Ready to switch from cable to a satellite dish? DirecTV and Dish Network each have benefits and drawbacks. DirecTV is known for better customer service, but Dish Network is actually the provider with live 24/7 assistance. Dish has the Hopper, which lets you skip commercials in Primetime, but DirecTV has some basic HD channels Dish is missing (like ABC Family HD). Below are some other important things to consider as you compare DirecTV and Dish Network:
DirecTV offers five different packages: Entertainment (140 channels), Choice (105 channels), Xtra (205 channels), Ultimate (225 channels), and Premier (285 channels). The Premier package also includes HBO, Showtime, Starz and Cinemax. In all packages, local channels are included. With 185 HD channels, DirecTV boasts the most HD offerings. For example, DirecTV offers Disney Channel HD and ABC Family HD, while Dish does not.
Meanwhile, Dish Network offers four packages: America’s Top 120, America’s Top 120 Plus, America’s Top 200 and America’s Top 250. Dish’s top package (Premier) does not include premiere channels like HBO and Showtime, but you can get them free for the first 3 months. If you don’t get the Premier package, DirecTV also offers discounts on premium channels at the beginning – and you can also get discounts on additional premium channels once you add one.
With all packages, DirecTV also gives you access to thousands of On Demand shows and movies as part of your package – and though it’s taken the company a while to get technologically savvy, you can now watch a selection of shows anywhere on your laptop, tablet or cell phone. Dish’s answer to this is the Dish Anywhere program; Dish also offers three free months of Blockbuster Home, which is an alternative to Netflix.
If you’re a big sports fan, DirecTV is probably the best choice. No matter where you live, DirecTV offers every out-of-market NFL game every Sunday with the popular NFL Sunday Ticket. You can also watch college football and basketball and purchase add-ons like NBA League Pass, Fox Soccer Plus and MLB Extra Innings.
Winner: DirecTV, which offers more options and isn’t missing any basic channels.
DirecTV’s packages range from $54.99/month to $124.99/month, while Dish’s packages range from $49.99/month to $74.99/month (with teaser rates of $24.99/month – $39.99/month).
Premium programming is comparably priced. Dish charges $18/month for HBO and $13/month for Showtime; DirecTV charges just a penny less for each: $17.99/month for HBO and $12.99 for Showtime. Both Dish and DirecTV offer 3 months of free premium channels for new customers. Both companies also require 24-month contracts for the best pricing.
Winner: Dish, which has the cheapest options and cheapest teaser rates.
3. Equipment, Special Features and On-Demand
Dish Network and DirecTV both offer a variety of DVR and non-DVR receivers Dish Network also offers the Hopper, which lets you record up to 6 shows at once during primetime and instantly skip commercials in recorded PrimeTime Anytime shows. Hopper is free for 12 months with a 24-month contract (DVR/receiver fees apply separately). Even more exciting: the new Hopper with Sling lets you watch recorded programs on your mobile devices. Major broadcast networks have taken Dish Network to court over the Hopper, but lost their first round of legal battles.
DirecTV doesn’t have a commercial-hopping device, but has recently introduced The Genie, which gives you full HD DVR service in every room with just one HD DVR. The Genie also predicts your viewing habits and records shows you’re bound to enjoy. You can also buy Nomad for $150 and use it with Genie to sync shows for internet-free viewing.
DirecTV charges an additional $10/month for HD service; Dish charges the same, but waives the fee with HD Free for Life for the life of the account if you enroll in AutoPay with Paperless Billing.
Winner: Dish – Dish’s Hopper With Sling offers more features than DirecTV’s Genie.
Most DirecTV equipment offers include standard professional installation from a highly trained installer who will install your dish, get everything connected and show you how to use your service. Some installations may require additional custom work that is not included.
Similarly, Dish Network offers free installation for satellite service. You can also purchase custom installation of TVs (such as wall mounting), home theaters and wireless networks.
Winner: Tie – both companies have similar installation procedures.
5. Customer Service
You can call or email DirecTV 24/7 for assistance. If a technician needs to come to your property to fix something, this can often be scheduled for the following day. DirecTV also offers a device Protection Plan for $5.99/month and Protection Plan Premier for $19.99/month.
Dish Network also offers 24/7 support -via phone, email, chat or Twitter. Dish claims to be the only entertainment provider with 24/7 live customer service, but DirecTV does offer 24/7 technical support (it’s their customer care center that’s only open 8:00 AM to 1 AM ET daily). Also, you can use DirecTV’s automated phone system and website 24/7 to order movies and events, make payments, change programming and find troubleshooting help.
Winner: Tie – both companies offer standard customer support procedures. DirecTV has a better reputation for customer service, but Dish seems to be making an effort with its 24/7 live customer service.
|Packages||DirecTV||More options and isn’t missing any channels.|
|Price||Dish||Cheapest options and teaer rate.|
|Equipment||Dish||Nothing beats the Hopper.|
|Installation||Tie||Comparable install services.|
|Customer Service||Tie||Dish has 24/7 customer service, but DirecTV is said to be better.|
|Overall Winner||Dish||4 vs 3 points|
While Dish may not offer a full line up of basic channels, it is the cheapest when it comes to selection packages, and there is no overlooking The Hopper, a tempting feature exclusive to Dish. To make the best choice, check the channel lineups for your favorite channels (especially if HD is a must for you); many of DirecTV’s hundreds of channels might be superfluous to you, anyway. You should also calculate what your bill will be after promotions expire, and remember that you can always try to negotiate better deals on fees, premium channels, etc., by calling customer service.
Updated for 2015: VISIT DIRECTV for $19.99 Switch and Save Event.
Amanda has been writing for several entertainment, tech, shopping and business websites since 2009. A resident of Los Angeles, she also works as a screenwriter, script reader and tutor. She's obsessed with film and TV, and is not afraid to admit that her Samsung Galaxy SIII is her most prized possession.