Premium TV subscribers today have more options than ever before, with a plethora of subscription services on the market to serve them. Two of the biggest, DISH Network and DIRECTV, are in head-to-head competition across most major markets in the United States. But which is better? In this guide, we look at the two giants of satellite TV services from a customer’s point of view. We go over plans and pricing, including fees, streaming options, programming packages and the equipment that comes with each. Finally, we sum it all up to help you decide which provider is the better choice for you, DISH or DIRECTV. So, lets compare DIRECTV vs DISH now.
Which is better, DISH or DIRECTV?
Plan Options and Pricing
Plans and pricing are probably the most important factors for most people who are thinking about signing up for a TV provider. Both DISH and DIRECTV have multiple packages available, with slightly more flexible choices on offer from DIRECTV. In our opinion DISH edges out DIRECTV here though, since its four plan options come with much more transparent pricing, less strict commitments and an innovative “inflation-free TV” offer that locks in introductory rates for the first three years you have the service. In the past, DIRECTV was infamous for its price hike after the 2-year contract period, but not anymore. Now, after the contract period, it just switches to a month-to-month plan, charging whatever the current price is at that time.
DISH offers four plans, all of which require a credit check and two-year commitment. All DISH plans include a Hopper Duo DVR for qualified customers.
|Plan Name||Number of Channels||Base Pricing (Monthly)|
|America’s Top 120||190||$79.99|
|America’s Top 120 Plus||190+||$94.99|
|America’s Top 200||240+||$99.99|
|America’s Top 250||290+||$109.99|
DIRECTV has a few packages that are analogous to what DISH offers, but with a smaller basic package for less money and a larger premium package for quite a bit more. Pricing gets a bit complicated with DIRECTV, since there are some additional fees. There is a $15 a month receiver fee for the Genie and Genie 2 DVRs. On the plus side, DIRECTV does allow both satellite and internet streaming delivery, which DISH noticeably doesn’t do.
|Plan Name||Number of Channels
– Via Satellite –
|Number of Channels
– Via Internet –
|Base Pricing (Monthly)|
Important note about premium networks: With DIRECTV, some premium channels are included in its ULTIMATE package (like STARZ Encore), while all come as a part of the PREMIER package. More details are available below in the Premium Channels section.
What Channels are Available?
Both DISH and DIRECTV offer many of the same basic cable channels across most or all of their packages. Notable exceptions are The CW, which DIRECTV doesn’t carry, and Lifetime Channel, which is available across all DISH packages but not with DIRECTV’s entry-level package. Perhaps to make up for this, DIRECTV carries Spanish-language Univision on all packages, while DISH only offers it as part of the two upgraded options, Top 200 and Top 250.
The Bottom Line: Too close to call.
|Bravo||All packages||All packages|
|The CW||Not available||All packages|
|Disney Channel||All packages||All packages|
|ESPN||All packages||All packages|
|Food Network||All packages||All packages|
|Fox News||All packages||All packages|
|HGTV||All packages||All packages|
|Lifetime Channel||Choice, Ultimate, Premier||All packages|
|MSNBC||All packages||All packages|
|TBS||All packages||All packages|
|Univision||All packages||America’s Top 200 and Top 250|
|USA Network||All packages||All packages|
Basic programming is nice to have, but premium channels have some of the best content on TV right now. Premium channels can be added à la carte to both service providers’ basic packages for an extra monthly fee. As a very general rule, upgrade channels tend to be slightly cheaper when you get them through DISH, though the classic movie channels are generally cheaper through DIRECTV. This trend goes far enough that STARZ ENCORE is actually free through DIRECTV, if you sign up for the regular STARZ channel for $10.99 a month extra. Getting both channels with DISH would cost you $16 a month. DIRECTV’s Premium package includes all of the premium networks. Therefore, no premium channel extra fees are paid if you go for the top package.
The Bottom Line: Close, but movie fans will prefer DIRECTV while the pricing edge goes to DISH.
|STARZ ENCORE||Included with STARZ subscription||$6.00|
For a lot of people, constant access to the latest in sports, sports news and sports analysis is what premium TV is all about. DISH takes first place here, since it has a spectacular sports channel package that includes extras like ACCN, beIN Sports en Español, MotorTrend and Zona Fútbol. Even if those niche offerings aren’t your cup of tea, DISH still has an edge with more mainstream offerings, such as NBC Sports Network and NFL Network, neither of which is available at any service level through DIRECTV.
The Bottom Line: If you’re signing up for sports, you can’t do better than DISH.
|ACC Network (ACCN)||No||Yes|
|beIN Sports en Español||No||Yes|
|Big Ten Network||Yes||Yes|
|CBS Sports Network||Yes||Yes|
|ESPN College Extra||Yes||No|
|FOX Sports (FS1), FS2||Yes||Yes|
|NBC Sports Network||No||Yes|
How Good is the Hardware?
Both DISH and DIRECTV provide some pretty heavy firepower for their equipment packages. Both service providers are working near the top of the field for high-quality, high-performance DVRs and receivers, and both have some impressive performance numbers to brag about. We think a clear winner emerges in DISH, but there’s room for disagreement among people who’ve had good experiences with DIRECTV’s hardware. So, we now go into DIRECTV vs DISH equipment.
The outstanding DISH Hopper is a clear winner for equipment offerings. Recording up to 500 hours of programming across a maximum of 16 channels simultaneously, there really isn’t a challenger on the market right now. Part of the reason for this was DISH Network’s decision to ditch some older technology and invest in the state-of-the-art Hopper system for 2022, which brought the cutting edge in digital recording to the market, while DIRECTV chose to upgrade existing tech into the Genie 2. Here is more information about DISH Equipment.
You’ll pay $10 a month for a Hopper, which even manages to be $5 cheaper than the older and less capable offering from DIRECTV.
For satellite connections, DIRECTV offers two DVR packages, the Genie and Genie 2 systems. Both cost $15 a month to operate, but the Genie 2 comes with a $99 wireless bridge fee for initial installation.
The original Genie can handle up to 200 hours of recorded programming across five channels simultaneously. The upgraded Genie 2 expands on this with up to 450 hours across seven channels, though you’ll notice this still falls short of the DISH Hopper system it’s in competition with.
One place where DIRECTV has an edge over DISH is in the choice you get between satellite service and internet streaming. If you have a solid home internet connection, you can view DIRECTV programming on your desktop, tablet or smart TV. If you live in a rural area, satellite service might work best. DISH really doesn’t have a parallel to this, which can make DIRECTV very attractive for some customers. Here is more about the DIRECTV Equipment. And here is the separate page about DIRECTV Gemini receiver which is used for Via Internet service.
Of course, you still have to have the hardware installed. Here there’s even more to choose from between the two services.
DISH includes the cost of standard professional installation in your initial sign-up fees. The service really tries to make you feel respected here. When your installation is on the way, you can log into your account and see your technician’s headshot, track his approach and review your appointment details in the app. This makes a lot of people feel much better about the wait times and inviting a stranger into their home for a potentially lengthy installation.
DIRECTV also offers to book the day and time for the installation. You get a choice for text alerts that are sent 24-hours before and on the day of your appointment. Tech Tracker allows you to view your tech’s location info. As with DISH, the standard installation is included, that is, free of charge.
The Bottom Line: For the satellite connection, DISH wins this one hands-down. The Hopper is better in every way, including cost. If opting for the internet connection, DIRECTV wins, as DISH has no counterpart here.
A note: Not long ago, we published a comparison about DIRECTV Via Satellite vs Via Internet. There, you can find all the details about the two ways of getting DIRECTV’s service.
Which Is Better, DISH or DIRECTV?
So, which premium TV provider is better, DISH or DIRECTV? To a certain extent, this will always be a judgment call for the individual consumer. In our opinion, DISH comes out ahead in more categories, especially for price transparency, sports programming and equipment use. It’s pretty close in several categories, especially the channels available and premium programming. Not to be left out, DIRECTV clearly does have its upside. It offers more flexible packages at a wider price range, including the add-ons.
The Bottom Line: For most people, we say go with DISH and enjoy the superior service and price structure. If you have specialty needs that only DIRECTV can satisfy, go with them after ensuring which package fits your needs the best.
If this comparison was not enough to help you distinguish between the two satellite TV providers, here is even more detailed DIRECTV vs DISH comparison. There, you’ll find more info about their services, including Spanish TV programming, as well as international.