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DISH vs DIRECTV Comparison

Last updated: 5/30/2024
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DISH

Interested in satellite TV and looking for a bit more info? You're in the right place :). Before you settle on a satellite TV provider, it's always a good idea to critically compare DISH and DIRECTV. Based on our experience and the customer feedback we've received over the years, here are the most important factors to consider:

DISH has cheaper rates overall than DIRECTV

For a while now, DISH's major advantage over DIRECTV has been their base price. Plans start at $84.99 per month for America's Top 120 with a monthly DVR fee of $5 (1 TV) to $10 (2+ TVs). DIRECTV checks in at $69.99/mo for the Entertainment plan. Your DIRECTV Genie DVR is free for the first TV, $7/mo for each additional TV.

The big difference is your total cost after 2-3 years. DIRECTV is usually cheaper for the first 2 years but prices increase about 40% in year 3 and beyond. With DISH, your prices are also locked in for 2 years. So, overall, you'll save a bit more with DIRECTV after two years. Thereafter, it really depends on the prevailing prices at the time. Slight edge to DIRECTV.

DISH carries more HD channels

If you count up all the HD channels available, DISH has over 200 while DIRECTV has over 190. However, about 50 of DISH's HD channels aren't full-time (i.e., part of the day, they broadcast in standard definition). Both providers offer local channels in full HD. Quality-wise, they both transmit in 1080p and 4K HD, providing the most clarity and color definition available. If you're a sports nut, DIRECV carries more (and exclusive) sports channels in high def. All told, this one's a tie.

DIRECTV is the undisputed leader in sports

Speaking of sports, this is where DIRECTV sharpens its teeth. Even after losing the NFL Sunday Ticket, DIRECTV has the most regional sports networks (RSNs) of any TV provider, satellite or cable. Recently, DISH ditched most of the regional sports channels to save cost and prevent price increases. Each provider carries the NBA League Pass, MLB Extra Innings, NHL Center Ice and English Premier League. So, if you're an NFL super-fan, DIRECTV is probably your best bet.

Local channels can be added or removed with both

In the early days of satellite TV, there were plenty of cities (even major ones) that couldn't get their local TV channels: ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, PBS and more. Today, every major city is covered, with only a tiny percentage of smaller cities still being upgraded. Comparison-wise, for a while now, DISH has let you add or remove locals at will. Removing them will save you $12/mo off your bill. DIRECTV recently jumped on this bandwagon, spinning off the cost of locals and letting customers decide (also saving you $12/mo). Overall, this one's a draw.

DISH or DIRECTV - so what's the bottom line?

Both DIRECTV and DISH offer a high quality service (especially compared to cable). All things considered, if you're looking to save $200+ over the life of your contract (depending on your plan), go with DISH TV. If you need your sports fix (especially with the NFL), DIRECTV wins out. If you're stuck somewhere in between, compare the current deals using the banners below and sign up before they expire!

Channel distribution - see how much extra you get when upgrading

First off, the maximum number of channels available on each provider is, not surprisingly, very similar: DISH (330) and DIRECTV (340). Overall, DISH's plans tend to include a larger percentage of the total channels available. For example, DISH's entry plan, America's Top 120, has 190 of 330 channels possible (58%). DIRECTV's entry plan, Entertainment, has 165 of 340 channels (49%). Of course, the price/channel of each plan is a big part of its inherent value. In the table further below, we analyze just that.

Overall, both providers do a solid job of giving you a good/excellent assortment of channels for each upgrade in plan. In other words, assuming you can afford to upgrade, you'll get plenty of associated value after the move.

[Chart #1] DIRECTV's channel breakdown by plan

165
200
235
270
340
340
170
1
Entert. Choice XTRA Ultimate Premier Channels

[Chart #2] DISH's channel breakdown by plan

190
195
240
290
330
330
165
1
Top 120 Top 120+ Top 200 Top 250 Every. Channels

Channel value - get the most out of your plan

We calculate channel value in a simple formula of: (Plan cost) / (# channels). Everything else being equal, it's a good guage of how much entertainment value you're getting out of your TV budget.

In general, both providers do a good job of giving your sufficient value for each upgrade. With DIRECTV, you'll get the most value from the XTRA plan ($0.36). With DISH, America's Top 200 ($0.43) and 250 ($0.39) give you the most value there. Of course, channel value doesn't matter much unless you can afford the plan to begin with. So, our recommendation is to narrow it down to the 3 plans right around your budget and maybe use channel value as a tiebreaker.

Plan
Price /mo
Channels
Cost /Channel
69.99
165
$0.42
74.99
200
$0.37
84.99
235
$0.36
104.99
270
$0.39
149.99
340
$0.44
84.99
190
$0.44
99.99
195
$0.51
104.99
240
$0.43
114.99
290
$0.39
149.99
330
$0.45
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