The Ultimate Unbiased Guide to Choosing the Best Satellite TV Provider

Here we’ll put the two most popular satellite TV providers in the U.S. up against each other, and we’ll give you our pick for best overall satellite TV provider, cheapest satellite provider, and best satellite provider for sports programming. The companies, DISH and DIRECTV, are, quite frankly, fairly comparable, so this in-depth analysis will help you decide which provider is right for you.

DISH is a nationwide satellite provider that is also commonly known as Dish Network. DIRECTV, now owned by telecommunication giant AT&T, is also referred to sometimes as DirecTV or just DTV.

Our Pick for Best TV Provider: DISH

DISH has our vote for best satellite TV provider. It’s a more affordable option under almost any circumstances, especially over the course of the required contract. They are ranked higher in 3 out of 4 regions of the JD Power Telecommunications Survey. They offer more channels for less money, plus lots of options for customizing your programming without upping the size of your package. In fact, DISH is our pick overall out of all TV providers.

Options DISH DIRECTV
Cheapest Possible Package $49.99 $50
First Year Price $49.99 $50
Second Year Price $49.99 $90
Cheapest Package Average Price Over Life of Contract $49.99 $70
Premium Sports Options
  • Multi-Sport Package
  • MLB Extra Innings
  • NBA League Pass
  • NHL Center Ice
  • Fox Soccer (+ Rugby)
  • Outdoor Package
  • Willow Cricket
  • Racetrack TV
  • NFL Sunday Ticket
  • NFL Sunday Ticket Max
  • NBA League Pass
  • NHL Center Ice
  • MLS Direct Kick
Internet Bundling Options

 

HughesNet satellite, local affiliates AT&T Broadband, local affiliates
Phone/Cellular Bundling Options None AT&T wireless/home phone and local affiliates
Installation Fees Free up to 6 TVs Free up to 4 TVs
DVR Fees
  • $10 for 1 TV
  • $15 for 2 TVs
  • $20 for 3 TVs
  • $30 for 4 TVs
  • Included in package for up to 4 TVs
  • $7 per TV after 4
Promos
  • HBO free for one year with all packages
  • Free Amazon Echo Dot with all packages
  • Free Multi-Sport package with 120+ package or higher
  • Movie channels free for first 3 months
  • NFL Sunday Ticket generally included free for first season
DVR Capacity Hopper capacity = 2 TB Genie capacity = 1 TB
Remote Control Finder Yes No
Contract Period 2 years 2 years
Rate Locked In 2 years 1 year
Get DISH Get DIRECTV

Is DISH or DIRECTV Better for Cost?

DISH costs less in most circumstances. Almost regardless of which options you choose to add, DISH’s version is always more affordable, especially if you only need programming on a couple TVs. While DISH and DIRECTV’s cheapest packages appear to be very close in cost (literally just a penny’s difference between the two), the fine print shows that DIRECTV will cost you significantly more in the long-run. Even though DIRECTV includes the first 4 TVs in the price, you’ll usually save more with DISH.

Is DISH or DIRECTV Better for Sports?

This depends upon your priorities. Each company has something to offer the dedicated sports viewer.

For hardcore NFL fans, those that simply can’t live with the idea of missing a single game, DIRECTV offers the most comprehensive NFL viewing option with their NFL Sunday Ticket and Sunday Ticket Max packages. You’ll even get the regular version free for the first season if you order at least the Choice package.

Read more sports package analysis

DISH offers more sports channels in their smaller packages than DIRECTV, and they also offer several add-ons for sports besides NFL, including MLB, NHL, NBS, soccer, racing, and outdoor activities.

If NFL games and other programming are your favorite thing to watch on TV, DIRECTV might be your best sports option, but for all-around sports, DISH wins again. They have a lot more options for sports programming without ordering the most expensive package, helping you target your programming towards what you really want to watch. Plus, you’ve still got access to plenty of sports with DISH even if you choose the most frugal option possible.

Why You Can Trust Us

The data in this piece is derived from the DISH and DIRECTV company websites, telephone interviews with representatives at each company, and various highly respected consumer reports. At the time this data was compiled, all the information provided here has been verified through information available from each company and double checked through interviews with customer service representatives.

The aim of this report is to provide you with an objective look at the various features that each provider offers. You can use these facts to determine, based on your individual situation and preferences, which provider is right for you. The author of this report is in no way affiliated with either of these companies.

Table of Contents

DISH Overview

A company that aims to cater to each individual customer, DISH offers a bit more of an ala carte selection. They have more premium movie options, more premium sports options, and they offer the best DVR system on the market today.

They’ve cleaned up their act over the past few years and eliminated a lot of the fees they were charging before, making their billing practices clearer.

Whatever your budget, DISH is the most likely company to provide you with the programming that means the most to you.

DIRECTV Overview

AT&T purchased DIRECTV in 2014 with the intention of sending their TV customers towards satellite rather than U-Verse, their broadband TV service. This allowed them to not only stop spending money upgrading their broadband network, but to also cater to a more rural crowd where extremely speedy fiber internet options will likely take years to reach.

DIRECTV’s aim is to offer comprehensive packages and clear-cut fees. They’ve eliminated HD fees, DVR fees, and many others to provide straight up prices.

They pander to NFL fans when it comes to sports, and they offer their premier NFL package for free with higher-level packages as an incentive to purchase an upgraded channel package.

Why Regions Still Matter

Satellite TV service from DISH or DIRECTV is available pretty much everywhere, which gives it the unique ability to be reviewed by people all over, from small towns to big cities, including the most rural locations in the nation. They’re widely used in every region in the U.S.

Oddly enough, these two services are ranked differently in customer satisfaction and other factors throughout different regions based on several reports from market data agencies. This is likely because package and channel offerings as well as prices can vary some between different areas. Climate and terrain also play a role in reliability with satellite TV service.

JD Power shows that DIRECTV beats out DISH in their East and West regions, but DISH wins out in the North Central and South regions. While the differences are minute enough to ignore if you wish and both providers rank very high compared to other TV service providers, it’s certainly worth considering whether one service might top the other in your particular region.

It’s also important to consider that bundling options will vary by region depending on which wireless, home phone, or internet service providers are available in your area. If a bundle might be a good option for you, be sure you check which providers pair with which satellite company in your area.

Contracts

Contracts for DISH and DIRECTV are pretty similar. Both companies require a credit check before instating service, indicating that the results of the credit check could help qualify you for a better deal. Both companies require new customers to sign a 2-year contract in order to help offset their initial investment in installing the system. This long contract period is unusual among TV service providers, but it’s necessary since satellite systems must be installed at each house, not just hooked up to a network that has already been created as is the case with cable and broadband TV. DIRECTV locks in the initial price for one year. DISH offers a price lock that stretches the length of the 2-year contract.

Both companies charge up to $20 per month for the rest of the contract period in the event that you choose to discontinue service. If you cancel your DISH during the contract period, they charge a maximum of $480 in early termination fees. For DIRECTV, they charge a $15 one-time cancellation fee, then they prorate the early termination fees, but they may also be up to $20.

Best Price: DISH or DIRECTV?

We’ll break down the costs of each provider in few different ways, then bring it back in for a look at all of the costs combined. This is how we’ll determine which provider offers the best price, hopefully in a way that will help you parse out whether one might be better than the other in your specific circumstance.

Package Price Comparison

Each company’s smallest package is about $50, but from that initial similar figure, the differences between their offerings become apparent.

DISH Cost (through contract life) # of Channels
America’s Top 120 $49.99 190
America’s Top 120+ $59.99 190+
America’s Top 200 $69.99 240+
America’s Top 250 $79.99 290+
 –
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Get DISH
DIRECTV Cost (1st contract year) # of Channels
Select $50 150+
Entertainment $55 155+
Choice $60 185+
Xtra $70 230+
Ultimate $75 245+
Premier $125 325+
Get DIRECTV

DIRECTV offers more options than does DISH in their regular package offerings. This means there are more opportunities for you to get all the channels you’d like out of a regular package without spending more than you’d hoped.

However, DISH’s largest package, which has more channels than DIRECTV’s, is only $79.99 compared to DIRECTV’s Premier package, which will run you $125. DIRECTV’s $75 Ultimate package doesn’t even come close to the channel selection offered by DISH’s comparably priced premium America’s Top 250 package.

Average Monthly Cost Per Channel

You probably aren’t going to watch every single channel on any package from either provider, but we’ll break down the price per channel, determining who is giving you more channels for your money.

DISH’s average cost per channel over their 4 ‘regular’ packages is $0.29. The Top 120 package averages $0.26 per channel. Top 120+ averages $0.32. Top 200 averages $0.29. Top 250 averages $0.28 per channel.

DIRECTV’s average cost per channel over their offered packages is $0.33. Their Select package averages $0.33 per channel. Their Entertainment package averages $0.35. Their Choice package averages $0.32. Their Xtra package averages $0.30. Their Ultimate package averages $0.31. Their Premier package averages $0.38.

DISH wins the cost per channel breakdown. It’s important to keep in mind that certain channels will be of more value to some viewers, negating this assessment a bit. Make sure to check the channel lineup comparison to see how these cost-per-channel figures stack up to your unique perceived value of the various packages.

DVR Costs Compared

Depending on the number of TVs you need DVR service for, your DVR costs could drastically vary between these two companies. For starters, only one of these companies has a basic DVR service fee. DISH costs $10 per month for service to their Hopper 3, and DIRECTV actually includes Genie DVR service for up to 4 TVs as a part of its package fees now.

Beyond that initial DVR fee, DISH charges an additional $5 per month for service to each of their Joey receivers and $10 per month to each Super Joey receiver. The Super Joey would only be necessary if you needed service for more than 3 TVs, as the Hopper can operate up to 2 Joeys. You’ll need a Super Joey and therefore will pay an additional $5 per month for a 4th TV. They do sometimes offer promotional DVR costs as low as just $10 per month with larger packages. Be sure to check with a representative to get the lowest DVR fees possible.

DISH Packages Package Cost Package + DVR Fees: 1 TV Package + DVR Fees: 2 TVs Package + DVR Fees: 3 Tvs Package + DVR Fees: 4 TVs
America’s Top 120 $49.99 $59.99 $64.99 $69.99 $79.99
America’s Top 120+ $59.99 $69.99 $74.99 $79.99 $89.99
America’s Top 200 $69.99 $79.99 $84.99 $89.99 $99.99
America’s Top 250 $79.99 $89.99 $94.99 $99.99 $109.99

 

DIRECTV charges $7 per additional TV after the initial 4 TVs worth of service that are included in the original package price. There is also a one-time $49 fee for the installation of each mini-Genie unit installed after the first 4.

Other Fees

Most TV providers charge a regional sports fee, and DIRECTV is no exception. They charge an additional $3.63 per month. DISH, however, does not charge a regional sports fee.

Neither DIRECTV or DISH charge for HD programming anymore, and they’ll tell you all about it. Both companies think pretty highly of their free HD.

There are additional fees for premium programming like HBO and other movie channels, sports packages, and other package upgrades.

Both companies also charge any applicable sales tax for your area.

Other than that, both companies have made great strides in making their billing more transparent, cutting out stand-alone fees and including them in their overall package costs. There’s a distinct possibility that these billing improvements over the past decade or so are at least in part responsible for DISH and DIRECTV’s higher than average customer satisfaction scores, particularly for the telecommunications industry, where billing practices are notoriously shady.

Cost of Service for the Life of the Contract

From here, looking at the additional DVR fees that DISH charges, it would seem that DIRECTV is actually cheaper. That’s absolutely true in many cases, at least for the first year. The kicker in DIRECTV’s seemingly superior value is that it only lasts for half of the contracted service term.

You see, DIRECTV, like DISH, requires new customers sign a 2-year contract. They happily lock in the initial advertised price for 1 year, but then package rates increase substantially. By substantially, we’re talking close to double the initial offered rate.

DIRECTV Packages Cost for 1st Year Cost for 2nd Year Average Cost Per Month Over 2 Years
Select $50 $90 $70
Entertainment $55 $101 $78
Choice $60 $115 $87.50
Xtra $70 $124 $97
Ultimate $75 $134 $104.50
Premier $125 $187 $156

Note that the prices above, both 1st year and 2nd year, are both pulled directly from DIRECTV’s website and confirmed with a customer service representative. Therefore, when you consider DIRECTV, it’s important that you consider the cost over the life of the contract rather than just the initial billed amount. Unless, for some reason, you think that you’ll have no problem paying significantly more for your TV service after a year, that initial amount isn’t the most important number.

You may pay a bit more for DISH initially due to paying for DVR fees on top of the advertised package price, but your rate will stay the same (assuming that the services you’ve ordered stay the same) through the life of your 2-year contract.

Overall Price Winner

With DISH, you get more channels for your money. Even with the DVR fees for the 4 TVs that DIRECTV includes in their package price, DISH’s larger packages offer the best value. For sports fans, their ala carte options mean you can get your sports without the additional fluff of a bigger package.

Package and Channel Lineup Comparison

The number of channels each provider offers in each package is a great jumping off point to decide which offers a better value for you, but the real meat of the difference in packages lies in which channels each provider offers in its comparable packages. 100 extra music channels in the age of Spotify is not what most customers are looking for. See the sections below for further analysis.

Furthermore, it’s even more important where your favorite channels fall in each company’s tiered channel packages. An assessment of the value of the channels offered by each provider, since they’re fairly similar, would really need to be determined by the purchaser.

If you’re shopping for a family, start by making a list of your twenty most-watched channels. Then, check where they fall in each company’s package offerings.

DISH’s packages contain more channels than DIRECTV’s comparably priced packages, but how do they stack up, quality-wise?

DISH Channel Lineup Pros

DISH’s cheapest package contains one thing that DIRECTV’s lacks almost entirely: sports channels. You’ll have to upgrade your DIRECTV package to at least their second-tier package (Entertainment) in order to have access to ESPN and Fox Sports. If sports are an important part of your budget package, DISH is the one for you.

DISH offers an ala carte selection of sports channels that can be added to any package, as well, allowing rabid sports fans access to their favorite programming without purchasing a bigger package. They also offer access to Sirius-XM satellite radio channels with all packages.

DISH Channel Lineup Cons

Several beloved channels, such as DIY Network, STARZ Encore, FX Movies, and NickToons don’t kick in until the highest package. Several kids and family channels don’t come with either of their smaller packages, including Disney XD, Animal Planet, and Teen Nick.

DIRECTV Channel Lineup Pros

You don’t even have to get to DIRECTV’s top tier package to get a hefty lineup of STARZ Encore channels. DIRECTV also offers more family channels in their smaller packages. Their $50 package does contain a broad array of the channels you’d expect to find in a basic package like SYFY, Comedy Central, and Freeform.

DIRECTV Channel Lineup Cons

The Entertainment package, DIRECTV’s second tier package, includes barely more than the basic sports channels that are missing from their cheapest package. There are some other channels that are conspicuously absent from DIRECTV’s smaller packages aside from the sports channels that are entirely missing from the Select package. The Weather Channel, GSN, FXX, and Boomerang are all only available in bigger packages.

Top DISH Package Value

DISH’s top value is their America’s Top 250 package. You get access to a vast array of channels, including many sports, outdoors, and movie channels.

Top DIRECTV Package Value

DIRECTV’s top value is found in their Select package. At that tier, DISH and DIRECTV’s total cost is similar, and so long as the sports channels aren’t a big deal to you (or even if you’d like to bump it up to the Entertainment package and include basic sports), you wind up with a nice basic lineup. Their more prestigious packages will do a number on your budget. However, this may be a better value for you, even over the course of the contract, if you plan to utilize DIRECTV’s included 4 DVR-connected TVs.

Internet and Phone Bundling Options

Both DISH and DIRECTV offer various bundling options for pairing TV services with home or wireless phone service and/or internet service. If your provider of choice is on the list of bundling partners for either of these services, you may be able to get a better deal.

Both companies have a vast array of available bundling providers, but that doesn’t mean that all of them will be available in your zip code. Many bundling options are location specific. Enter your zip code below to determine whether your current service providers qualify for a package deal in your area.

DIRECTV’s Bundles

With their parent company being AT&T, it’s not really a shock that DIRECTV offers several potential bundles with AT&T. You can pair your DIRECTV service with internet, home phone, or wireless service from AT&T (or their partner in your area is AT&T internet isn’t available where you live). Check here to find out what bundles are available in your area.

As an added bonus besides the reduced price of the combined services and single bill, AT&T offers data-free streaming of your DIRECTV content, which includes live programming, on demand, and your DVR recordings. This means watching all the TV on the go you want without burning through your wireless data. U-Verse or DIRECTV customers also have access to AT&T wireless unlimited data plans. U-Verse and AT&T wireless customers also qualify to get their DIRECTV rate locked in for 2 years of the contract rather than just one, making DIRECTV service even more affordable than DISH.

DISH Bundles

DISH partners with HughesNet satellite internet service to provide a $5 a month bill credit on your DISH bill for 24 months. Satellite internet isn’t a great option for most people unless it is their only option, but if you live in an extremely rural area, this might be a deal worth considering.

Other DISH bundles are available in some areas, with up to $10 a month available in discounts. There are even wired internet connections available. Check out your zip code on Dish’s Bundles page to see if you could pair internet service with your DISH satellite TV to receive a discount. Check here to find out what’s available in your area.

Bundle Value Winner

DIRECTV definitely wins the bundle contest. They offer more options for bundling, deeper discounts, and extra perks that are tough to complain about. If AT&T or any of its affiliates are on your radar as a phone or internet provider, their reduced bundle rates are worth a look.

Sports Packages

Here’s a quick run-down of the sports packages available from each provider, a short explanation of what’s included, and how much they cost.

DIRECTV Sports

DIRECTV’s exclusive sports offering is NFL Sunday Ticket, which costs $281.94. It comes free for the first season with the three biggest packages DIRECTV offers. They also offer NBA League Pass for $199.95 per year, NFL Sunday Ticket Max for $377.94 per year, NHL Center Ice for $153.96, and MLS Direct Kick for $59.

DISH Sports

Dish has a pretty comprehensive lineup of sports packages. Their main sports package is their Multi-Sport pack, which contains NFL Network, NFL RedZone, MLB Network, plus numerous regional sports channels. It costs $13 per month, but it’s free right now with America’s Top 120 + or bigger packages. They also offer MLB Extra Innings for about $200 per year, NBA League Pass for $199 per year, NHL Center Ice for $155 per year, Fox Soccer with Rugby for $15 per month, an Outdoor package for $4 per month, Willow Cricket for $14.99 per month, and Racetrack Television Network for $50 per month.

Who Offers the Best Sports Packages?

For the all-around sports fan, you can’t beat the value of DISH’s Multi-Sport pack. It gives you access to a variety of sports programming in most markets across the country for a comparatively small rate. Their mass of other options for upgrading your package to include your favorite sports programming can’t be overlooked, either.

Premium Movie Channels: Options and Prices

Both providers offer a large selection of premium movie channels. Both offer a goodly number of these channels free for a while if you’re unsure which, if any, you think are worth paying extra for. If you love movies and wind up purchasing lots of them, either digitally or on Blu-Ray or DVD, it may be worth the money to add on one or more movie channel packages.

Premium Package DISH Price DIRECTV Price
HBO $15 $17.99
Cinemax $10 $13.99
Showtime $10 $13.99
Starz $10 $13.99
Starz Encore $6 Not Available
Epix $7 Not Available

Movie Channels Included Packages

If you want lots of movie channels, DIRECTV’s Premier all-inclusive package has HBO, Showtime, Starz, and Cinemax included in the programming. DISH’s America’s Top 250 Package includes Starz Encore.

For one year, all DISH packages come with HBO. DIRECTV offers all 4 of the movie channel packages they offer free for the first three months of service with all packages. Both providers will begin charging you for these channels at the end of their proscribed promotional period if you don’t cancel your premium subscription.

Best Satellite Provider for Movie Channels

DISH has more options for premium movie packages, and they also offer lower prices when you’re purchasing these packages individually. You can refer to the table below to see how prices stack up between the two. DIRECTV’s Premier package contains all the major movie channels, but it’s still slightly more expensive than adding all of those premium packages to DISH’s largest package, even when you include DVR fees for 4 TVs.

DISH’s Hopper 3 VS DIRECTV’s Genie

DVR equipment has come a long way in just a few short years. If you’ll think back, you might remember ads lauding the awesome benefits of one TV service’s DVR equipment to record multiple programs at once. That’s child’s play when stacked up against today’s DVRs. Today’s DVRs allow users to record high resolution programming, pause, fast forward, rewind, start programs over, and slow down playback, but with more storage and recording capacity than ever before.

The fact is, while both DISH’s Hopper 3 and DIRECTV’s Genie are capable of far more simultaneous recordings and have more storage space than the average family will likely use, one of them stands out.

The Genie DVR offered by DIRECTV has 1 TB of storage space, which equates to about 200 hours of HD programming or 800 hours of SD programming. You can watch in 4 rooms at a time and record up to five programs simultaneously.

Dish’s Hopper 3 doubles the storage that the Genie offers, with 2 TB of space, which is about 500 hours of HD or 2,000 hours of SD recordings. The Hopper offers the ability to record up to 16 programs at once and watch on 4 TVs at once.

While chances are slim that you’d want to record more than the Genie’s potential 4 programs at once, the Hopper has some additional features that are really neat. For one, the remote has the capability to be operated by voice. You can search for your favorite programs without all that pesky typing with a remote control on an on-screen keyboard. The search function also searches the library from Netflix, a popular video streaming service, for the title you’re seeking.

It also has a remote-finder feature. By pressing the locator button on your receiver, you can make your lost remote light up and make noise. This is a brilliant feature for anyone who has ever not watched TV for a couple days because they couldn’t find the darn remote, which is nearly always located in the depths of the couch.

And the ultimate Hopper 3 feature that makes DISH’s DVR significantly better than DIRECTV’s? You can skip commercials on the Hopper 3, not just fast forward through them. This is just the cherry on top of a really spectacular, user-friendly DVR that has lots of extra features and doesn’t lack for anything. DISH’s Hopper 3 wins best DVR, hands down.

DISH Anywhere VS DIRECTV App

Both DISH and DIRECTV offer ways that you can view programming from your satellite TV package on a computer or mobile device.

DISH’s mobile viewing option, DISH Anywhere, includes access to both live TV, on demand titles, and your DVR library. You can use DISH Anywhere to watch on up to 5 devices at once. It also allows you to transfer titles from your DVR library to the device of your choosing so that you can watch without an active internet connection

DIRECTV’s app allows you to also stream live TV, on demand titles, and programs you’ve recorded on your DVR, with one small perk. On a mobile device powered by the AT&T cellular network, you can stream from the app data-free, preserving your cellular data.

App Ratings

DIRECTV’s app is rated 4.1 in the Google Play store, 4.5 in the Apple store. DISH Anywhere is also rated 4.1 in Google Play, 4.5 in the Apple store. These ratings, over millions of downloads for each app on both Android and iOS platforms, shows that both apps perform similarly. This category is basically a toss-up.

On-Demand Library Comparison

The on-demand libraries for both companies are comparable. Both libraries contain generally the same programming. They both offer a significant selection of popular shows, movies, and other events. However, DISH’s superior search functions may make their on-demand system significantly easier to use.

Mobile Options

There’s one potentially important feature that DISH has that DIRECTV doesn’t offer. DISH offers TV service with a mobile satellite unit for your RV. If you don’t travel in an RV, this probably isn’t a big deal to you, but if you do travel in an RV with any frequency, it’s a really handy feature that just might sway you.

Using DISH’s Tailgater antennae, you can take your DISH HD programming with you whereever you may roam without setting up an additional DISH account. You simply set up the unit and it detects the signal automatically. The local channels correspond with your location, so you can keep up with the news where you’re at. You can even record programming to your hard drive.

Another mobile benefit for DISH’s service is a free subscription to Sirius-XM satellite radio. If this subscription is something that you already have or are interested in, it’s another factor to keep in mind when calculating the value offered by both satellite TV providers.

DISH VS DIRECTV VS Cable and Other TV Service Options

Satellite TV providers like DISH and DIRECTV offer their services to almost everyone in any area. Because a satellite dish can be installed almost anywhere, providing instant access to nearly any television programming you could imagine without the need of a network of cables, more people have ready access.

With coaxial cable and fiber TV options, there are a lot more variables when it comes to signal reliability. Because the service arrives at your home via a network of cables (either underground or in the air), the odds of something going wrong with your TV service may be higher than with satellite. Both DISH and DIRECTV claim 99% signal reliability.

Price Transparency

Cable services are known for raising their rates unexpectedly, short periods of low rates to draw customers in, and then steep price increases when customers are locked into a contract.

DISH and DIRECTV both rank significantly higher in JD Power surveys in pricing and billing than do most other providers. Even with DIRECTV’s increased rates after 1 year, they’re upfront about the additional cost, allowing customers to know exactly what they’re getting themselves into.

Weather-Related Issues

The most common issues with satellite signal are weather related. Sometimes, rain, lightning, snow, ice, or high winds can impact your service. Many satellite TV watchers report maintaining a strong signal through moderate and strong storms, but it varies from customer to customer. You’ll generally still have access to your DVR library when signal is out due to inclement weather so you can stay entertained throughout even the fiercest of storms. However, this means that you probably ought to make sure you have ready access to another source of news if you have satellite TV service. When the weather gets hairy and you need access to your local news more than ever for safety’s sake, there’s a distinct chance that your satellite signal might be compromised.

The good news about weather-related satellite signal loss? It’ll probably pop right back up after the storm so long as your dish is well secured. Even if the dish has shifted or received damage from weather, a technician only needs to fix the issue at your house to restore signal.

The potential for catastrophic failure in cable networks is much higher. If something goes seriously wrong, it could take weeks before your signal is restored. However, many cable TV providers will offer to deduct the days that your service was inoperable from your bill so long as you call and ask them to do so.

This is a good time to point out that both satellite companies lost out to Verizon in the Eastern region due to reliability issues. In that region, it may be worth considering that satellite TV isn’t your best bet.

TV for Rural Areas

In rural areas, satellite TV providers like DISH and DIRECTV are often your only option. Cable companies, either fiber or coaxial, can’t make it pay to stretch their networks out further for just a few additional customers. If you want TV programming beyond what a digital antenna can provide and you are in a rural area, satellite is almost assuredly your best bet.

Cord Cutting

If you already have a great internet connection at home and you’re willing to compromise on some of the programming you’d get from DIRECTV or DISH, cutting the cord could be a more affordable TV option for you. With streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon video, plus new live TV streaming options like Hulu Live, DIRECTV Now, and Sling TV available at relatively lower costs, you might see what kind of package you could put together piecemeal to appease your family.

Customer Satisfaction

In most surveys, such as JD Power’s Residential Television Provider Survey, both DIRECTV and DISH rank higher in customer satisfaction than cable or broadband TV providers for the most part, though those results vary some by region.

But how do these providers stack up against each other in customer satisfaction? That’s a bit of a complicated dance when you take into account differing results from different reputable survey companies, and even in different parts of the country, so we’ll lay out the results as known.

JD Power Residential TV Provider Results

In the West, JD Power rates DIRECTV as the best residential TV service provider overall, with them receiving 5 out of 5 in categories like customer service, cost of service, and overall satisfaction. Billing was the only area where they received less than top marks in the West region. DISH came in third overall.

In the North Central region, DISH won the overall award, only missing the 5 out of 5 mark in the Communication category. DIRECTV took a close second, receiving only 4 out of 5 in the cost of service and customer service categories.

In the East, Verizon actually swooped in and stole the overall award, with DISH coming in second and DIRECTV in third. Customers cited DISH’s lack of performance and reliability, programming, and billing as their biggest issues. DIRECTV’s customers also scored poorly in performance and reliability, and also customer service, billing, and communication.

In the South, DISH took the overall award again, with their only lacking category being programming. DIRECTV came in second due to lower customer service scores.

ACSI Survey Results

In the ACSI Telecommunications Survey for 2017, DIRECTV outscored DISH by 1%. DIRECTV’s customer satisfaction rating came in at 68%, while DISH’s came in at 67%.

BBB Ratings

DIRECTV has the higher BBB rating between these two providers. DIRECTV gets an A+ rating (or 3.71 stars out of 5), DISH just an A- (or 3.27 stars out of 5). However, it’s important to note that DIRECTV has significantly more negative reviews than DISH, a whopping 726 to DISH’s 314. However, it’s worth noting that BBB ratings are better for finding bad companies than comparing the best ones. Among companies with higher ratings, their apparent top marks often have more to do with which company is spending more time and money responding to BBB complaints.

Overall Customer Satisfaction Winner

With DIRECTV winning out in 2 out of 3 of these battles for customer satisfaction ratings, they take the overall customer satisfaction award.

DISH or DIRECTV: Best Satellite TV Provider?

Between DISH and DIRECTV, our pick is DISH. It’s the best for getting maximum programming for a minimum price, and their low-cost add-ons allow customers to get a package that does exactly what they need it to do without unnecessary fluff. Their two-year locked in rate certainly doesn’t hurt their chances of earning the top spot either.

If you’ve got access to Verizon fiber optic cable in the Eastern region, it may be a better choice, or if you need the lowest price possible for your TV service, package offerings aside, you might opt for DIRECTV’s Select package or a combination of cord-cutting services. DIRECTV may be your best bet if you’re looking for a sweet bundle and you’re willing to adopt AT&T’s services across your internet, wireless, and/or home phone.

Knowing exactly what to expect out of DISH’s prices over the course of your contract, top notch customizable programming, plus excellent reliability put it at the top of the list for TV providers in any category.

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Taylor is a homeschooling mother of three kids and a freelance writer with years of experience in market data collection and interpretation. In her non-existent spare time, she likes to write fiction and work on DIY projects.