Provider Face-Off: Time Warner Cable vs DIRECTV and DISH

Time Warner Cable
Comparison Score: 87/100
Customer Rating: (3.9/5)
Best Price
$29.99/mo for 12 months

Standard TV (70+ chnls, promo pricing).
24-month contract required.
A good general-interest plan, especially if cable is your only option (most cities only support 1-2 cable providers).

Max # channels
200+ channels

Digital TV ($39.99/mo)
Across ALL cable programming, this is one of the more popular plans going.

Whole-home DVR
Multi-Room Service

The system requires at least 2 receivers, with at least 1 Whole House HD-DVR box subscribed to the Multi-Room service. The Multi-Room Service ties the boxes together to allow you to use all the receivers wirelessly.

Package Extras
"Look Back", Caller ID on TV

With Look Back, you can automatically watch any network Primetime show up to 3 days after it aired. Caller ID on TV lets you check out who's calling while you watch TV.

TV, Internet & Phone Bundle
Triple Pack Select: $99.99/mo

TV: 200+ channels
Internet: 10 Mbps download (10 Mbps less than Comcast @ this price)
Phone: unlimited US, Canada & Puerto Rico calling (transfer your current phone # or get a new one)

TV & Internet Bundle
Double Pack Turbo: $89.99/mo

TV: 200+ channels
Internet: 20 Mbps download (no cap; same as Comcast)

Customer Service
Average

For being the 2nd largest cable provider, TWC does a serviceable job at customer relations. Hold times are typically under 5 min (expect to wait longer on weekends) and call centers are typically US-based.

DISH
Comparison Score: 89/100
Customer Rating: (4/5)
Best Price
$19.99/mo for 12 months

Smart Pack Plan (55 chnls, promo pricing).
24-month contract required.
The rock-bottom price in the TV industry. This is the go-to plan for cable refugees who want to minimize their entertainment budget.

Max # channels
290+ channels

America's Eveything Pak ($74.99/mo)
All channels are digital or HD quality, with roughly 65% available in HD.

Whole-home DVR
Hopper with Joey

Simultaneously record and playback on up to 3 different DVRs. Hard drive space: 2 TB. Learn more.


Package Extras
NFL Sunday Ticket & CINEMAplus

With the NFL Sunday Ticket free w/ Choice plan and up, no one throws in better extras. CINEMAplus gives you a ton of free programs and movies (upwards of 7k).

TV, Internet & Phone Bundle
no phone bundles

DISH's infrastructure doesn't support traditional (landline) or VoIP phone service.




TV & Internet Bundle
DISH Bundle: $75.99/mo

TV: 145+ channels
Internet: 10 Mbps download (no cap)

Customer Service
Above Average

For the most part, DISH does a good to excellent job with customer issues. At times you DO have to escalate the problem to get it resolved (at least quickly) but you almost never leave frustrated.

DIRECTV
Comparison Score: 92/100
Customer Rating: (3.7/5)
Best Price
$29.99/mo for 12 months

Entertainment Plan (140 chnls, promo pricing).
24-month contract required.
Their second most popular plan with a solid mix of channel categories, it's $10 more than DISH every month.

Max # channels
285+ channels

Premier Plan ($89.99/mo)
All channels are digital quality, with about 70% available in HD.

Whole-home DVR
Genie DVR

Simultaneously record and playback on up to 5 different TVs (there's ONLY one box). Hard drive space: 1 TB. Learn more.


Package Extras
BLOCKBUSTER @Home

Similar to DIRECTV's CINEMAplus, you get a solid selection of streaming options along with regular mail DVD delivery service (like Netflix; there's an extra free after the promo period).

TV, Internet & Phone Bundle
no phone bundles

Same story - DIRECTV won't be adding phone to their service for the foreseeable future.




TV & Internet Bundle
DIRECTV Bundle: $44.95/mo

TV: 140+ channels
Internet: ~10 Mbps download (no cap)

Customer Service
Above Average

Probably the best in the industry. The only thing that continues to bother me is they still outsource outside of business hours (nights and weekends).




BUYING GUIDE

DISH versus DIRECTV
If you're leaning towards satellite TV, get a more thorough breakdown here.
Stack up the Specials
Compare the current satellite promotions and lock in the best plan available.
Channel Lineups
Find out which packages include your favorite channels in this interactive, side-by-side table.
Verizon FiOS vs Satellite
If fiber optic service is an option in your area, learn more about what Verizon FiOS has to offer.
Cable versus Satellite
Get a more general overview of how cable's features and options compare to satellite TV.
RV & Mobile
If you'll be on the move, use this guide to reliably stay connected at every turn.

More about Time Warner Cable

Founded in 1989 when Time's cable company and Warner Communications merged, TWC has risen the ranks to be the 2nd largest cable provider in the US (behind Comcast). As of 2010, they had over 23 million cable subscribers (standard and digital). As with most cable companies, it's all about territory. They don't service every metropolitan city or, even, large county -- before you order, you'll need to check your zip code for availability.

Sports deals -- since its inception, TWC has tried to make major headway into the sporting world. From winning the naming rights to stadiums (NBA's Charlotte Bobcats and Time Warner Cable Arena) to becoming the exclusive TV home of the Los Angeles Lakers (starting in 2102), they're certainly not slowing to associate their brand with major sporting teams. With deep pockets and an aggressive growth strategy, don't expect Time Warner Cable to lose their place in the market anytime soon.

Triple Pack Bundles

Nowadays, every cable provider heavily pushes their bundles. It's MUCH easier and cost-effective for them to add a service once you have their cable running through your home. If you pick the right time to bundle up (during a big promo), it can be cost-effective, just make sure you read the fine print and you figure out when the standard rates kick in. As with most elective home services, there IS always room for some negotiation at sign-up, so don't be afraid to haggle a bit. As a reference, here are the base rates for their bundles:

  1. Triple Pack Select - 200+ channels, download speeds of up to 10 Mbps, unlimited nationwide calling: $99.99/mo.
  2. Triple Pack with Extreme - 200+ channels, download speeds of up to 30 Mbps, unlimited nationwide calling: $119.99/mo.
  3. El Paquetazo Triple Play - 150+ channels (about a third Spanish-only), download speeds of up to 10 Mbps, unlimited nationwide calling: $89.99/mo.

Have something to share?

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

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