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Provider Face-Off: Charter Cable vs DIRECTV and DISH

Charter vs DIRECTV vs DISH
Charter Cable
Comparison Score: 87/100
Customer Rating: (3.9/5)
Comparison Score: 89/100
Customer Rating: (4.1/5)
Comparison Score: 92/100
Customer Rating: (4.0/5)
Best Price
$59.99/mo for 12 months

Charter TV Select (125+ chnls, promo pricing)
No contract required.
Compared to similar satellite plans, Select will you cost about twice as much.

Best Price
$29/mo for 24 months

Flex Pack Plan (55 chnls, regular pricing).
24-month contract required.
The lowest-priced TV plan, period. If you're looking to pull way back on spending, start here.

Best Price
$59.99/mo for 24 months

SELECT Plan (155 chnls, promo pricing).
24-month contract required.
All HD & DVR fees included free. The lowest-priced "All Included" package DIRECTV has ever offered.

Max # channels
245+ channels

Charter TV® Gold ($99.99/mo)
If you're looking to max out your cable options, you'll get the most value with this plan (don't forget hefty fees WILL get added to your total, usually >$20/mo.)

Max # channels
320+ channels

America's Everything Pak ($114.99/mo)
All its channels are digital or HD quality, with most in HD.

Max # channels
315+ channels

Premier Plan ($125/mo)
100% of their channels are all-digital and approx. 90% are in full HD.

Whole-home DVR
-- none --

As of mid-2012, Charter discontinued their WH DVR (they could never really get a single hard drive system to work properly). They're now steering all customers towards 1 stand-alone DVR per TV.

Whole-home DVR
Hopper 3 with Joey

Simultaneously record and playback on up to 7 different DVRs. Hard drive space: 2 TB. Learn more.

Whole-home DVR
Genie DVR

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

Program Guide
Below Average

Compared to its satellite counterparts, Charter's program guide is a bit clunky and decidedly less intuitive. It's sort of like a 3 year old computer - it may get the job done, but expect its fair share of issues.

Program Guide

Of all the providers, DISH has made the most progress with their guide over the past 5+ years. With the new Hopper system and a full revamp of the rest of their DVR line's software, they're right on DIRECTV's heels.

Program Guide
Industry Leader

In our opinion, DIRECTV is the undisputed leader in guide usability, efficiency and design. Not only do all their screens LOOK great, they perform even better (with plenty of pleasant surprises and shortcuts).

TV, Internet & Phone Bundle
Triple Play Silver: $116.96/mo

TV (Select): 175+ channels (50 bonus)
Internet: 30 Mbps download, 4 Mbps upload (solid network)
Phone: unlimited local and domestic calling (free voicemail; caller ID & call waiting extra)

TV, Internet & Phone Bundle
no phone bundles

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

TV, Internet & Phone Bundle
SELECT TV Bundle: $89.99/mo

DIRECTV SELECT plan with AT&T high-speed Internet and home phone service (final specs/price vary per plan).

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

TV (Select): 125+ channels
Internet: 30 Mbps download, 4 Mbps upload

TV & Internet Bundle
DISH Bundle: $94.98/mo

TV: 190+ channels
Internet: 5 Mbps download, 1 Mbps upload (dishNET satellite, no cap)

TV & Internet Bundle
DIRECTV Bundle: $80/mo

TV: 150+ channels
Internet: 6 Mbps download, 1 Mbps upload (AT&T U-verse DSL, no cap)

Customer Service

As with most cable providers, Charter leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to customer service. From under-trained (and overseas) staff to long wait times, it's always hit-and-miss. Update: recent feedback is pointing towards improved service, only time will tell.

Customer Service
Above Average

Every year, DISH is at or near the top of J.D. Power's Customer Satisfaction ratings. Their call centers are almost always extra-staffed (short wait times) and pleasant to deal with; there are exceptions, but that's par for the course with any service industry.

Customer Service
Above Average

As with DISH, DIRECTV invests a healthy amount of their time and money in their customer service staff. Their screening menu has also gotten better over the years (and less annoying), improving the routing process to the proper agent and/or tech level.


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RV & Mobile
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More about Charter Cable

Launched in 1993, Charter grew to over 1 million subscribers by 1998 with nearly 7 million by 2002. Most of that growth was fueled by aggressive acquisitions of smaller cable companies and the development of "mini-monopolies" in strategically-positioned cities. That is, if you're a resident of a "Charter" city and you can't have (or don't want) satellite TV, your ONLY subscription TV option is Charter. Of course, that type of exclusivity typically evolves into price hikes... and that's the single biggest complaint folks have with Charter (and most cable companies). With their promos, the first year (or two) may work out for you cost-wise, but once they expire prices tend to increase upwards of 50%; bottom line, be sure keep an eye out for your contract expiration date, especially if you're on auto-pay.

Outsourcing trend: in the mid 2000s, Charter began to close down their domestic call centers in favor of outsourced options in the Philippines, Mexico, Brazil and more. Now, they're certainly not alone that practice (DISH and DIRECTV do it as well), but the quality and service coming out of those centers just don't seem to stack up. We have received reports of better service over the last couple years, so hopefully things are on the upswing.

Update: In mid 2016, Charter completed the purchase of Time Warner cable and Bright House. The resulting company will be re-branded as Spectrum TV and new deals, package specs and account management options are slowly rolling out. Check out that page for the very latest.

Their Top Bundles

As with most cable companies (at least the top-tier ones), Charter heavily pushes their TV, phone and internet bundles. There's much bigger profit in multiple services, not to mention longevity (as a consumer, it's more difficult to split off a service or two if they're all packed and billed together). Early in 2006, Charter launched their new Broadband Telephony infrastructure and that paved the way for bigger and more-inclusive bundles. Some folks do end up paying less for all 3 services (compared to splitting them up), but it really just depends on your city/state and WHEN you sign up. Here's the latest...

  1. Charter TV® Select & Internet Plus & Phone Unlimited - 125+ channels, download speeds of up to 30 Mbps, unlimited nationwide calling: $89.97/mo promo pricing for 12 months.
  2. Charter TV® Silver & Internet Plus & Phone Unlimited - 175+ channels, download speeds of up to 30 Mbps, unlimited nationwide calling: $109.97/mo promo pricing for 12 months.
  3. Charter TV® Gold & Internet Plus & Phone Unlimited - 175+ channels (and STARZ, Encore, etc), download speeds of up to 30 Mbps, unlimited nationwide calling: $129.97/mo promo pricing for 12 months.

Have something to share?

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

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