Provider Face-Off: Spectrum Cable vs DIRECTV and DISH

Spectrum Cable
DISH
DIRECTV
Comparison Score: 88/100
Customer Rating: (3.9/5)
Comparison Score: 93/100
Customer Rating: (4.1/5)
Comparison Score: 92/100
Customer Rating: (4.0/5)
Best Price
$64.99/mo for 12 months

Spectrum TV Select (125+ chnls, promo pricing)
No long-term contract required.
Similar to DIRECTV's Select plan and about twice the price (and channels) as DISH's Flex Plan.

Best Price
$29.99/mo for 24 months

Flex Pack (50 chnls, everyday pricing).
24-month contract required.
This skinny bundle is now the lowest-priced plan in satellite tv (though it starts at only 50 channels).

Best Price
$50/mo for 12 months

SELECT Package (145 chnls, promo pricing).
24-month contract required.
Now including all HD and DVR fees, this is quickly becoming the most popular plan around.

Max # channels
310+ channels

Spectrum TV® Gold ($99.99/mo)
The largest Spectrum TV plan, Gold includes just about every basic cable and premium channel available.

Max # channels
320+ channels

America's Everything ($114.99/mo)
You'll get the full suite of general-interest, sport and movie channels in DISH's extensive lineup.

Max # channels
315+ channels

Premier Plan ($125/mo)
Upgrade to Premier and you'll save about 20% vs individually ordering each extra HD or movie (HBO, etc) add-on pack.

Contract Options
Monthly

Spectrum TV's biggest advantage over satellite is the flexibility of their monthly plans (although promotional prices go back to regular rates after 12 months).

Contract Options
2-year

For now, all dish plans require a 2-year contract. The cost to cancel early is $20/month or a maximum of $480.

Contract Options
2-year

Same 2-year contract - the early termination fee is also $20/mo, with as far as we know, no total cap.

Service Reliability
Above Average

While Spectrum's coax cables are slightly more weather-resistant, our experience with Spectrum internet has included all-too-frequent IP updates and associated downtime. Overall, the impressive speeds compensate for that though. Spectrum TV is markedly more reliable.

Service Reliability
Above Average

Years ago, a roof-top dish was occasionally susceptible to heavy rain or the random squirrel nest. Stronger signals and dish shape engineering has made weather outages a very rare occurrence.

Service Reliability
Above Average

Same (DIRECTV's dishes tend to roughly be the same shape and technology).

DVR Specs
Average

Best DVR: Motorola DCX3501M
Hard Drive Space: 500 GB
Recording Hrs (SD): 300
Recording Hrs (HD): 72
# Tuners: 2

Not a whole-home DVR (Spectrum discontinued them a few years back). Secondary receivers have limited functionality: no pausing or rewinding live TV, etc.

DVR Specs
Best in the Biz

Best DVR: Hopper 3
Hard Drive Space: 2 TB (2,000 GB)
Recording Hrs (SD): 2,000
Recording Hrs (HD): 500
# Tuners: 16

The Hopper line of receivers were the first whole-home DVRs in the industry. Simply attach a Joey to each additional TV and all the Hopper functionality gets carried over.

DVR Specs
On DISH's Heels

Best DVR: Genie
Hard Drive Space: 1 TB
Recording Hrs (SD): 800
Recording Hrs (HD): 200
# Tuners: 8

With an impressively clean, functional and quick on-screen guide, the Genie whole-home DVR (and Genie minis) have been a customer favorite for a few years now.

TV, Internet & Phone Bundle
Triple Play Gold: $129.97/mo

TV Gold: 200+ channels
Spectrum Internet: 60 Mbps download, 4 Mbps upload
Spectrum Voice: unlimited local & long distance calling. Comes with a handy Voice Online Manager that lets you check/manage your voicemails from anywhere.

TV, Internet & Phone Bundle
limited options

DISH's system doesn't support high speed internet or phone, so they partner with other providers to offer the services:

TV: Any DISH Plan: 55-320+ channels
Internet & Voice: serviced by Windstream, Frontier or TDS; plans vary by location. You can get satellite internet from DISH, but download speeds max out at 10 Mbps.

TV, Internet & Phone Bundle
Unlimited Plan w/ AT&T: (prices vary)

With the AT&T and DIRECTV merger, all multi-service plans are now provided via AT&T Bundles...

TV: Any DIRECTV Plan: 150-315+ channels
Internet: plans range from 6-24 Mbps download, all delivered by AT&T's extensive DSL network.
Cell Phone: this is a smartphone line, not a landline like Spectrum and DISH. The "Unlimited" part of the deal includes un-capped usage of AT&T's 4G LTE (or higher) network.

TV & Internet Bundle
TV Select & Internet: $89.98/mo

Spectrum TV Select: 125+ channels
Internet: 60 Mbps download, 4 Mbps upload

TV & Internet Bundle
DISH Internet Bundle: $90.00/mo

TV: 190+ channels
Internet: 5 Mbps download, 1 Mbps upload (dishNET service)

TV & Internet Bundle
DIRECTV & AT&T: $80/mo

TV: 150+ channels
Internet: 6 Mbps download, 1 Mbps upload (AT&T U-verse DSL)

Overall
Good Value

Over the past few years, Spectrum has been on a spending spree acquiring smaller companies and, all the while, extending its reach. While that's great for advances in technology, less competition tends to eventually lead to gradual price increases. It's a bit too early to gauge how Spectrum's plans will evolve, but for now they're generally a good value (especially the internet service).

Overall
Excellent Value

On the satellite TV side, DISH does a ton of stuff right. Excellent DVR, great customer service and very subscriber-friendly plans. And while we don't usually recommend bundling their internet (unless one of their internet partners is already in your area or dishNET's 10 Mbps is enough for ya), if you just need TV, you can't go wrong with DISH.

Overall
Excellent Value

With exclusives like the NFL SUNDAY TICKET and their new bundling options with AT&T, if you're already part of either the AT&T or DIRECTV ecosphere, it's pretty tempting to wrap all those services together (for the savings and ease of one, combined bill). If it's just for TV, it's a dead heat vs vs DISH.

or call 1-855-785-0665
or call 1-888-336-3795
   1-855-239-7313


BUYING GUIDE

View the Specials
Check out the current satellite TV deals available in your area.
Channels vs Plans
Search for and compare which plans carry your favorite channels and networks.
Cable against Satellite
View a more general comparison here and see how other cable companies stack up.
Genie Whole-Home DVR
Get a deeper look at the award-winning Genie DVR and its impressive feature-set.
DISH Hopper
Our in-depth review of the Hopper 3 DVR and its handy set of accessories.
Verizon FiOS comparison
If fiber optics is an option in your city, check out Verizon FiOS rundown here.

More about Spectrum Cable

In April 2016, Charter Communications completed the purchase of Time Warner, making the combined company the 2nd largest cable provider in the U.S. (with more than 29 million subscribers and just behind Comcast). This new entity will eventually be fully re-branded as Spectrum (that process is already underway as they're co-branding the websites of all their acquired companies and have launched a major PR campaign educating the public of the recent moves). And while we've already conducted a pre-TWC Charter comparison, services and deals under the new Spectrum TV and internet brand are still in flux and will likely continue to evolve as time goes by. We'll be posting those changes and rankings vs satellite on this page.

Since that acquisition - which, first, had to given the green light by the FCC to make sure antitrust, anti-monopoly regulations weren't in play - previous Time Warner subscribers saw a fairly smooth transition to Spectrum. Their services and bills didn't change much and they weren't forced to change or upgrade plans. Spectrum is still updating their systems to better integrate with TWC, so once that's fully completed, we may see a few more Spectrum-only plans roll out.

Around that same time-frame, Spectrum also picked up the east coast cable giant, Bright House Networks. A top 10 cable TV and internet company, the move expanded Spectrum's reach well into the Eastern seaboard states. Integration with Bright House's infrastructure seems to be going a bit quicker as subscribers are being encouraged to adopt Spectrum's plans and services (and for the most part, that move is for the better, price and technology-wise). Expect the Bright House brand to be completely dissolved sometime in 2017.

Are the Bundles always Better?

There's no hard and fast rule here and it really depends on your current set of services. If you're new to Spectrum TV (or cable), you're probably better off starting off with one service at first. Almost every plan is negotiable -- that is, never agree to the first offer off- or online. Be sure to speak with a sales agent and ask for the most current promotional offers. They'll usually quote you the best 12-month price their system currently allows. That price will be good for a full year and since there's no actual contract involved, you can cancel at anytime before the year is up if you're not happy. Bundling with internet is definitely the most popular option with Spectrum...and that'll usually cut your TV costs in half. After the year is up, your rates will go back to non-promotional levels (50%+ higher) -- calling them up before that happens and negotiating a new, discounted deal is the key to maximizing your savings (set an alert on your phone or fire up a sticky note :). So, to answer then original question, yep, bundles are usually the way to go, just make sure you shop around a bit first.

Have something to share?

If you've dealt with Spectrum Cable or you'd like to suggest an important feature not covered above, please feel free to get in touch.

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