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DecisionData Team
October 12, 2021

We put the two most popular satellite TV providers in the U.S. against each other to give you our picks for best overall satellite TV provider, cheapest satellite provider and best satellite provider for sports programming. The companies, DISH and DIRECTV, are 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 telecommunications giant AT&T, is also referred to as DTV.

DISH vs. DIRECTV Comparison

DISH2 years Check Availability
DIRECTV2 years Check Availability

DISH vs. DIRECTV: Company Overview


A company that aims to cater to each individual customer, DISH offers a bit more of an à la 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 eliminated a lot of the fees they previously charged, 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.


AT&T purchased DIRECTV in 2014 with the intention of sending their TV customers to satellite rather than their broadband TV service. This allowed them to 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 and DVR fees to provide straight-up pricing.


They appeal to NFL fans with their free offer of the premier NFL package, NFL SUNDAY TICKET with higher-level packages as an incentive to purchase an upgraded channel package.

DISH vs. DIRECTV: Contracts

Contracts for DISH and DIRECTV are pretty similar. Both companies require a credit check before starting 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 two-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 an existing cable or broadband network.

DIRECTV locks in the initial price for one year. DISH offers a price lock for their entire two-year contract.

Both companies charge up to $20/mo. for the rest of the contract period if you discontinue service. If you cancel your DISH service 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.



We’ll break down the costs of each provider in a few ways, then bring it back in for a look at all of the combined costs to determine the best price for you.

Package Price Comparison

With both providers, there are opportunities within their packages to get all the channels you’d like without spending more than you want.


For example, DIRECTV’s Ultimate package doesn’t even come close to the numerous channel selection offered by DISH’s America’s Top 250 package. It truly comes down to which channels you prefer.

DVR Costs Compared

Depending on the number of TVs you need DVR service for, your DVR costs could drastically vary between the two companies. Only one of these companies has a basic DVR service fee. DISH costs $10/mo. for service to their Hopper 3, while DIRECTV actually includes Genie DVR service for up to four TVs as a part of its package fees.


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


DIRECTV charges $7 per additional TV after the initial four 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 four.

Other Fees

Most TV providers charge a regional sports fee, and DIRECTV is no exception. DISH, however, does not charge a regional sports fee.


Neither DIRECTV or DISH currently charge for HD programming. 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.

Price Winner

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 is the 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 four TVs in the price, you'll usually save more with DISH.

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

DISH vs. DIRECTV: Packages and Channels

DISH Top 120190
DISH Top 120 Plus190+
DISH Top 200240+
DISH Top 250290+

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. A hundred extra music channels in the age of Spotify is not what most customers are looking for. See the sections below for further analysis.

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.



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 a selection of individual 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.


Several popular 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.



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 cheapest 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's Entertainment package includes barely more than the basic sports channels. The Weather Channel, GSN, FXX and Boomerang are all only available in bigger packages.

DISH vs. DIRECTV: 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 at your address.

DISH Bundles

DISH partners with HughesNet satellite internet service to provide a 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 a rural area, this might be a deal worth considering.


Other DISH bundles are available, with wired internet connections available in some areas.

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).


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. DIRECTV customers also have access to AT&T wireless unlimited data plans. AT&T wireless customers also qualify to get their DIRECTV rate locked in for two years of the contract rather than just one, making DIRECTV service even more affordable than DISH.

bundle 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.

DISH vs. DIRECTV: Customer Satisfaction



In the American Customer Satisfaction Index, DISH’s came in at 65.



The ACSI gave DIRECTV a rating of 64.

Customer Satisfaction Winner

DISH vs. 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.

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.

Overall Winner