Guide to the Best Satellite TV Providers in 2019

If you’re on the lookout for a satellite TV provider, DISH and DIRECTV are your best bets. You can’t go wrong with either service. Nevertheless, it’s good to be aware of each one’s advantages and disadvantages before you sign on. And for most consumers, there is a clear winner. With this guide, you’ll be able to make an informed choice about the satellite service that’s just right for you.

Pricing

A quick side-by-side comparison shows that DIRECTV’s price range is wider than DISH’s — at least initially. The monthly price that DISH offers ranges from $59.99 to $89.99. DIRECTV starts as low as $35 and goes as high as $110.

It may seem that DISH’s prices are higher on average. That’s true during the first half of your contract with DIRECTV. However, the prices will increase during the second half of your contract. In some cases, you’ll pay double what you paid when you first signed the contract. While DIRECTV doesn’t necessarily hide this fact, it’s not a pleasant thing to look forward to.

In terms of price-per-channel, both services give you a similar bang for your buck. DIRECTV has more channels overall at a higher price per channel. Conversely, DISH has fewer channels but a lower price per channel. You can read more about their channels below.

With DIRECTV’s mid-contract price increase, the two services end up costing about the same amount of money on average. DISH will be a bit cheaper in the end, and it’s nice that the company keeps its prices consistent throughout your contract. And speaking of contracts…

Contract Comparison

Satellite TV is a long-term commitment, which means that you should really have an informed opinion before making any decisions. It’s always good advice to read the contract before you sign it, and this is especially true when choosing a satellite TV service!

Both DISH and DIRECTV require you to sign on for a two-yearcontract. That’s a long time to be locked into one service. As a result, you should make sure that your monthly budget will be secure for that amount of time. This is even more important to consider with DIRECTV. As already mentioned, your monthly expenses will likely double after a year. If you choose DIRECTV, be aware of this when planning your budget.

If for whatever reason you need to cancel your service before two years are up, what can you do? The good news is that both DIRECTV and DISH allow you to end your contract prematurely. The bad news is that early cancellation comes with a steep penalty fee. DISH and DIRECTV both charge up to a whopping $480 for canceling your contract. That’s a big reason you should think carefully before making any commitments.

Despite their similar lengths and terms, DISH has a more attractive contract. You can relax knowing that you won’t need to bother with a price jump. More importantly, you’ll be able to enjoy your hundreds of channels without any worries!

Extra Fees

Unsurprisingly, the prices listed above aren’t all-inclusive. You’ll need to spend a bit extra to get your satellite service up and running. The fees aren’t really high, but it’s good to know what they are so that you can factor them into your budget.

Neither DISH nor DIRECTV charge installation fees for the satellite dish itself and all of the other necessary components like wiring, etc. However, DISH provides installation for six TVs while DIRECTV only includes four. This shouldn’t be an issue for most consumers. However, if you have a bigger house with a TV in every room, then DISH may be a better deal for you.

Both services have hidden charges for their DVR services, but only if you plan on upgrading. DISH’s Hopper Duo and DIRECTV’s Genie DVR are free at the outset, which is a great deal. DISH gives you the option of upgrading to Hopper 3 for a measly $3. The upgrade is well worth the price.

Both services provide you with only one receiver, however. And, of course, extra receivers will cost you. DISH charges $7 per month per extra receiver, while DIRECTV charges anywhere from $5-$10 for each additional one. Whether or not you need these extras will depend on how important it is for you to save your shows. Busy TV lovers will probably need more receivers, but you may not need them if you’re lucky enough to spend a lot of time at home.

If you decide on DIRECTV, know that there’s one extra fee that you may need to pay. Starting from the CHOICE package, you may need to cough up an extra $8.49 each month for DIRECTV’s “regional sports fee.” This requirement differs based on where customers live, so you may be lucky enough to avoid it.

Channels

Price is important, but let’s face it — you probably care more about the channels. If you’re the type who just can’t get enough channels, then DIRECTV and DISH have got you covered.

For the most part, both providers give you access to the hottest and most popular channels. There are a few exceptions, but overall, you’ll be able to keep up with your favorite shows from your favorite networks. No matter which service you choose, you’ll always have plenty of shows, movies, and games to keep you entertained.

In terms of the raw numbers, DIRECTV is the king of channel choice. At up to 330+ available channels, DIRECTV clearly beats DISH’s 290+. Nevertheless, many of those 40+ extra channels are niche and specialty channels that may or may not interest you. It pays to check out each provider’s lineup — why spend extra on channels you’ll never watch?

Premium Channels

As with most TV providers, DISH and DIRECTV give you the ability to add premium channels to your package. Of course, you’ll have to pay extra for them each month. Prices are comparable to what other services provide, but there is a slight difference in pricing between these two.

DISH’s prices are lower than DIRECTV’s. HBO is $15 per month on DISH as opposed to $17.99 with DIRECTV. On DISH, SHOWTIME, CINEMAX, and STARZ are $10 per month instead of DIRECTV’s $13.99. It’s a difference of a few dollars, but it can add up pretty quickly if you can’t live without the premium content these channels provide.

Also, DISH gives you the option to access EPIX for $7 per month. DIRECTV doesn’t offer EPIX at all. It’s probably not a dealbreaker for most people, but it’s an extra detail that makes DISH’s premium options all the more appealing.

Die-hard TV enthusiasts who crave variety may be tempted by DIRECTV’s PREMIER package. PREMIER includes all of DIRECTV’s premium options, as well as numerous sports channels. Its main drawback, however, is its price. At $110 per month, not including the mid-contract increase, you’ll end up paying quite a bit for all those extras. For TV aficionados with a lot of expendable income, though, it’s an unbeatable deal.

It’s worth noting that DIRECTV also offers a three-month free trial for all of its premium channels. It’s nice to be able to try before you buy, and there’s no commitment to keep the channels once your three months are up. Just keep an eye on your bill — some customers have faced wrongful extra charges during the “free” trial. And if you get hooked on HBO, deciding whether to pay the extra $17.99 a month could be a painful decision.

Sports

Sports fans can’t go wrong either way — both DIRECTV and DISH provide a wide variety of sports channels. Even the most hardcore sports fanatics should be satisfied by either service. Nevertheless, DIRECTV is the better option, especially if you’re into football.

If you opt for DISH, you can get the Multi-Sports pack for $13 per month. The package includes a diverse selection of sports that you probably already follow — as well as some that you may not know much about yet. It’s a similar selection to what DIRECTV can provide.

NFL fans, however, should definitely opt for DIRECTV. Their exclusive NFL SUNDAY TICKET makes it easy to follow your favorite teams and guarantees that you never miss a game. It’s especially useful if your local channels don’t show the games you’re hoping to catch. Even better, you can get it for free in the first year of your contract.

If football isn’t your sport, though, DISH will be more than enough to satisfy your need for athletic action.

DVR

When it comes to DVR, you can’t really do any better than DISH. DIRECTV’s DVR is great, but DISH’s is even more impressive.

DISH has the Hopper 3 — a 2-terabyte DVR that records and saves up to 500 hours of your favorite shows and movies. That’s almost three straight weeks of 24-hour programming! With DISH and the Hopper 3, you’ll be able to store tons of episodes and series to enjoy later, or over and over. Even better, you’ll never miss your favorite shows again!

Even though DISH’s DVR is exceptional, DIRECTV’s is still functional and handy. The Genie DVR lets you record 200 hours, and it’s included in the price of your subscription. While that doesn’t exactly make up for less storage, it still counts for something.

If you’re a busy person, or if you like saving shows to watch them again, then DISH and the Hopper 3 are the best option you can get.

Customer Service

TV services aren’t exactly known for having excellent, or even good customer service. It’s a problem that drives many from cable to other services. So, if you’re thinking of switching to satellite for a better service, you may want to press pause — neither DIRECTV nor DISH score very well here.

According to the American Customer Satisfaction Index, neither service scores above 70. DIRECTV has a rating of 64, while DISH gets a slightly higher 67. That’s a D on both of their report cards! Nevertheless, the scores are comparable to — or even better than — similar services.

Some DIRECTV customers have complained about the mid-contract price hike, which is understandable. The language in your contract can be tricky, so be extra cautious when signing it. Customers have complained that they were told that prices would not increase, only to have those prices raised later on.

If you’re told that your rates won’t change, it’s probably too good to be true. Some sneaky language in the contract only makes it seem like the prices won’t go up. It’s a bit shady, and sadly par for the course with TV providers.

Despite some of the negative experiences, one positive is that both services give you the ability to chat with representatives online. That’s much easier and faster than calls and can still give you the information or results that you’re after.

The Verdict

Looking at the sum total of both services, DISH emerges as the clear winner for the majority of consumers. Its lower (and more consistent) pricing is a major advantage. And while DIRECTV has more channels, DISH’s offering should be more than enough to satisfy even the most demanding viewers.

Equally important, DISH’s Hopper 3 DVR is a major step-up from DIRECTV’s already impressive Genie. Finally, DISH’s customer experience is better — if marginally so — than DIRECTV’s.

However, as mentioned above, DIRECTV’s main advantage over DISH is the exclusive NFL SUNDAY TICKET. It’s a tempting offer for football lovers, and it may just be enough to draw you over to DIRECTV.

The Verdict

  • DISH’s price ends up being the same as or even lower than DIRECTV’s, and it’s more consistent
  • Either service will require a minimum contract of two years. Cancellation fees are almost equal as well.
  • You’ll get 40+ more channels with DIRECTV, but you might not need them. And they’ll still be more expensive than DISH’s price per channel. However, DIRECTV gives you exclusive access to NFL SUNDAY TICKET.
  • DISH has a better customer service rating than DIRECTV, but the difference is minor.

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