Here’s something we haven’t tried yet. Let’s compare a satellite TV provider with a cable TV provider and see who offers the most value in their service packages. To be fair, because Dish is a satellite TV company and needs to partner with Internet and phone providers to offer bundled packages, we will only be comparing each company’s TV services. TWC does offer triple service packages that combine Phone, Internet and television. And, we recently compared those services with Comcast’s bundled services in a recent article.
As far as subscribers, Dish had about 14-million customers as of March, 2013. The company services all 50 states and its headquarters are located in Meridian, CO. Time Warner Cable reported approximately 15-million subscribers in March, with 12 million paying for television services. Time Warner is the second largest cable company in the US (behind Comcast). The company serves 29 states and is headquartered in Midtown Manhattan, NYC.
In terms of innovation, Dish has some interesting products that really seem sell themselves, namely, the Tailgater portable satellite antenna system and the Hopper with Sling. The Hopper, introduced in 2012, is a DVR that when combined with Sling lets you watch TV and recorded programs online or on Apple iPads via the Dish Anywhere mobile app. The Hopper with Sling even won Best of Show at CES 2013. (Although, if you remember, CNET actually disqualified the Hopper because of ongoing litigations with the sponsor’s parent company, CBS. The award was eventually given back to Dish, and CNET removed from judging the award in the future.)
Dish provides free installation. Time Warner Cable would charge a total of $50 for installation at an address specified in Santa Monica, CA. Time Warner also charges $19.99 for any additional cable box outlets at time of installation (the first outlet is free).
HD Channels Who knows why service providers still force standard-definition programming onto customers who pay for HD services. Anyone who cares about image quality probably skips right over shows in SD, choosing instead from the available HD options. But if we have to compare HD channel options between to the two companies, the winner would be Dish.
Dish says they have the “most HD channels in the industry.” Although, that argument has forever been contested by rival satellite company DirecTV. Dish currently lists 110 HD channels on their website, as well as local HD channels (which vary according to market but at the bare minimum include ABC, FOX, NBC, CBS and PBS).
When doing a search for Time Warner Cable channels in the company’s Albion, WA market we came up 106 HD channels including locals. Dish’s number was at least 115 if you include locals, so they are the winner in this category.
Dish gives you access to over 15,000 On Demand titles. Time Warner Cable says their One Demand library consists of 18,000 TV shows and movies, and 10,000 of them are free.
Winner: Time Warner Cable
Equipment & Special Features
Dish has the Hopper Whole-Home HD DVR that lets you connect up to 4 HD TVs in your home with the addition of 3 Joey receivers. Although, monthly service rates apply and will jack your bill up quite a bit. The 2TB Hopper lets you record up to 500 hours of HD (2,000 hours of SD), record 6 shows during primetime (4 locals and 2 others), watch live and recorded shows anywhere (even away from home) with the Dish Anywhere app, and skip commercials on certain primetime shows.
Time Warner Cable’s Whole House HD DVR box and service gives you up to 75 hours of HD (or 200 hours of SD). But, their Whole House HD-DVR service only lets you watch one live show and record another at the same time. Or, record two shows at once. Their TWC TV product lets you watch live TV on your tablet, PC, or smartphone anywhere with your TWC ID even away from home.
Dish offers an Apple iPad 2 for new customers who order Hopper service. Other current sign-up offers include HBO, Cinemax, SHOWTIME, STARZ and Blockbuster @Home free for 3 months (valued up to $165), Free HD television for life (which Dish values at $10 per month while you have Dish service), and the Dish Protection Plan (priority warranty service free for 4 months). Note: Dish’s iPad offer is only valid for the Hopper system and minimum of America’s Top 120 package. And, the iPad is a 16GB model with WiFi only.
In contrast, Time Warner Cable didn’t really have any special offers to speak of on their website.
Service Contract Periods
All of Dish’s promotions require a 24-month service contract. Time Warner Cable does not require any long-term contract, and there are no penalties if you cancel service. (Maybe that’s why you have to pay an installation fee.) This one is easy to pick a winner. Who likes long-term service contracts?
Winner: Time Warner Cable
Dish’s most economical package called the Welcome Pack is priced at $19.99 per month, and you get 40+ channels. They also have a Smart Pack with 55+ channels currently offered for $19.99 per month for 12 months (normally $29.99 per month). However, neither package gives you HD channels and neither are eligible for the Hopper or iPad 2 offers.
The cheapest TV service you can get from Time Warner is their Basic TV package that gives you over 20 channels (some of them in HD) as well as free local HD channels (geez, their free anyway, so I don’t know why any provider would boast free local HD). With TWC’s Basic TV you can get an HD-DVR or HD Box, or opt not to use a box at all. The Basic TV package costs $19.99 per mo. with a 12-month agreement.
Winner: Time Warner Cable (At least you get HD channels!)
Top Tier Packages
Dish’s America’s Everything Pak gives you over 290 channels with free Hopper Whole-Home HD DVR Upgrade (for new customers) and HBO, Cinemax, SHOWTIME and STARZ. The service costs $89.99 for the first 12 months, and $119.99 per month after (before taxes).
Time Warner Cable’s only offers over 200 channels, TWC TV (for watching live TV on your PC, tablet or smartphone while in home), Look Back (which lets you watch primetime shows up to 72 hours after they have aired), and Start Over (which lets you, uhh, start over a program). The Digital TV service at base costs $49.99, but when you add Whole House HD-DVR and HD Box service for $42.99 per month it brings you up to $92.98 (before taxes).
Dish vs. Time Warner Cable Score Chart
|Installation||Dish||Because TWC charges $50 for installation plus $19.99 per additional cable box outlet. Dish installation is free.|
|HD Channels||Dish||Dish has over 110 in addition to local channels.|
|On Demand selections||Time Warner Cable||Time Warner claims 18,000 titles over Dish’s 15,000.|
|Equipment & Special Features||Dish||Because Dish’s Hopper lets you record up to 500 hours of HD and 6 shows during primetime. TWC’s solution only gives you 75 hours of HD.|
|Special Offers||Dish||Dish has all kinds of special offers for new customers.|
|Contract Period||Time Warner Cable||Time Warner Cable requires a 12 month commitment. Dish’s contracts are 24 months. Who likes long-term contracts?|
|Value Packages||Time Warner Cable||Both Dish and TWC have basic $19.99 TV service. And although Dish offers 40+ channels, TWC’s 20+ channels at least give you some HD options.|
|Top Tier Packages||Dish||Dish’s America’s Everything Pak just gives you more options than TWC’s top tier pack. And, new customers get a free Hopper Whole-Home HD DVR Upgrade|
|Overall Winner||Dish||Dish Wins 5-3|
Jeff Chabot has a background in web development and design, as well as working in broadcast television as a studio engineer, lighting director and editor. He frequently writes about technology, broadcasting, digital entertainment, and the internet.