider is best for you. Pricing is a priority for many households, so it's wise to consider this first, especially in terms of what you get for your money. DIRECTV has lower introductory pricing, but you'll also see a significant price increase during your second year. Meanwhile, DISH holds your pricing for two years, allowing you to budget more long-term.

DISH offers slightly fewer channels in its packages for comparable pricing, but that may not be an issue for you if you don't watch much TV. Plus, the most popular channels that you're likeliest to watch are included in both. 

Where DIRECTV shines is with its sports offerings. You'll have access to more 4K sports content and can stay up-to-date with everything that's happening in the NFL with NFL Sunday Ticket – which is included in all packages for new DIRECTV customers for 2022.  

Finally, consider DVR equipment if that's something you decide to use. DISH's Hopper 3 is available for $10/month with another $5/month for each Joey you use for additional TVs. DIRECTV's Genie HD DVR comes with any package, but you'll still need to pay monthly for extra receivers. Plus, it doesn't come with as much storage as Hopper 3, and you can only record up to five shows at the same time, while the Hopper 3 can record 16 shows simultaneously. 

Overall, we believe DISH is the best value for satellite TV. However, DIRECTV has more channels and more 4k sports content, so it may be the best choice – especially if you’re an NFL fan.