AT&T U-Verse vs Satellite TV

One of the largest telecom companies in the world, AT&T never does anything half-heartedly. When they came out with U-Verse - their 3 in 1 solution to phone, internet and TV - the industry took major notice. Officially launched in 2008, U-Verse uses fiber optic technology to deliver each of the three products to a box on your property (or in some cases, a hub in your neighborhood). In this article, we'll focus on the TV product and how it compares to satellite TV. Read on for more...

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U-Verse's packages are still evolving

Similar to DIRECTV and DISH, U-Verse offers 5 primary programming plans (as well as 3 latino packages); here's a quick overview:
U-basic TV: 48 channels for $19/mo for 6 months (once the promo period ends, regular price remains at $19/mo)
U-family TV: 130 channels for $29/mo for 6 months (regular price: $57/mo)
U200 TV: 270 channels for $44/mo for 6 months (regular price: $72/mo)
U300 TV: 360 channels for $59/mo for 6 months (regular price: $87/mo)
U450 TV: 430 channels for $91/mo for 6 months (regular price: $119/mo)

Based on everything we've heard, their most popular plan is U-family TV. Stacked up against satellite TV, it most closely compares to the following plans (based on price and breadth of channels):
DISH's America's Top 120: you'll get just about the same number and types of channels, however the Top 120's promo price of $29/mo lasts for 12 full months and its regular price is considerably lower at $44.99/mo.
DIRECTV's Total Choice - its $34.99/mo promotional (and $60/mo regular) prices are just a bit higher, but you end up getting over 160 channels, so there's plenty more value here.

Advantage: Satellite TV (lower prices, access to exclusive channels and higher value/dollar)

If you want HD, you'll have to pay for it

Early in satellite TV's history, customers were required to pay for the privilege of crystal-clear high definition. A few years ago, though, DIRECTV and DISH started offering free HD for life, both as a response to the competition and as an understanding that nearly every channel would soon have an HD option (ie, it's now more of a standard feature than a premium one). Unfortunately, U-Verse is still relatively young and they either don't have the infrastructure equity to offer free HD and/or their profit margins aren't healthy enough. Whatever the case, you'll have to pay an extra $10/mo to get HD with U-Verse. Advantage: Satellite TV.

U-Verse's receivers hold up well against the competition

Technology changes rapidly in just about any industry and that's certainly the case with TV providers. DIRECTV was the first on the provider block to offer a whole home DVR option that allowed you to simultaneously record, pause and playback shows from any room. About a year later, DISH came out with their Hopper and Joey that had similar features (including a new one that lets you skip commercials with one button). Impressively, U-Verse also touts a whole-home DVR that lets you record up to 4 shows at once on one receiver and gives you a healthy 235 hours of recording time. For a relatively young service, their technological know-how on the receiver side bodes well for the future. Advantage: tie

What sort of premium channels can I get?

Movies: not surprisingly, you can find all the premium movie channels (HBO, Showtime, Cinemax and STARZ) on U-Verse but the pricing structure is slightly different than with DIRECTV or DISH. For starters, it costs $16/mo for HBO and $14/mo for any of the other three. As far as free trials go, you can get HBO and/or Cinemax free for 3 months but your have to order it first. With DIRECTV and DISH, the monthly prices are roughly the same (about $1 less/month), but the real edge comes with the trial. They give you the three premium movies packs (HBO, Showtime and Cinemax) free for 3 months, with no strings attached. That is, after you order, try it out for 90 days and simply cancel if you don't want it - no headaches, no commitments.

Sports: with its exclusive grip on the NFL, NASCAR and more, it's no secret DIRECTV is the king of sports programming. DISH TV comes in at a close second thanks to its growing base of regional and specialty channnels. U-Verse has a basic set of sports channels, but nothing exclusive (they're about 3 years behind DISH with nearly no hope of catching DIRECTV). If you need more than just your local sports programming, U-Verse may get you frustrated, especially over the weekends (you've been warned :).

Advantage with premium channels: Satellite TV (better movie trial offers and exclusive sports channels)

Bottom line: only consider U-Verse if you can bundle

For a relatively new service, AT&T U-Verse offers a fair service. Its prices and channel options are competitive but when you dig a bit deeper, they just don't stack up to DIRECTV or DISH. Its major advantage comes with being a massive telecom company and their ability to leverage that customer base. That is, if you already have an AT&T landline, cell phone plan or internet, they'll probably try selling you on a U-Verse TV bundle. If you can save more than 25%, consider taking it on a trial basis and testing out the service. If you're not already an AT&T customer or just don't want to risk it, you're probably better off going with satellite TV.

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