Comcast vs. DIRECTV: Which is Better for TV Service?Check Availability
April 16, 2020
DecisionData.org presents information collected independently from official provider websites. We regularly update the site in an effort to keep this information up-to-date and accurate at all times. The offers that appear on this site are from companies from which DecisionData.org receives compensation.
We’ve researched which TV provider is better: Comcast's Xfinity or DIRECTV. To help you choose the best TV service provider for your family, we’ll zoom in on various aspects of each company’s offerings, including sports packages, cost, and their reputations. Since these two providers offer two different types of TV service, with DIRECTV offering satellite service and Xfinity offering cable service, we’ll also address the pros and cons between these types of services. There are a lot of different factors that you’ll want to consider when choosing a new TV provider or making a switch, so we’ll do our best to help you see the DIRECTV vs Xfinity issue from all angles.
DIRECTV is available just about anywhere, Xfinity and Comcast Business services are only available to about 35% of US residents. You can enter your zip code below to see if Comcast is available in your area or browse TV and Internet providers by zip code.
A Source to be Trusted
All the information found in this piece was compiled with no bias towards or against either of these companies by a person unaffiliated with either company. The facts were gathered from both company websites and were independently confirmed through quotes collected from published information and customer service representatives of the companies themselves. We’ve also included results of highly trusted national telecommunications surveys in our findings to help you form an objective opinion of each company. The goal of this article is to provide you with all the information you might need to decide whether DIRECTV or Xfinity is the right choice in your individual situation. We’ve tried to take into account as many variables as possible to help you make an informed decision.
Our Pick: Is Comcast's Xfinity or DIRECTV Better?
Objectively, after the research we conducted, we’ve got to go with DIRECTV. Their customers are, overall, happier with their prices, services, and customer service experience. DIRECTV outranks Xfinity in every region and every category in the JD Power’s telecommunications survey; plus, their service is available to significantly more people. While your rate will increase with DIRECTV after the first year, they do tell you ahead of time how much your bill will go up in advance. Comcast’s billing practices leave a lot to be desired.
|Xfinity||$34.95||1 year||Get Xfinity|
Xfinity vs. DIRECTV: Company Overview
After re-branding in 2010, media giant Comcast began referring to their TV, phone, and internet services as Xfinity. While Comcast insisted this was to allay confusion about their various service offerings as their company grew, rumors stated that it was a move to get those services out from under their parent company’s bad reputation in customer service (which is really quite common for cable TV providers, on the whole). Their big deal is bundles, and in fact, it literally pays in many markets to utilize more than one of their services. Sometimes, you have to get Xfinity internet to get their TV service, but they do have plain-Jane cable services available in many areas, as well. They also offer phone service under the name Xfinity Voice, and they offer home security services in some markets.
DIRECTV, founded in 1990, is a satellite TV service provider that is a subsidiary of telecommunications giant AT&T. Purchasing DIRECTV in 2014 allowed AT&T to offer all their customers, including very rural patrons, a great TV experience while they cut back investment in the development of their U-Verse cable TV service network. Their goal is to provide well-rounded TV packages to the masses with a clear-cut, no added fees payment model. They focus in on the NFL sports market, offering their NFL Season Ticket free to new customers who order a large enough package.
Xfinity vs. DIRECTV: Availability
Satellite TV service, like DIRECTV offers, isn’t restricted by your location in most cases. There are few instances where the terrain or other factors may inhibit a signal from getting through to the satellite dish, but in most cases, the technician is able to manipulate it so that you can have access to comprehensive TV service, even in the most rural environment. Cable TV services, on the other hand, are somewhat restricted by location. Rural areas may not have access at all, and small towns or even certain parts of urban areas have access only to a few companies. This means that you’ll need to make sure you can even get service with Xfinity in your area before looking at them as a provider. It's also important to know that their product offerings are often limited by location, as well. If you take a look at this map, you’ll notice that Xfinity is only available in select markets. If you live in a rural area, availability seals the deal. A TV service that you can’t get is not the best option for you, obviously. Instead, you’d probably opt for a satellite service like DIRECTV.
Xfinity vs. DIRECTV: Contracts
The way that cable and satellite companies write up their contracts varies quite a bit. Both the big satellite TV providers, Dish and DIRECTV, require you to sign a two-year contract in order to have the service installed. This longer-than-cable contract length helps satellite providers offset the initial installation investment, since they must install a new satellite dish for each new house that picks up their service. For the first year of that contract with DIRECTV, your rate is locked in at a lower promotional rate. Comcast offers a 12-month contract with a 12-month rate lock-in. That means that over the life of your contract, your rate will not increase. After the 12-month contract/promotional period, your bill will go up to their regular rates, but you can oftentimes call at the end of your promotional period and ask for the best rate available and come away with a lower “regular” price. They also offer the option to pay $10 more for your package each month in order to avoid signing a contract with them at all. This is an awesome option for people who have no desire to be stuck in a service agreement. If you choose to cancel your DIRECTV services before the two-year contract period is up, you will have to pay an early termination fee of $15, plus $20 per month for the remaining life of the contract. Comcast’s early termination policy isn’t nearly so cut and dried. They do indicate that they’ll prorate their early termination fee, but they don’t lay out exactly what they’ll charge you if you decide to opt out before your contract period is up. One good point about Comcast’s contract agreement is that they allow you 30 days to cancel your service after either the agreement is signed, or the system is installed. When exactly your 30-day period starts is a little murky, but it does mean that if you get the service and decide you don’t want it, you have a short grace period to cancel without paying big time cancellation fees, and they’ll even give you back your money for the month of service you weren’t satisfied with and any installation fees you paid. DIRECTV doesn’t offer their customers that opportunity, probably because of the equipment investment.
Xfinity vs. DIRECTV: Cost
It can be tough to determine which company has the better price on their packages because there are a lot of different factors to consider. In this section, we’ll compare packages with comparable channel counts, and put a little spotlight on the packages that each company offers that don’t have a counterpart with the other company. It’s important to keep in mind that DIRECTV’s prices will go up while you’re locked into a contract with them, but that Comcast’s prices are also only good for the first year. We’ll aim to compare both before and after the 12-month mark prices for both. Also, know that if you stick to an automatic payment withdrawn from your checking account, debit card, or credit card, you can save an additional $5 on each month’s DIRECTV bill after the first three billing cycles are withdrawn automatically from your account without incident.
The Economy package offered by Xfinity has no DIRECTV counterpart. If you’re looking for a very basic, very cheap cable package, it might be your pick. The $34.95 rate is the regular rate, too, so you won’t have to worry about an automatic price increase after a year of service.
DIRECTV’s Select package and Xfinity’s Starter package are close in channel count and content, but you’ll find that DIRECTV’s costs you less for the first year and over two years’ time. Even if you bump DIRECTV up to their Entertainment package, which includes a few crucial sports channels that are missing from the Select package, you’re still liable to save money over a two-year period.
DIRECTV’s Choice package stands alone, with no Xfinity package that has a comparable channel count. Kudos to DIRECTV for offering their customers more options so that every DIRECTV customer may find a package that suits their needs more precisely.
The Xtra package from DIRECTV and the Preferred package from Xfinity are fairly similar in channel count and in price for the first year. Take a look at what happens in the second year on these two to find the distinction. DIRECTV’s 2nd year price for this package is $110, while the Xfinity package will only cost you 83.99 after the first year. You’d need to keep in mind that your Xfinity bill would contain several fees that would jack up your monthly rate, though, and depending on your needs, it could still wind up being more expensive.
Xfinity’s top tier Premier package falls somewhere in between DIRECTV’s Ultimate and Premium packages, with far less channels overall but carrying some of the premium channels offered in DIRECTV’s top tier. If you’re looking for premiums on a budget, the Xfinity package might be the right one for you, especially when you consider the second year prices with DIRECTV’s coming in at $173 and Xfinity’s stacking up at $126.99. Even including their notorious fees, Comcast might save you money at the top tier.
Essentially, unless you’re planning on going all-out on your package selection, choosing a DIRECTV package over a comparable Xfinity package will likely save you a little dough, even over the life of the two-year contract. This is particularly the case when you take into account the amassed fees that will be tacked onto an Xfinity bill. However, if you’re going to order the works, Xfinity is worth a second look.
Cost Per Channel Breakdown
Across all comparable packages, DIRECTV’s cost per channel per month is lower than Xfinity’s. Since the channel line-ups are fairly similar, this may indicate that you’d get a better value out of DIRECTV. While the cost per channel isn’t necessarily the absolute indicator of overall value, since which channels are offered is generally more important than how many channels are offered, it’s one way to work out which company is the best value. More important than how many channels your TV package has is how many channels it has that you actually want to watch. The best strategy is to go through the channel line-ups for each package with various providers to find the best line-up for your family, including everything you want to watch and excluding extras that will cost you more money and go essentially unused. If saving money is your top priority, find a package that has a good mix of channels to appease everyone in your household.
|DIRECTV Packages||Cost per Channel|
|Xfinity Packages||Cost per Channel|
DIRECTV offers free installation on up to four TVs when you order services online directly from the company itself. If you’re purchasing your package through another retailer, however, you may find that you’re charged some installation fees by their 3rd party contracted installers. Xfinity has a promotion going now that offers free professional installation when you order some of their packages, but if you didn’t bundle you may not be eligible for those promotions, which could lead to unanticipated install fees. However, if you’re something of a techie and/or DIY whiz, you might consider their free self-installation program, where they send you the equipment you’ll need and offer you guidance to get it hooked up in your home, no miserable appointment needed. The one issue with self-installation is that you have to have ordered a package that also includes internet; so, if you aren’t bundling, that won’t work out for you.
DIRECTV’s business model aims to embrace fee-free billing, with many of their services being included in their overall package prices, but they do squeak in a regional sports fee that will cost you an additional $3.63 per month and the fee for additional DVRs. Aside from that, there’s no additional HD fee or any other additional hidden fees. Xfinity’s billing is definitely a lot murkier than DIRECTV’s. For HD programming, which pretty much everyone has these days, they charge nearly $9 per month. They also charge several fees on top of the regular package pricing and the already stated DVR fees. They charge a Broadcast TV fee, which will cost customers up to $8 per month. They also charge a regional sports fee that can be up to $6 per month. Then there’s the “Universal Connectivity Charge”, which is a fee that the company is obligated to pay to the government and they pass on to their customers. They also charge a “Regulatory Recovery Fee”, which will cost customers less than a quarter, usually. This fee is used to allow the company to comply with state regulations without it costing them additionally. It’s important to note that both companies charge applicable sales tax for their area. This means that even if you don’t add on any extras, your bill will be a touch higher than the amount of your package.
Xfinity vs. DIRECTV: Channel comparison
Both of these companies offer packages the other one is lacking. For instance, Xfinity’s Economy package is a very basic cable package that DIRECTV doesn’t have an answer to, and DIRECTV’s Choice package offers a middle-of-the-road TV experience that Xfinity can’t match. Here is a break down of the pros and cons of each company’s package selections to help you decide which package would work best for your family:
|Pros||They have several different mid-grade packages to choose from, allowing customers more flexibility to decide how much they want to pay for a more comprehensive channel line-up. From their smallest package, they offer a great line-up of cable networks, including comprehensive news coverage, cartoons, and more grown-up programming. They also give access to the Starz Encore movie channels at the Xtra level, offering a nice little bonus for movie lovers without even paying extra for a subscription.||At the very top and bottom tiers, Xfinity has quite a bit to offer customers. The Economy package allows for affordable access to basic cable programming including your local channels. The Premier package allows access to premium channels, making it perfect for the movie lover or premium TV show addict on a budget.|
|Cons||There are some key channels missing from DIRECTV’s cheapest package, namely sports channels. If you’re a sports fan, you’re pretty much guaranteed to want to bump up your package to at least the second tier and likely further, since many popular sports channels are located in the 3rd tier Choice package and higher.||At the lower levels, Xfinity packages aren’t really put together for families; they include minimal kids’ channels in the Economy and Starter packages. Some of the most entertaining channels, like FX and Freeform, are nowhere to be found in the Economy package, despite that they’re generally considered regular cable channels. You’ve got to get into their Preferred package to get all of what are thought of as basic cable channels.|
|Get DIRECTV||Get Xfinity|
Xfinity vs. DIRECTV: Bundles
Xfinity from Comcast Bundling
With Comcast, your bundling options are strictly limited to other Xfinity services, so if services in your area are limited, so are your options for bundling. If you’re looking to partner up some of your other services with Xfinity, you may have access to home phone services, internet services, and home security services all through Comcast. Their services are mostly available in parts of the four corner states, New England, and spattered throughout the Midwest. You can use this map to see if Xfinity services are available in your area or enter your zip code.
It gets a little more complicated when bundling with DIRECTV, but mostly because they offer a lot more options. DIRECTV, as a subsidiary of AT&T, has some great deals when you combine their cellular telephone, home phone, and internet services. You can bundle your DIRECTV service with AT&T cellular telephone service, and you’ll find there are some awesome perks to doing so. AT&T customers with DIRECTV are offered unlimited mobile internet, which is huge since they don’t give that to non-bundling customers. They offer discounts on one bill or the other to customers who subscribe to both services as well. You can pair either AT&T home phone service or service from AT&T’s local affiliate with your DIRECTV service, as well. For internet services, you can bundle AT&T’s U-Verse service, or if that’s unavailable, you can get service from one of their internet partners.
Because DIRECTV is in direct competition with cable providers, they generally partner with telecom companies to offer home phone and internet bundling options out of AT&T’s service areas. AT&T services are widely available in the South, Midwest, and California. Outside of AT&T’s coverage areas, they partner with companies like CenturyLink for people in pathway from the Northwest to the Southeast and Windstream on the coasts and in the Great Lakes region, just for a couple examples. You can find which internet companies operate in your area here. To find out who they partner with in your zip code, you can enter your zip code below and look for fiber and DSL providers, then call the number.
Xfinity vs. DIRECTV: Sports lineup comparison
Both of these companies have a very similar line-up of add-on sports programming for specific sports and/or leagues. The cost to add on these hard-core sports packages is very similar as well. However, Xfinity does offer a multi-sport package for under $10 per month that could mean sports fans could get everything they want out of even Comcast’s Economy channel package. DIRECTV's lowest tiered package includes almost no sports channels at all, not even the “basic cable” type sports channels like ESPN. For that, you’ll have to bump your package up to the next level, and even more so if you want comprehensive sports coverage. Comcast definitely offers the most popular sports channels in their Starter package, including access to Fox Sports, ESPN, and even the NFL Network, which is comparable in size to DIRECTV’s cheapest package. Overall, you’ll get a more well-rounded sports lineup out of Xfinity at their lower level packages than you will DIRECTV. Xfinity takes the cake when it comes to best sports package.
There’s one caveat to Xfinity being the better sports provider, and that’s if you are a huge NFL fan who is more than happy to pay a premium for the best NFL programming available. DIRECTV offers NFL Season Pass, which gives you access to every NFL game, even out of market games, plus additional NFL programming. Even better, DIRECTV frequently offers Season Pass as a promotion to new subscribers for free for the first year. While Xfinity has NFL Red Zone, the coverage doesn’t even compare to Season Pass.
Xfinity vs. DIRECTV: Premium Channel Comparison
DIRECTV and Xfinity offer almost exactly the same premium channel options at similar prices, with a couple exceptions. Comcast offers The Movie Channel in addition to the Starz, Showtime, HBO, and Cinemax movie selections offered by DIRECTV. While The Movie Channel isn’t the most popular premium subscription, if it’s important to you, you might consider that it isn’t available through DIRECTV.
|Premium Channels||Cost with Xfinity||Cost with DIRECTV|
|The Movie Channel||$12||Not Available|
|Netflix||$10.99 for Standard||Not Available|
Both DIRECTV and Comcast offer super pumped up packages that include all the premium channels within the regular package price with DIRECTV’s costing $115 per month (for the first year) and Xfinity’s costing $104.99. If you decide to purchase premium movie channels separately, Comcast does offer prices that are a couple dollars cheaper per package. Xfinity offers an extra little bonus, as well. You can add on a Netflix subscription to your Comcast programming and have access to all the movies, TV, and original Netflix series directly from your X1 remote control. Handy as this may be, though, you’ll still have to pay the same Netflix subscription fee charged by Netflix itself. It’ll just be attached to your Comcast bill instead of billed separately.
While this particular race is awfully close, Xfinity does offer a couple more options to customize your TV package to create the programming line-up of your dreams, plus a little price break on their premiums-included package, so it takes the title for best premium channels.
Xfinity vs. DIRECTV: Online Comparison
Both companies offer edgy apps that allow you access to some of your programming on the go. Their features are very similar, but DIRECTV’s has a bit of a leg up on the competition. DIRECTV’s app allows you to control your home DVR from anywhere, watch live and on demand programming, and view your DVR content right from your phone at no additional cost. You can also use it as a remote for your DIRECTV home services. Xfinity’s app restricts the content you can watch a bit more than DIRECTV’s, but it will allow you to watch your DVR, a selection of live TV on the go and all of your channel lineup at home, and available on demand titles. It’s a little less functional as it doesn’t control your DVR or home TV. The DIRECTV app is rated a 4.1 in the Google Play store and 4.5 stars in the Apple store. Xfinity’s app is rated a 3.4 in the Google Play store and 3 stars in the Apple store.
While there are no formal ratings on this subject, it should be noted that you’ll have a much easier time finding the information you need on DIRECTV’s website than on Xfinity’s. Customer service is more readily available and able to answer questions from DIRECTV’s website, whereas it’s tough to get straight answers from Xfinity’s website customer service.
Xfinity vs. DIRECTV: Customer satisfaction
Overall Customer Satisfaction Winner
It’s pretty plain from the results of these two major customer service surveys that DIRECTV customers are happier with their service overall, and that Xfinity customers find themselves dissatisfied pretty frequently.
Who is Better Overall: Xfinity by Comcast or DIRECTV?
Overall, DIRECTV is the better provider. Their customer satisfaction ratings say enough by themselves, but when you take into account that overall bills for comparable programming are cheaper with DIRECTV due to all the fees Xfinity tacks on to their customer’s bills, they’re the clear winner. If you’re looking for a TV provider, unless you fall into one of the few instances noted in the report where Comcast might be a reasonable option, you probably want to choose DIRECTV over Xfinity.
You may choose a fiber provider or DISH instead of either of the companies we've compared today. You may also want to read our guide on DIRECTV vs. DISH. Or, if you'd like to see all of your options in your zip code, enter it below.