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What’s the Best Satellite TV Provider?

Satellite TV is an attractive option for people who still prefer the feel of live programming over video-on-demand (VOD) streaming services. There are currently two primary satellite TV companies that stand out, DISH and DIRECTV.

Chances are you’ve probably heard of both satellite TV services since they are synonymous with the industry. We’ll see how the best satellite TV providers compare – and more importantly, determine which is most suitable for you.

Who satellite TV is for

Satellite TV is for anyone who wants a traditional TV experience with live programming with the access and reliability that a dish can provide. Maybe you live in a location outside the reach of cable TV providers or just prefer satellite television and its features. Either way, DISH and DIRECTV may both be a great fit.

While both DIRECTV and DISH offer the same type of satellite TV service, the two providers have their differences. On one hand, DIRECTV has the most channels and a stronger sports package and premium channels, particularly offering NFL SUNDAY TICKET and HBO Max. But on the other hand, DISH is better on your wallet and has a solid DVR feature so that you can record shows and events to watch on your own schedule.

If you’re a sports fan, you might be okay with paying a little extra for the premium sports channels that come with DIRECTV, especially when DISH doesn’t carry NFL SUNDAY TICKET.

That said, if you’re okay with a few less sports channels and an otherwise solid set of popular entertainment, lifestyle, and news channels, DISH offers a more affordable price tag and guarantees to keep the cost the same throughout your 2-year contract.

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Key considerations

Both DIRECTV and DISH offer perks like free installation, DVR devices included with their plans, as well as multiroom viewing capabilities.

How do the two best satellite TV providers compare when it comes to their prices and channel count? The monthly price of DISH starts at $69.99 with its basic plan and rises to $104.99 with their most premium, structuring its plans using the number of America’s Top channels being offered.

DISH TV Package Lineup

  • America’s Top 120 ($69.99/month) – 190 channels
  • America’s Top 120+ ($84.99/month) – 190+ channels (Everything Sports)
  • America’s Top 200 ($94.99/month) – 240+ channels
  • America’s Top 250 ($104.99/month) – 290+ channels

While both DISH and DIRECTV require a two-year agreement, DISH does offer a no-contract option that costs up to $15 extra per month.

DIRECTV’s base plan costs a bit less than DISH but you also get fewer channels. Overall, DIRECTV offers more premium channels than DISH – the cost of which is reflected in each of their available plans.

DIRECTV Package Lineup

  • ENTERTAINMENT ($64.99/month) – 160+ channels
  • CHOICE ($69.99/month) – 185+ channels
  • ULTIMATE ($84.99/month) – 250+ channels
  • PREMIER ($134.99/month) – 330+ channels

If you’re interested in premium channels, you may want to give your attention to DIRECTV’s CHOICE, ULTIMATE, and PREMIER packages. In addition to NFL SUNDAY TICKET, you’ll also receive access to Cinemax, EPIX, HBO Max, Showtime, and Starz for your first three months. However, once this period is up, if you choose to keep these channels you’ll have to pay for each individual service’s subscription. DIRECTV’s most premium package, PREMIER, includes all of the aforementioned channels as part of the monthly cost.

Another not-so-tiny detail that you may want to consider is DIRECTV’s price increase in the second year of the 2-year contract. This change in pricing adds between $30 and $65/month to the various DIRECTV plans, so be sure to make note of the increased prices you’ll have to pay in the second year before you commit.*

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What others are saying

DISH rose in the charts for customer service in 2021, according to the American Customer Satisfaction Index, tying DIRECTV for third place.

J.D. Power also recognized DISH as the top in the nation for overall customer satisfaction in 2021. Though, DIRECTV is ranked just behind DISH.

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Satellite TV provider FAQs

How does satellite TV work?

Through the use of a satellite dish, signals are received from communications satellites that orbit the Earth and relay television programming. It’s free of wires making it ideal for rural locales that are far removed from the service areas of traditional cable TV providers.

Does satellite TV come with DVR and additional hardware?

Yes. Both DIRECTV and DISH provide you with DVR capabilities. DIRECTV includes the Genie DVR device as part of its packages. The Genie contains 200 hours of HD storage and grants you the ability to record 5 programs at once. For each additional Genie receiver, you’ll be adding $7/mo to your bill.

DISH offers a set of unique DVR receivers known together as the Hopper Family. Each of the receivers is available for a monthly fee: Hopper ($15/month), Hopper Duo ($10/month), Hopper 3 ($15/month), Wally ($7/month), and the Hopper with Sling ($15/month). The Hopper, Hopper 3, and Hopper with Sling provide a recording capacity of 2TB, whereas the Hopper Duo comes with 500GB. 

DISH also supplies add-on receivers known as the Joey that let you connect additional TVs in your home to your Hopper. Just like the Hopper, there are a few Joeys to choose from: Joey ($7/month), Wireless Joey ($7/month), 4K Joey ($7/month), and Super Joey ($10/month). 

Do DIRECTV and DISH require 2-year contracts? 

Yes, DIRECTV and DISH require you to sign a contract that binds you to their service for two years. However, DISH offers a no-contract option – your monthly bill will just be a little extra (around $10 to $15 more per month).

Just keep in mind while DISH’s prices stay the same throughout the duration of the contract, DIRECTV raises prices considerably in the second year. To end your contract for either service, you’ll need to pay a termination fee that amounts to $20 for each month remaining on your contract.

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*Pricing varies by location and availability. Speeds may vary. All prices subject to change; for current pricing and availability visit our TV service page. Prices as of 1/25/22.

Disclosure | Updater articles are based on our own data and research, independent from partner relationships. We are not compensated by partners for information and opinions presented here. Our Editorial Terms of Service can be found here.

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