Time Warner Cable vs DirecTV (comparison)

Last month we pitted Time Warner Cable® against DISH, as well as DirecTV vs DISH. This time let’s see what happens when we compare TWC to satellite TV provider DirecTV. Since DirecTV only offers television service, we’ll just look at how it compares to Time Warner Cable‘s TV service, and not TWC’s multi-service bundles that include phone, internet, and TV. (Although, if you’re interested, read this comparison between Time Warner Cable and Comcast’s XFINITY which includes bundled services.)  Also, make sure to check out our DirecTV channel guide.

Also read our Dish and Directv comparison.

Order New DirecTV service today and get a $100 Visa gift card. Just call (855-245-3516) or click.  Legal Stuff: $100 Gift Card is courtesy of USDIRECT. Visa® prepaid card is given to you as a reward or gift and no money has been paid by you for the card. Visa® prepaid card is issued by Mpell. 

Time Warner Cable reported approximately 12.5 million TV service providers as of the second quarter of 2014, while DirecTV has about 20 million subscribers. Both Time Warner Cable and DirecTV lost television subscribers in the second quarter of 2014, 191,000 and 84,000, respectively. The loss was greater than expected for TWC, and, only the second loss reported in DirecTV’s history. While Q2 is traditionally a slow time for TV service providers, experts attribute some of the decline to cord-cutting and streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu Plus.

Time Warner Cable offers three TV service packages: Starter TV, Standard TV, and Preferred TV. The Starter TV plan provides at least 20 channels, the Standard TV plan 70+ channels, and the Preferred TV plan over 200 channels. Prices for the plans range from $19.99 to $79.99 per month, which are good for 12-months when you sign up. Of course, those are just base plans, and do not include fees for additional equipment, premium channels, taxes, or installation.

DirecTV offers five different tier packages starting at $29.99 per month up to $99.99 per month (a current DirecTV promotion saves you $5 per month for the first 12 months). The five packages available from DirecTV include: Entertainment (140+ channels), Choice (150+ channels), Extra (205+ channels), Ultimate (225+ channels), and Premiere (285+ channels). The base pricing, like TWC, does not include all equipment costs, service fees, or taxes.

One of DirecTV’s most popular products may be the NFL Sunday Ticket. The subscription offers every NFL game on every Sunday throughout the season. DirecTV renewed their license for the Sunday Ticket in 2009, for which they paid $1B per year starting in 2010. However, that contract expires at the end of the 2014/2015 season. As of late, you can find plenty of forecasts about who will pick up the next NFL Sunday Ticket season.

How do TV services from these two companies compare? Let’s get started with the first thing that happens when you choose a new TV provider… installation.

1. Installation

To figure installation costs and channel availability, we used an address in Santa Monica, CA. Time Warner Cable would charge an estimated total of $50 for installation, and also charges $19.99 for any additional cable box outlets at the time of installation (although, the first outlet is free). In contrast, DirecTV does not charge for installation with a two year agreement.

Call a DirecTV to Speak to a Representative Directly: 855-245-3516

GET DIRECTV

Call Time Warner Cable to Speak to a Representative Directly: 855-361-2777

GET TIME WARNER


2. HD Channels

Time Warner Cable provides about 130 HD channels when pulling listings in the Santa Monica, CA market. DirecTV, which has a consistent nationwide lineup with the exception of local HD networks, lists close to 160 HD channel selections to choose from not including local HD options. Although Time Warner‘s HD channel options may be higher or lower depending on market, they do not appear to offer as many as DirecTV in any of their markets.

Call a DirecTV to Speak to a Representative Directly: 855-245-3516

GET DIRECTV

Call Time Warner Cable to Speak to a Representative Directly: 855-361-2777

GET TIME WARNER


3. On Demand

Time Warner Cable claims their On Demand library contains 18,000 movie and TV shows listings, with 10,000 of them available free-of-charge. DirecTV says their On Demand library also consists of over 10,000 titles available at no extra charge. Although DirecTV doesn’t indicate how many pay VOD choices are available, the more important number here is the free On Demand choices.

Call a DirecTV to Speak to a Representative Directly: 855-245-3516

GET DIRECTV

Call Time Warner Cable to Speak to a Representative Directly: 855-361-2777

GET TIME WARNER


4. Equipment & Special Features

Time Warner‘s mid-tier DVR Box and service gives you 30+ hours of programming storage, but only allows you to record and play programming on one TV. Their more competitive Whole House HD DVR box and service gives you up to 75 hours of HD (or 200 hours of SD), and lets you record a show in one room and watch in other rooms with playback boxes. The DVR Box and Whole House HD-DVR service also allows you to watch one live show and record another at the same time. Or, record two shows at once. With the WH-DVR service, the luxury of having access in additional rooms does come at a price. You’ll need to pay $12.95 per month per HD-DVR or $8.00 per month per HD receiver.

To compare, the DIRECTV Plus HD DVR gives you 500GB of storage space, allowing you store approximately the same amount of programming as Time Warner‘s WH-DVR. But the company’s higher end Genie product lets you record 5 shows at once, watch two channels at the same time with Picture-in-Picture, and record approximately 150 hours of HD on its 1TB hard drive. A smaller device called the Genie Mini connects other TV sets in your house to the main Genie box. The additional Advanced Receiver Service from DirecTV will cost you an additional $25 per month.

Call a DirecTV to Speak to a Representative Directly: 855-245-3516

GET DIRECTV

Call Time Warner Cable to Speak to a Representative Directly: 855-361-2777

GET TIME WARNER


5. Watch TV & Movies Everywhere

In terms of watching programming remotely, Time Warner Cable‘s TWC TV product lets you watch select live TV programs on your tablet, PC, or smartphone anywhere with your Time Warner Cable ID even when away from home. This includes 300 live TV channels on your PC or Mac. The TWC app will also allow you to manage your DVR recordings while away from home.

DirecTV’s DIRECTV Everywhere product lets you watch live TV, recorded, and On Demand content on your smartphone or tablet in home. The DIRECTV app for mobile devices offers remote browsing, viewing and DVR scheduling. At home, with a GenieGO connected to your HD DVR you can also transfer shows to your PC, tablet or smartphone and watch them without an internet connection. The only thing you can’t do yet is stream live TV on your PC, although DirecTV says they are working on providing that service.

Call a DirecTV to Speak to a Representative Directly: 855-245-3516

GET DIRECTV

Call Time Warner Cable to Speak to a Representative Directly: 855-361-2777

GET TIME WARNER


6. Special Offers

Time Warner does have some special offers for bundled services. In their top-tier package, you can get HD-DVR Service plus HBO with HBO GO or STARZ, Turbo Speed, Home WiFi, TWC WiFi Hotspots and installation is included along with EPIX right now (Summer 2014)! However, when trying to find special offers for standalone TV service we came up empty handed.

DirecTV offers the 2013 NFL Sunday Ticket to new customers who sign up for the Choice package or higher at no extra cost. How can Time Warner Cable compete with that? The Sunday Ticket is a $299 value, and, any sports fan would be happy to have the subscription. Heck, any sports fan’s neighbor would be happy to have someone with the Sunday Ticket next door. On top of that, DirecTV offers a free Genie HD DVR upgrade for connecting up to four rooms.

Call Time Warner Cable to Speak to a Representative Directly: 855-361-2777

GET TIME WARNER

Call a DirecTV to Speak to a Representative Directly: 855-245-3516

GET DIRECTV


7. Service Contract Periods

Time Warner Cable does not require long-term contracts. Although, it’s worth mentioning the special sign-up promotional rates are good for 12-months. In contrast, DirecTV requires a 24-month service agreement.

Call a DirecTV to Speak to a Representative Directly: 855-245-3516

GET DIRECTV

Call Time Warner Cable to Speak to a Representative Directly: 855-361-2777

GET TIME WARNER


8. Value Packages

Time Warner‘s least expensive television service, Basic TV, gives you over 20 channels (with some in HD and free local channels). TWC’s Basic TV also provides an HD-DVR or HD Box (or you can opt of using a box). The Basic TV package costs $19.99 per month.

DirecTV’s most affordable option is the Entertainment package, which provides over 140 channel options, free HBO, Starz, Showtime, and Cinemax for three months, and a free Genie upgrade (although additional fees for equipment and services apply). However, the service starts at $54.99 per month.

Call a DirecTV to Speak to a Representative Directly: 855-245-3516

GET DIRECTV

Call Time Warner Cable to Speak to a Representative Directly: 855-361-2777

GET TIME WARNER


9. Top Tier Packages

For those of you who need to max-out your viewing options, Time Warner Cable offers over 200 channels in their Digital TV package. The package also includes HBO®/Showtime®, TWC TV® (for watching live TV on your PC, tablet or smartphone while in home), Look Back® (letting you watch primetime shows up to 72 hours after they air), and Start Over® (letting you start over a program from the beginning). The Preferred TV service at base costs $79.99, including Whole House HD-DVR; add one HD Box service for $11.75 per month it brings you up to $91.74 (before taxes).

DirecTV offers quite a bit more in their Premier package. The service gives you over 285 digital channels, HBO, Starz, Showtime, and Cinemax premium channels, view anywhere capabilities (your laptop, tablet, smartphone), over 35 specialty sports channels, and Free Genie HD DVR upgrade (although additional receivers require additional fees). Premiere normally costs $124.99 per month. But, a special sign-up promotion offers the first 12 months at $86.99 per month and the remaining 12 months at $91.99 per month in a 24-month contract.

Call a DirecTV to Speak to a Representative Directly: 855-245-3516

GET DIRECTV

Call Time Warner Cable to Speak to a Representative Directly: 855-361-2777

GET TIME WARNER


10. Conclusion

It’s been a pretty close comparison. But we found Time Warner Cable has little bit more to offer in terms of providing an economical yet robust TV service. Yes, DirecTV’s Genie HD DVR product allows you to record up to 5 channels at once to a 1TB drive, and they still own the license to distribute NFL Sunday Ticket. However, Time Warner Cable has a more economical TV solution: it let’s you watch live TV channels on your PC or Mac and doesn’t require a long-term contract (which is a huge plus for many subscribers who don’t want to be tied down).

Call Time Warner Cable to Speak to a Representative Directly: 855-361-2777

GET TIME WARNER

Call a DirecTV to Speak to a Representative Directly: 855-245-3516

GET DIRECTV

Also why not check out:

Jeff Chabot

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.

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43 Comments

  1. As someone who used to complain about cable and pricing, I now have a new perspective after using Direct TV. The “customer service” and “billing issues” were so bad, that I actually remembered what was nice about cable. You won’t care about the number of HD channels when you are lied to with just about everything and told “its not their fault what their sales people quote,” have added on fees that didn’t exist on your contract, have higher rates that didn’t exist on your contract, and are threatened with $500 fees to leave after being told “30 day money back guarantee to try it out with no penalties.” You have to look over your shoulder every time a bill arrives, wondering what’s net. That is the reality these days of being a customer with AT&T / Direct TV. All you have to do is read one of their flyers with their crazy pricing schemes to see what you are in for, or the thousands and thousands of complaints online about their shady billing practices.

  2. I am soooo frustrated with TWC. Over the last 7 years, our provider has been purchased three times, the latest from TWC to Speculum. The exec’s made their millions, while we, their customers were, once again left with declining service quality, old, outdated, cheap components and an unreliable level of service, and yet my monthly cost continues to escalate. My TWC service has some type of problem EVERY SINGLE DAY. Enough is enough. Direct TV can’t be worse, nothing can. I’m switching. BTW, I don’t work for, nor have I ever for either company…

  3. It’s all well and good that Direct TV offers this and offers that, but a TON of the HD channels in my area are all infomercial channels! You have to scroll forever to see what real programs are on. On TOP of that, my signal goes out with the slightest drizzle. I had TWC before and had latency issues that frustrated me as well, and then I got FiOS, which I LOVED, but now I moved in an area where I can’t get that. I decided to try the Direct TV but I am SO frustrated with it. I called and complained about it and the answer was. “yeah, unfortunately, it does that”. Another frustration is how I have to keep resetting the damned receiver to sync with my WiFi so that I can get the on demand programs. It somehow disconnects all the time. The weather issues, however, is still my biggest concern. Unfortunately, TWC is my only other choice, but I’m still considering switching.

  4. We are billed $167 a month for tv and internet service. Internet service is 15Mbytes (1Mbyte up). We do have a lot of channel, but not showtime HBO etc. DTV is coming around with a 2 year offer for similar channels and a 6 Mbyte internet service (ATT) for around $115 monthly charge. We are working on reducing the $220 installation charge. We are also offered $200 service credit. It looks like DTV service is much cheaper for the similar services (except for the reduction in Internet speed). Price includes sports charge and taxes. IS DTV REALLY THAT MUCH CHEAPER?

  5. Direct TV on demand is not true on demand, took me two days to complete the download of one season of Game of Thrones. That is with 300 mps time warner internet….Never ever again!

    1. I agree! That is really the only reason I am switching from Directv to TWC. The majority of our viewing is via on demand. Trying to watch a movie on demand is brutal.

  6. Obviously with all the money time Warner makes off me, their able to purchase biased websites to scam people into believing they provide a quality service. If anyone knew the amount of problems I’ve experienced and as many times service techs have come to my house, but could only scratch their heads while the other finger was busy scratching their behinds. But time warner still feel they deserve a large monthly fee. Every time I had problems, which was always, they thought 5 dollars off my bill or a free movie or 1 month free of HBO was sufficient while paying more than 200 dollars a month. BEWARE POTENTIAL CABLE CUSTOMERS. my internet service is slow and my ,picture freezes or goes black more than 10 times a day,. Especially annoying during football games! Called service department, they said, Oh I’m sorry, maybe we should turn up your power. Now I’m thinking, what kind of power was I getting for over $200 . Don’t matter cause it didn’t work. Time Warner should be out of business for the service they provide. If they were a bus they would have 2 flat tires and no jack ! Customers always feel stranded. Time Warner sucks!, I’m finally done and will no longer let them steal from me!

  7. Wow. Not biased at all. Great pitch for Time Warner Cable. Seriously though, thank you for the laughs, this is hilarious. I’m going to post this on reddit. lmao

  8. Too bad TWC doesn’t provide as many channels in HD as AT&T or Verizon… Get with it TWC – it’s 2015!!! ALL of the movie packages should be in HD not just the main channels. They are available with the other providers why not with your service? LAME!

  9. Too bad TWC doesn’t provide as many channels in HD as AT&T or Verizon… Get with it TWC – it’s 2015!!! ALL of the movie packages should be in HD not just the main channels. They are available with the other providers why not with your service? LAME!

  10. I am seriously considering leaving TWC to go to DirecTV to save money. I only want TV, I have phone and internet from FiOS. For TWC I need to pay nearly $200 a month and that is for ZERO premium channels, but their HD package, and 3 DVRs for my house. They even charge for the remote controls. It’s crazy. Plus they were down for nearly 2 weeks after Hurricane Sandy when power was back in 2 days and FiOS was never down at all.

    Anyway reading this the section about TV anywhere they give to TWC is wrong. They claim there are 300 channels you can watch anywhere with you TWC ID. THat is WRONG. There is only a handful of channels you can watch while away from your home- and most all of them suck. No History channel or Discovery or anything like that. Basically the only 2 I would consider watching are NY1 and BBC America. The full 300 channels is only available when you are accessing it from your TWC Home Internet account.

    I’ve called TWC twice in recent months trying to figure our a cheaper plan, now they have a whole house DVR- when we worked out the pricing they said it would cost MORE to replace my 3 DVRs with 1 whole house DVR and 2 basic boxes- I was livid.

      1. I am a direct TV Rep as well. You’re essentially getting 200+ HD channels with Direct TV. No duplicates on those.

    1. I have a TWC phone, internet and cable pkg. We no longer use the phone so I called to cancel the phone service and they said I would pay more for just cable and internet than I would if I kept the phone and all 3 services. Makes no sense.

      1. This is pretty common, but yeah, that’s how they set it up. My best guess is that you forgot that the package deal ends and then you see a price hike. I suggest setting the expiration date of your package on your smartphone or computer, that way you cancel without overpaying. Also note, that you can often add a new discount package periodically, but you’ll need to call.

  11. I’m soo happy I’m getting rid of the weather station and getting cable back. If you live where there is no bad weather than its pretty much left to price comparison on which one to choose. My signal would go out anytime it rained, snowed, cloudy, or was too sunny. What a piece of garbage. I paid the cancellation fee and got back cable. After you buy the Gennie and the basic channels that you want(not including HBO or other paid movie channels) the package quickly adds up to around 140 a monthly then add internet and your at 180. The 29.99 deal they advertise is for non HD and crap channels and don’t think you can upgrade easily because regular signal and HD are a whole new device system that needs to be reinstalled(new receivers,dish). I did get the 29.99 and found it sucked sooo bad and I was locked in for 2years I had to upgrade. Just beware.

  12. Had TWC bundle for years at our other house before moving just outside the service area two years ago. We like everything about where we live now being rural except for not having a choice but to go with satellite and it’s signal loss during bad weather. Basic HD DirecTv, no premium channels ($115 with two boxes) and I still pay more than I did with TWC ($105) for TV with HD, phone (free long distance?), and 12 MB (? maybe more ?) internet, plus $7 for an Tivo HD box. Now I have to pay $115 for tv and another $53 for the snail pace 3 MB DSL that comes with local call only phone service unless I want to pay $10 more for long distance, except we really just use our cell phones. If internet was faster I could at least consider streaming. Problem is the current connection sucks so bad that if one of us is using the internet and we try to use a cell phone, that uses an inside extender connected to the internet, then our call usually drops mid conversation.

    I would really prefer TWC.

  13. I know here anytime we bad weather or even cloudy days our DirecTv service goes to crap and will be down for quite a while so long as its cloudy or inclement weather. With Time Warnwr being a Hard-Wired system you do not have to worry about issues like that. So they wiuldd also have the edge up on service dependability and durability. Then you add in the fact alot of Satellite dealers or service providers deal BOTH with Dish and DirecTv, so you will be constantly bugged by them with them trying to sale the OTHER service to you. If you switch several months later they will be back to gwt you to switch back to the kther one. TwC you do not have to worry abiut that. TWC has the edge up in that area as well.

  14. What about the quality of the signal? If the quality on my TV screen is markedly different between the services, that makes all the difference. How can you compare services if this isn’t a MAJOR part of the review?
    I just installed Direct TV yesterday. From what I can tell after one very short evening’s viewing, Direct TV’s HD signal, particularly on the local channels, is inferior. The Genie is great and the controller is much smarter than TWC’s. However, I’m about to call and complain about the quality of the picture I’m getting. We’ll see if ‘m stuck with a 2 year contract.

    1. Translation: I work for TWC but live outside of their footprint, or I actually work for a “contractor”, because only an idiot would not take FREE cable.

    2. We’ve had DTV for 38 yrs.! Love it so very much., country living, in trees, in Ohio, in incliement weather and we’ve very, VERY SELDOM ever lost service and never for long. Now, we’re moving and I’ve been told I must switch to TW, to save $$$, with their pkg. Admittedly, our DSL for internet is nothing to brag about and I will surely enjoy the faster TW internet, but very sad to read about TW’s issues. I also read in news that they are dropping channels many times when conflicting with the cost of some satellite service channels. That’s not good with cust. service; however, it just might be kinda like the Auto industry and TW is currently the frontrunner with $$ issues (like GM would be with union strikes). With so many advising me to go cable here in Ohio country, a phone call last fall resulted in my cost being $7,000 to get it (now it’s already supplied to neighbors in both directions that aren’t 1/3 mi apart, with me in the middle), and a recent request for service resulted in $9,000 charge. I am not interested in paying their entire “plant cost”, when they will benefit for generations to come!. Gr-r-r-r! I LOVE MY DTV, but their internet is very poor, so we have to be satisfied with DSL via Century Link which is still not comparable to TW speed, I’ve heard!

  15. This was a biased or uninformed review. TWC offers free On-demand service that requires no extra equipment or installation. With Direct TV VOD, you must have high speed Internet access and wireless adapter to even access it. Direct TV is clearly the lower when it comes to VOD.

    Secondly, I don’t even like football, so the Sunday ticket is a moot point. Considering that you must call and cancel it before the next season starts or it will automatically recur at it’s regular price on $399.

    I’ve worked for both companies, and I’ll be honest… Direct TV seems like it’s for people who just want to show off, be the big man with all the HD channels, and a football package. I get it, cable is not “edgy” enough. That black wire hanging out of the wall doesn’t say enough about who you are and what you’re about. You need a huge metal dish on your roof, so people can know you overpay for your programming. In some rural areas, it’s the only choice they have.

    Time Warner Cable is for if you just want TV, phone, Internet. Nothing super special, just home entertainment. For those who just want to keep it simple. No big, elaborate, satellite dish needed. Hence, lower costs, lower deposit amounts. Time Warner Cable wants customers, Direct TV doesn’t. Especially with its strict credit check and $200 deposit if you fail. And if you fail, whatever offer they have is NOT available to you. If you want that Sunday ticket free and that HD/DVR… Your credit better check out.

    1. Satellite companies work like cell phone companies did a long time ago before thewanted to be competitive. Shove all the down sides in the fine print and hope no one reads it.
      You make good points about Direct’s wanna be on demand…. its more like on request…..and wait and wait…. especially if you bundled with stone age DSL internet.

    2. Not true I just got dtv n my credit isnt great , I passed the credit check n got my premier package for $1 yes I said $1, without perfect credit

    3. QUOTE FROM “C_Lovick7” — “Direct TV seems like it’s for people who just want to show off, be the big man with all the HD channels, and a football package. I get it, cable is not “edgy” enough. That black wire hanging out of the wall doesn’t say enough about who you are and what you’re about.”

      Possibly the stupidest comment I have ever read on the subject.

  16. I gotta say I like Directv a lot better than Time Warner! The Service at Time Warner is just crap so we switched and LOVE our dish!

  17. As a Time Warner employee, you failed to mention one very important aspect of TV service, and that’s the service part. I’ve worked as a repair tech for many years, and in all that time, I have only ever charged a customer maybe two times for a service call. With the satellite providers there’s a charge just for them to knock on your door. And I know at least in my case I’m good at my job and very knowledgeable. Also, in my experience it seems that cable service is more reliable then satellite.

    1. Twc n service not sure where u service but twc in ohio SUCKS bad they lied to me three times without ever calling me to notify me they wouldn’t arrive as scheduled they just didnt show n this happened three times with twc blamed it on some type of switch over n the phones never work geshhhh

    2. Yup, Direct TV also borders on fraudulent with how they bill people. It frequently takes contacting outside agencies to get cooperation in fixing your bill. These contracts people get roped into frequently aren’t honored either with much higher rates than quoted once that first bill arrives. Then you have to deal with threats of $500 fees to get out of it. While everyone touts the high def channels, they fail to mention the reality of being a customer.

  18. You didn’t mention reception. Every time it rained or snowed we lost DirecTV signal. In the case of snow we had to go out amd hose the snow of the dish to regain siqnal. Cancelled DirecTV and signed with TWC. No problems since!

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