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DISH vs. DIRECTV—Who Wins the Best Satellite TV Battle?

Best for Most

Our Rating

Starting At $59.99/mo
Our Rating
User Experience

Our Rating

Starting At $35/mo
Our Rating
User Experience

The two heavyweights of satellite TV are stepping into the cage, and only one champion will leave crowned the winner.

Okay, we’re mixing up boxing and cage fighting—let’s just forget the sporty intro and answer the question. Both DISH and DIRECTV have a lot to offer, but they each also have their issues. If we had to choose one as the best service overall. . . it’s DISH.

Our winner: DISH

Let’s not kid ourselves—the most important part about satellite TV is the price. With DISH, you’ll pay slightly less for basically the same channels. Of course, there’s more to the equation, and we’ll talk about all the details here.


Live channels available120–250+155–330+
Max. DVR hours500 hrs.200 hrs.
DVR rating5/53/5
Customer service rating3.5/54/5
Max. supported TVs78
See Plans See Plans
Data effective 8/17/18. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.
**For 24 months with a 2-year contract and eAutoPay
*For 12 months with a 2-yr contract, paperless bill, & autopay. Price increases for months 13-24.

As you can tell from the table, there’s a lot to parse out between the two satellite TV services. DISH generally scores better in most categories, but that doesn’t mean DIRECTV won’t be a better fit for you. We just want you to make the best decision for you. Friends? Okay, wonderful.

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An even deeper dive on DISH and DIRECTV

We’ll mostly hit surface-level differences between the two satellite services, but if you want to get all the dirt, you can check out our more extensive DISH review and DIRECTV review.

Prices and plans: DISH vs. DIRECTV

DISH prices and packages

PackagesChannel countPrice
America’s Top 120190 $59.99/mo.** See Plans
America’s Top 120 Plus190+ $69.99/mo.** See Plans
America’s Top 200240+ $79.99/mo** See Plans
America’s Top 250290+ $89.99/mo.** See Plans
Data effective 8/17/18. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.
**For 24 months with a 2-year contract and eAutoPay

DIRECTV prices and packages

PackagesChannel countPrice
SELECT155+ $35/mo.* See Plans
ENTERTAINMENT160+ $40/mo.* See Plans
CHOICE185+ $45/mo.* See Plans
XTRA235+$55/mo.* See Plans
ULTIMATE250+ $60/mo.* See Plans
PREMIER330+$110/mo.* See Plans
Data effective 8/17/18. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.
*For 12 months with a 2-yr contract, paperless bill, & autopay. Price increases for months 13-24.

Winner: DISH

Cheaper TV makes for happier TV, which is why DISH squeaks out the victory over DIRECTV in this category. Even though it looks like DIRECTV costs less each month, it’s a little more complicated than that.

It turns out your DIRECTV monthly payment nearly doubles during the second year of your two-year contract (if you read the fine print). Break out your calculator, and you’ll discover over the course of two years, you could be paying over a hundred bucks more for the same channels with DIRECTV.

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Free installation for one and all

No matter which service you go with, your satellite dish installation will be included. This is one of those moments where you can be grateful that DISH and DIRECTV peer pressure each other into giving us better deals.

Equipment and hidden fees shake out to be pretty much the same between the two satellite services. You’ve got your DVR fees, extra receiver fees, and those lame late fees you should try hard to avoid.

Can I bundle DISH or DIRECTV with any other services?

You certainly can. Both DISH and DIRECTV offer internet and phone bundles to go along with their live TV service. You’ll save a few bucks every month by bundling your TV and internet together.

Which internet provider you get depends on which TV service you decide on. For example, DIRECTV and AT&T are friends, whereas DISH is friends with Frontier. It just depends on what internet provider you want to be friends with.

Take a look at DISH bundles and DIRECTV bundles, and see what you can get in your area.

Do DISH and DIRECTV offer any deals?

If you can time it right, you can occasionally get special offers like reward cards and free premium channels trials with DISH or DIRECTV.

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Get updated

Want to find out when new DISH or DIRECTV deals are going on? Sign up for our newsletter and stay informed.

Channels: DISH vs. DIRECTV

Included channels190-290+155-330+
Total channels (with add-ons)440+353+
See Plans See Plans


We can’t argue with the numbers, and DIRECTV has channel numbers on its side. Of course, if you zoom in a little closer on the more expensive packages, you’ll discover that many of those channels are random music channels you’ll probably never use—unless you love smooth jazz, of course. Still, if variety is what you care about most, DIRECTV offers it in spades.

Speaking of variety, DIRECTV also offers the most channel packages, so you get a little more customization with your channel count than you do with DISH. Take the SELECT package for example. Sure, it doesn’t have ESPN or FOX Sports, but it does have ABC, HGTV, and NBC for a really cheap monthly price.

You’ll be hard pressed to find a channel you actually watch that DIRECTV offers and DISH does not. But you should probably look anyway—here’s the DIRECTV channel list and here’s the DISH channel list.

Which TV provider is better for watching sports channels?

That depends on what sport you want to watch. For watching the NFL, the answer is super easy—DIRECTV.

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Ever heard of NFL SUNDAY TICKET? Well, with it you get access to every out-of-market Sunday NFL game. Let us repeat that: every out-of-market Sunday NFL game. It’s as good as it sounds, and it’s only on DIRECTV and DIRECTV NOW.

College football fans beware—DIRECTV doesn’t carry the PAC-12 Network in any of its channel packages. Stick with DISH if you want to watch any of your Pac-12 alma maters.

For other sports like the NBA, MLB, or NHL, you’ll be better off with DISH’s cheaper channel packages.

Check out the DIRECTV channel list and DISH channel list for any niche sports channels you’re interested in.

What channels do you get with DISH? What channels are with DIRECTV?

Do you really want to read through a massive list of channels right now? Save yourself some time and check out our DISH review or DIRECTV review and get all the channel details there.

Honestly, you get a lot of channel options with both packages, and you can usually find every channel you want with either choice. So the channel list probably isn’t going to make or break your decision between them—unless you’re looking at premium channels.

Premium channels: DISH vs. DIRECTV

DISH Movie Pack$10/mo.N/A
See Plans See Plans

Winner: DISH

Pound for pound, the premium channels being offered by DISH are cheaper than what DIRECTV offers. Either way, you’re going to watch Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen, so you might as well pay a few bucks less with DISH.

Even if you add up the value of the individual premium channels on DISH, it ends up being less expensive than DIRECTV’s bundle. Pick and choose your premium channels with DISH and don’t stress about paying for premium channels you might never watch.

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Free trials on premium channels

No matter which provider you choose, you’ll get three months of premium channels for free as a new customer. You can binge so many shows in three months, so please, take advantage of that precious time. Just make sure to cancel your subscription before you get charged for anything.

DVR and equipment: DISH vs. DIRECTV

DISH Hopper 3DIRECTV Genie
Storage space500 hours200 hours
Max. simultaneous recordings165
Max. supported TVs78
Max. simultaneous watching44
Additional receiver cost $5-$10/mo.$7/mo.
Remote control finderYesNo
Bluetooth compatibleYesNo
Learn MoreLearn More

Winner: DISH

Contrary to rapper Notorious B.I.G.’s advice—mo’ DVR hours, less problems. You want as many DVR hours as possible to minimize stressing about storage space. You have enough to worry about, which is why we’re strongly recommending DISH in the DVR category.

If you want the most DVR storage (currently) humanly possible, the Hopper 3 is for you. But those 500 hours of HD DVR storage do come with a cost of an additional $5 a month. The Hopper 3 also comes with a whopping 16 simultaneous recordings.

Honestly, 16 simultaneous recordings edge on overkill, but hey, maybe it will come in handy the next time you want to record 16 things at once.

The Genie from DIRECTV maxes out at 200 HD hours of storage, but it’s included in your DIRECTV package. That may sound like plenty of storage, but once you fill it up (and you will), you’ll probably wish you had another 300 hours to mess around with.

What about connecting multiple TVs to a DVR?

Both DISH and DIRECTV require additional receivers to connect other TVs to your main receiver. On the one hand, you’ve got the DISH Joeys, which cost $5 a month, or $10 a month for the Super Joey. On the other hand, you’ve got DIRECTV Genie Minis, which cost $7 a month. Points to DISH for saving you a couple of bucks every month.

And the crown goes to . . . DISH

Why pay more for essentially the same channels? You can save over a $100 bucks over the two-year contract with DISH. You should reward yourself by buying something that costs $100, like one pound of Wagyu beef.

The main reasons you may choose DIRECTV over DISH would be pure channel count and NFL coverage, but you’ll probably find everything you need with DISH.

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For the thorough researchers out there

If you’re on the brink of deciding between DISH or DIRECTV, and you want to do just a little more digging, you can read our DISH review and DIRECTV review for all the deets.

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