Every out-of-market Sunday NFL game with NFL SUNDAY TICKET
Genie HD DVR is included (gets you 200 hours of HD storage)
Good customer service ratings
Price hike after 12 months
More expensive than DISH long-term
The Genie < Hopper 3
Fewer channels than comparable DISH packages
DIRECTV is one of the most popular TV providers nationwide, and for good reason. It offers tons of channels, really good pricing (for the first year), and tons of exclusive sports options.
Here’s everything you need to know before signing up.
DIRECTV prices and packages
DIRECTV packages are pretty cheap—at least for the first year of your contract. And yes, there is a contract.
After the first twelve months of your two-year contract, most DIRECTV plans more than double in price. So while $35 per month may be a good fit for you now, you need to consider whether you can afford the SELECT package’s $78-per-month price tag during the second year.
That’s the other downside: contracts. DIRECTV isn’t the only provider to require a contract (DISH also requires a two-year agreement). But it’s especially annoying since you’re locked into a rate hike halfway through. Blech.
Bottom line: price-wise, DIRECTV talks the talk but doesn’t walk the walk. Even during the first year, DIRECTV’s prices don’t quite beat streaming services like Sling TV. And DISH is generally the better deal in the long run, especially since DISH packages offer more channels than their comparable DIRECTV plans.
We’re not going to bog you down with a complete DIRECTV channel list (get that here). But this is generally what you can expect from each of DIRECTV’s six packages:
- DIRECTV’s SELECT package features 155+ channels, including popular channels like ABC, CBS, FOX, and NBC.
- The ENTERTAINMENT package features 160+ channels, including vital sports channels like ESPN, ESPN2, and FOX Sports 1.
- The CHOICE plan features 185+ channels, including lifestyle channels like Travel Channel, OWN, and the Cooking Channel.
- DIRECTV’s XTRA package features 235+ channels, including niche sports channels like the Golf Channel, FOX Sports 2, and the Olympic Channel.
- DIRECTV’s ULTIMATE package features 250+ channels, including Spanish-language channels like El Rey and the Univision Deportes network.
- The PREMIER plan features 330+ channels, including premium channels like HBO®, CINEMAX®, STARZ®, and SHOWTIME®.
If you’re torn, we’d recommend starting with the CHOICE package. It includes a good mix of basic channels, sports channels, and lifestyle channels, plus it comes with NFL SUNDAY TICKET during the first year of your contract. So if you’re desperate for out-of-market football coverage, the CHOICE package is indeed choice.
DIRECTV has a couple of on-demand options.
First, all DIRECTV packages include a library of over 35,000 on-demand movies and shows. We love using this heavenly feature to watch the most recent episodes of The Good Place and catching up on popular movies.
DIRECTV also offers pay-per-view (or PPV) movies and shows through its DIRECTV CINEMA feature. You can access these titles by flipping to channel 1100 or ordering over the phone.
For either option, though, you’ll need an internet-connected HD DVR. Fortunately, that should be a walk in the park since the Genie HD DVR comes with your package and DIRECTV offers lots of support if you need help connecting your DVR to the internet. The technology-challenged among us can all breathe a sigh of relief.
DIRECTV’s lineup is pretty extensive, but the service has even more to offer with its premium channel add-ons:
- HBO + SHOWTIME + STARZ + CINEMAX ($53.99 per month)
This add-on is perfect for Game of Thrones devotees salivating over season 8. Just keep in mind that all these channels are included with the PREMIER™ package.
- NFL SUNDAY TICKET ($293.94 per season)
Only NFL SUNDAY TICKET lets you catch every regular season out-of-market NFL game, every Sunday. As fantasy football players, we think it’s a must-have.
- NFL SUNDAY TICKET MAX ($395.94 per season)
All the football coverage of NFL SUNDAY TICKET plus extras like scoring highlights, fantasy football commentary, 30-minute commercial-free game replays, and on-demand access to NFL SUNDAY TICKET games.
- DIRECTV SPORTS PACK ($13.99 per month)
This is the add-on you want if you’re looking to watch teams outside your market. You get seven premium sports channels plus all regional sports networks nationwide. Again, though, all these channels are included with PREMIER packages.
- MLB EXTRA INNINGS® ($173.99 per season)
The perfect way to watch America’s favorite pastime, MLB EXTRA INNINGS includes the MLB Network, MLB Network Strike Zone, and the MLB Game Mix Channel.
- MLS Direct Kick™ ($89 per season)
This add-on gets you every game from all 23 Major League Soccer teams—even those outside your market.
- FOX SOCCER PLUS ($14.99 per month)
FOX Soccer Plus has the international and club soccer coverage you need plus select rugby events, like the Heineken Cup.
- NBA LEAGUE PASS ($199.95 per season)
This package delivers up to 40 out-of-market NBA games every week, so you can keep up with your favorite team no matter where you live.
- NHL® CENTER ICE® ($159.96 per season)
With NHL CENTER ICE, you get 40 out-of-market games per week—perfect for Floridians who want to watch Vegas Golden Knights games.
- DOGTV™ ($4.99 per month)
With DOGTV, Fido doesn’t have to suffer through another hour of lousy human TV.
- MBC Drama HD ($9.99 per month)
This 24-hour Korean channel features round-the-clock HD content and English subtitles with everything from Korean dramas to the biggest Korean films. Oh, and did we mention K-pop? Yeah, there’s K-pop.
- International add-ons
DIRECTV offers tons of package add-ons for anyone who wants international channels. Channel counts, prices, and offerings vary, so we’d recommend checking out DIRECTV’s site for more details. And FYI: you may need a second satellite dish in order to get some international programming.
- Adult TV add-ons
We assume we don’t have to explain these to you. In fact, please don’t make us explain these to you.
Local channels available with DIRECTV
DIRECTV’s pretty good about offering local ABC, CBS, FOX, and NBC stations. But occasionally, local channels may go dark if the station’s owner can’t negotiate a new broadcast contract with DIRECTV.
DIRECTV’s remote definitely gets the job done, but it also doesn’t offer any standout features.
One perk? It’s a universal remote, so you can pair it with your TV and audio system. That means if you can turn down the volume while watching ESPN without switching remotes. Convenient, right?
Playback features and commercial skipping with DIRECTV
With DVR service
|Rewinding||On select programming||Y|
|Fast-forwarding||On select programming||Y|
DIRECTV includes pretty standard playback features. You can pause, rewind, and fast-forward through commercials on most live shows (assuming you’ve paused it) and recorded content.
There are some exceptions, though. Certain playback controls are disabled when you watch both recorded and live content from specific channels. When we tried to watch F*ck, That’s Delicious on Vice, for instance, we weren’t allowed to fast-forward through the newest Colonel Sanders ad (though we could jump back to the beginning of the episode). We weren’t even able to pause and satisfy the munchies we got from watching the Colonel Sanders ad.
Long story short: DIRECTV’s playback controls are just okay. But, like the service’s pricing, there are a lot of hidden gotchas you have to look out for.
Genie® HD DVR
|Hours (HD)||Automatic commercial skipping||Price|
|Genie® HD DVR||200||N||$0/mo.|
DIRECTV’s Genie HD Whole Home DVR gets the job done, but compared to other options on the market, it’s still middle-of-the-pack.
The Genie can store up to 200 hours of HD recordings and record up to five shows at once. That’s definitely more powerful than DISH’s comparable option, the Hopper Duo, but it doesn’t really hold a candle to YouTube TV’s cloud DVR and its unlimited HD storage. And then there’s DISH’s Hopper 3, which totally blows the Genie out of the water with its 500 hours of HD content and 16 tuners.
The good news? The Genie HD DVR is included in your package price. And for once, there’s no sneaky fine print or hidden fees. The Hopper 3, on the other hand, costs an extra $5–$10 per month.
So if you’re the type of TV-watcher who doesn’t record 16 shows at once (does anyone?), you’re probably better off paying less with DIRECTV’s Genie.
Connecting multiple TVs
|Upfront cost||Monthly cost|
|Genie® Mini||$0 (or $49 each after your first four)||$7/mo. per receiver|
|Wireless Genie® Mini||$99||$7/mo. per receiver|
If you’re trying to get DIRECTV service on multiple TVs, you’ll need a Genie Mini or Wireless Genie Mini for each additional TV in your house.
The Genie Minis connect your TV to your Genie HD DVR, so you can still watch TV in bed, even if your kids are using the living room TV to binge-watch every Caillou episode ever created (shudder).
The only thing you need to figure out is whether you’ll need the standard Genie Mini or the Wireless Genie Mini. If you have a coaxial connection near your second TV, you’re probably fine going with the Genie Mini.
But if hardwiring your Genie Mini is impossible (or maybe just inconvenient), you’ll need a Wireless Genie Mini. It costs the same per month as the regular Genie Mini, but there is a $99 fee up front.
Of course, it isn’t perfect. You need a clear view south for your satellite to work, so if you live in an area with a lot of bad weather or if there are a lot of trees, hills, or other obstructions, you may want to consider a cable TV service (like Xfinity TV).
That all being said, most people experience clear picture quality and solid reliability with DIRECTV service. Game day is in good hands.
DIRECTV’s interface (a.k.a. the menu system that helps you find what you want) is pretty easy to navigate
DIRECTV’s interface clearly organizes your recordings, live TV, and on-demand titles, so you can quickly get to the shows you want. It’s even got a search feature that’s easy to find and lets you type in exactly what you’re looking for.
DIRECTV’s channel guide is also pretty easy to use.
It may seem just like every other channel guide you’ve ever used. But believe us when we say that’s a good thing. It means you know exactly where to find everything without having to learn a whole new system. That’s a nice change over some streaming services we could name (*cough* Hulu Live *cough*).
DIRECTV customer service
FYI: According to the American Customer Satisfaction Index, DIRECTV customers rate the service 64 out of 100. That’s higher than over two thirds of other traditional TV providers, including DISH.
One of the things we love most about DIRECTV is the customer support.
DIRECTV’s online help center makes it easy to find the help you need. And we know from personal experience that DIRECTV’s chat agents are super easy to work with. That’s a nice change of pace from DISH, where chat agents are more focused on shoehorning you into a sale than actually providing support.
Basically, if we had to marry either DISH or DIRECTV, we’d pick DIRECTV. We deserve a TV service that treats us right. And you know what? So do you.
Before you ask, no—you cannot install your DIRECTV dish or DIRECTV box by yourself.
You can usually get professional installation of your services within a week, and the actual setup takes two to five hours. The actual time varies depending on your location and other circumstances, but you will need to be home during that time. You might want to clear your schedule for the day just to be safe.
DIRECTV protection plans
DIRECTV’s protection plans are basically insurance for your DIRECTV system (a.k.a. your dish and receiver) and any wiring you use to connect your DIRECTV service.
Power surge fried your DVR and power cord? If you’ve got a protection plan, DIRECTV will replace both the DVR and the wiring free of charge. Or if your dish is knocked out of alignment by a rogue frisbee, DIRECTV will cover the cost of your service call to fix it. Plus, your plan includes a free receiver upgrade every two years.
The basic DIRECTV Protection Plan costs $8.99 per month. Or you can upgrade to the DIRECTV Protection Plan Premier for $20.99 per month. The upgraded plan extends your coverage to all your in-home devices (e.g. your laptop, phone, tablet—anything you use to watch DIRECTV).
And for another $4.99 per month, you can tack on Accidental Damage from Handling coverage, which is a great safety net if you have a tendency to drop your tablet, spill water on your computer, or simply sit on your phone wrong.
Other than the rate hikes during your second year, there are only a couple of fees you need to know about.
First, if you choose a CHOICE™ package or higher, your package includes regional sports channels. That means you’ll have to pay a Regional Sports Fee of about $7.49 per month (the exact cost varies by area).
Second, if you order over the phone, you may have to pay a one-time $19.95 activation fee, which you don’t have to pay if you order online.
Finally, DIRECTV does ask you to submit to a credit check. If your credit score is low or you opt out of the credit check, you’ll be asked to pay a $199 upfront fee. Bummer.
During select times of the year, DIRECTV may have special offers (like one season of NFL SUNDAY TICKET included with your package). In general, though, the best way to save on your DIRECTV service is to bundle with an AT&T wireless plan.
Stay in the know
DIRECTV review summary (our verdict)
On the whole, DIRECTV is a solid service. It offers reliability, quality service, and an effortless user-friendly experience. Plus, DIRECTV’s lineup is pretty decent in terms of channel availability, add-on options, and on-demand offerings.
That being said, it does leave a bit to be desired. For starters, DIRECTV plans cost more over the course of your contract than comparable DISH plans. And DIRECTV’s Genie HD DVR isn’t quite as good as DISH’s Hopper 3, even if it is cheaper.
In the end, though, it comes down to what you’re looking for. If you want unparalleled sports offerings, DIRECTV is the way to go. But if you’re fundamentally against mandatory price hikes in the middle of your long-term contract, DISH may be the better choice.