June 14, 2017

DirecTV vs Dish: Which Service is Better for 2017?

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DirecTV and DISH are the two biggest satellite TV providers. See how they compare in terms of price, programming, and equipment.

Thinking of making the switch from cable to satellite?

DirecTV and DISH are your two options. But which one is better for you?

Both have their advantages and downsides. DISH doesn't have the NFL Sunday Ticket, but it does have the Hopper that instantly skips commercials. DirecTV has the most sports programming; however, the price goes up significantly in the second year.

In this review, we do an in-depth comparison of both providers. You'll see why we think DISH has the overall edge, except in certain situations.

At a Glance

Before we get into the meat of the comparisons, here is a quick showdown between the two providers:

  • Best channels: DirecTV wins this battle. It offers nearly every channel you could want. It has exclusive rights to the NFL Sunday Ticket, as well as similar packages for the NBA, NHL, and Major League Baseball. It also has more on-demand movies and TV shows.

  • Best DVR: The winner goes to DISH's Hopper 3. Its hard drive capacity is way more than DirectTV's unit. It can record up to 16 shows at the same time and can hold 500 hours of HD recordings (2,000 SD hours). DirecTV's Genie can only do 5 recordings at once and store 200 HD hours (1,000 SD hours). And plus - the Hopper is the only DVR on the market that automatically skips commercials.

  • Best Pricing: Again, this round goes to DISH. DISH and DirecTV both require a 2-year contract. But DISH has a 2-year guarantee, which locks you into the rate for a whole 24 months. But DirecTV's intro pricing is only for the first year, and you'll be in for a sticker shock the second year.

Note: Pricing information as of May 2017 based on published website. Pricing and packages may change at any time.

Overview of DirecTV and DISH Packages

DirecTV offers 7 different packages. The prices reflect the first year and second year costs. The options are:

  • Direct Now ($35/month): This is DirecTV's streaming only package. You get 60+ channels.

  • Select ($50/$90): You get over 150+ popular channels. This includes all local channels, Disney Channel HD, Disney Junior HD, Discovery Family, TBS HD, Lifetime HD, Animal Planet HD, Comedy Central HD, and Food Network HD. This is good for those who don't watch sports.

  • Entertainment ($55/$101): You get over 155+ channels. It adds some sports channels, including ESPN, Fox Sports 1, and NBC Sports Network.

  • Choice ($60/$115): You get over 185 channels. The added channels include: ESPNews HD, Sports Mix HD, NFL Network HD, Travel Channel HD, and Nicktoons.

  • Xtra ($70/$124): You get over 230 channels. Additional channels include: Fox Sports 2, CBS Sports Network HD, NHL Network HD, FX Movie, Oxygen HD, and MTV Classic.

  • Ultimate ($75/$134): You get over 245 channels. This is basically everything except the premium movie channels.

  • Premier ($125/$187): This is the granddaddy of TV packages, with over 325+ channels. You get HBO, Showtime, Starz, and Cinemax, as well as ESPN Classic, Comcast Sports Network, and Fox Sports Sun HD.

Dish offers 4 different packages. The options are:

  • America's Top 120 ($49.99/mo): You get 190 channels, including USA, CMT, Disney Channel, ESPN, E!, and Local Channels (CBS, ABC, NBC, FOX, and CW).

  • America's Top 120 Plus ($59.99): You get over 190 channels, including NFL Network and Regional Sports.

  • America's Top 200 ($69.99): You get over 240 channels. At this level, you get more of the premium channels, including NFL Network, Fox Sports 1, NBC Sports Network, and Discovery Family.

  • America's Top 250 ($79.99): This is the ultimate package, with over 290 channels. Some of the additional channels you get include STARZ Encore, The Movie Channel, Nat Geo Wild, and FXM.

With any of the America's Top packages, you get HBO free for an entire year. You get Showtime, Cinemax, and Starz free for 3 months. If you want to add them to your package, they are $10 each. So this makes it $110/month for all the America's Top 250 channels plus the premium movie channels.

Why Both DirecTV and DISH Are Good Choices

Both DirecTV and DISH offer features that make watching TV more fun and hassle-free.

  • Watch on the go: Both have mobile apps that allow you to live stream or watch pre-downloaded shows from anywhere. You can also use the app to schedule DVR recordings remotely. For both, this feature is free without additional costs.

  • Hundreds of HD channels: It used to be that DirecTV was king when it came to HD channels. But now, DISH has majorly stepped it up with over 200 HD channels. So for both, you will be able to watch almost all your favorite channels in high definition.

  • Free premium channels for 3 months: Both give you free HBO, Showtime, Cinemax, and Starz for 3 months. Actually, DISH's offer is a little bit better, because you get free HBO for a full year with any of the America's Top packages.

  • Multiple TVs per home: Both let you hook up multiple TVs, so they're both great if you have large families or multiple housemates. DirecTV supports up to 8 TVs, while DISH is 7. For both, you can simultaneously watch on 4 TVs at once. However, DirecTV includes equipment for up to 4 TVs, and DISH has extra costs after the first TV.

  • Large on-demand library: Both have an on-demand library that allows you to watch TV shows or movies whenever you like (as long as there's an internet connection). DirecTV has a larger library with over 10,000 titles. But even with DISH's smaller library, you'll find something to watch, including movies even before they hit Redbox.

Now, let's jump into the differences.

Why You May Prefer DirecTV

DirecTV definitely has the upper hand when it comes to sports programming. Here are some reasons why you may prefer DirecTV:

  • NFL Sunday Ticket: DirecTV has exclusive rights to the NFL Sunday Ticket. With this, you wouldn't have to miss any NFL games. This is a no brainer - if NFL is your life, then you would definitely want to go with DirecTV. It does cost extra for the package.

  • Better channels at lower prices: Depending on what you like to watch, you may like DirecTV's selection more at the lower price tiers. For example, you get Discovery Family and Animal Planet at the lowest Select Tier ($50/month). But for DISH, you'd need to get the America's Top 200 ($69.99/month) to get those channels. So think about which channels are your must-haves and see which provider offers them at a better price.

  • Better for families with multiple TVs: The package cost includes the main Genie and 3 Genie Minis. So you can hook up 4 TVs for no extra cost. The installation is free for 4 TVs as well. Additional Genie Minis will cost $7 each and an installation fee. On the other hand, DISH only provides the main Hopper for free. We'll talk more about it below.

  • AT&T Bundle: Since AT&T acquired DirecTV, you can also bundle AT&T internet and phone services with your TV package. This could save you some hassle by just getting one bill for everything. The bundle options are:

    • DirecTV + Internet ($80/month): Get the DirecTV Select package along with unlimited 50Mbps internet. Includes the monthly DVR fee and 3 additional receivers.
    • DirecTV + Internet + Home Phone ($89.99/month): Get the DirecTV Select package, unlimited 50Mbps internet, and digital home phone. Includes the monthly DVR fee and 3 additional receivers.
    • Save $25/month with DirecTV and Unlimited AT&T Plus: You get unlimited data usage, but the speed may start slowing after 22GB. In addition, you get HBO for life.

Why You May Prefer DISH

For the non die-hard sports fans, DISH wins in terms of price, flexibility, and technology. Here is why you may prefer DISH:

  • 2-year price guarantee. If price is your biggest concern, you can't beat DISH's 2-year price guarantee. This could come out to a lot of savings over the course of 2 years depending on your needs. DirecTV only has a 1-year introductory price, after which there is a significant price hike.

  • The Hopper. The Hopper 3 is the most advanced DVR on the market. It instantly skips commercials on primetime recorded shows. DISH is the only provider that offers this no-forwarding feature. That alone might be worth it to some.

    Note: Not everyone is eligible to receive the new Hopper 3 (or upgrade to it if you're an existing customer). The Hopper 3 offer depends on credit qualification.

  • More recording power. The Hopper far surpasses DirecTV's Genie in terms of show recording capacity. It can record up to 16 different shows at once, compared to the Genie's 5. It also has an impressive hard drive capacity that can store 2,000 hours of programming (or 500 hours in HD), as compared to the Genie's capacity of 1,000 standard hours (or 200 HD hours).

Both Do Have Downsides

Neither of the two providers are perfect. Both have disadvantages that may be the final deal breaker for you.

Downsides of DirecTV:

  • Expensive after the first year. This is the biggest downside. The first year introductory price is great and on par with DISH. However, the price goes up significantly in the second year, as much as 90%! For example, DirecTV's Choice Pack (185+ channels) is $60/month for the first year, and then jumps to $115/month after that. Quite a huge difference.

  • Hidden regional sports fee. It's not very much, but DirecTV does charge a regional sports fee for certain ZIP codes. You don't get a choice in this (whether you watch sports or not). So if you don't watch any sports, you'd be paying a few extra bucks per month for something you don't even enjoy. DISH, on the other hand, doesn't charge a regional sports fee.

Downsides of DISH:

  • Added equipment cost. With DISH, you only get the Hopper included, which has the ability for 16 tuners. If you have more than one TV you'd like to record and watch from, each additional receiver (called a Joey) will cost $7.

  • Monthly DVR cost: Dish also charges $15 per month for the DVR service fee. But there is usually a $5 automatically applied Hopper discount, which bring it down to $10/month. On the other hand, DirecTV has no DVR fee and includes 3 additional receivers at no extra cost.

So How Do the Prices Really Compare?

Now that you understand the costs and extras a little more, let's see how the two really compare over the course of a 2-year contract. Prices from published websites are as of May 2017.

For this, we'll be going with the scenario of 4 TVs and the mid-tier package for each: DISH's America's Top 200 (240+ channels) and DirecTV's Xtra (230+ channels). Prices are per month.

DISH - America's Top 200DIRECTV - Xtra
2nd year costs$69.99$124
Installation costs$0 (free up to 6 rooms)$0 (free up to 4 rooms)
Receivers$21 (3 Joeys x $7 each)$0 (package includes monthly equipment fees for up to 4 TVs)
DVR service fee$10 (after a $5 automatically applied monthly discount)$0
Regional sports fee$0$5 (varies where you live, but just say $5 as an estimate)
Cost per month 1st year$100.99$75
Cost per month 2nd year$100.99$129
Total for 2 years$2,423.76$2,448

This example shows that over 2 years, the costs are similar for 4 TVs in a household (just $25 difference). However, if you have less than 4 TVs, DISH will come out a lot cheaper. And if you only need the DVR for one TV, the monthly price drops down to only $79.99 (package price + DVR service fee). But the cost for DirecTV will remain the same whether you only have 1 TV or 4.

DISH undisputedly has better pricing for 3 or fewer TVs. But if you have 4 TVs, you may want to do some price comparisons for the packages you're interested in.

For more than 4 TVs, DISH will have the edge again. The extra receiver costs are the same, but DISH gives you free installation for up to 6 rooms, while you'd have to pay for over 4 rooms with DirecTV.

Tip: Remember that not everyone is eligible for the new Hopper 3 from DISH. The Hopper 2 only has the capacity for 3 tuners. So if you have 4 TVs in the family, you'd have to get 2 Joeys at $7/month, and also add a Super Joey receiver at $10/month, which adds 2 more tuners.

Bottom Line

DirecTV wins hands down as the better sports provider, with its exclusive NFL Sunday Ticket. Even if you don't get it, DirecTV has great sports programming, such as regional games and matches that aren't available from other providers. For the die-hard sports fans, it'll be a no brainer to go with DirecTV.

In terms of everything else though, DISH has the edge as far as we're concerned. The Hopper outshines the Genie in terms of recording capacity and technology. Just be careful, though, if you have multiple TVs you want watch and record from - each additional one will add more to the monthly fee.

In conclusion: DirecTV is better for super sports fanatics and families where everyone has his own TV. DISH is better for casual TV watchers and smaller families.

Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are those of the author's alone. Please support CreditDonkey on our mission to help you make savvy financial decisions. Our free online service is made possible through financial relationships with some of the products and services mentioned on this site. We may receive compensation if you shop through links in our content.

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