DISH vs. DIRECTV: Which Satellite Option Is the Better Choice?

largest media companies

DISH vs. DIRECTV: Which Satellite Option Is the Better Choice?

Key Points

  • DISH offers more channels, with over 290 in its most expensive package, while DIRECTV has over 340 channels in its most expensive plan.
  • DISH’s pricing starts at $79.99 a month, while DIRECTV’s starts at $64.99 a month.
  • Both providers offer DVR functionality; DISH’s Hopper 3 receiver allows for recording up to 16 shows at a time, while DIRECTV’s Gemini box has a 72-hour loopback feature.
  • DISH has free standard installation and more transparent cancellation fees, making it a better overall choice compared to DIRECTV.

DISH vs. DIRECTV: which option is better? Satellite TV options aren’t quite as plentiful as streaming packages or cable across most of the continental US. If you’re looking to get into satellite TV, the two major players are going to be DISH and DIRECTV.

However, despite offering the same sort of service, these companies have very different packages, pricing, and channels on offer. Before taking the plunge and subscribing to one of these providers, see which one is actually worth the price.

>> Interested in a Streaming Service Instead? Get 3 months of premium channels included with DIRECTV STREAM CHOICE Package!

DISH vs. DIRECTV: Side-by-Side Comparison

Plans on OfferAmerica’s Top 120, America’s Top 120 Plus, America’s Top 200, America’s Top 250Entertainment, Choice, Ultimate, Premier
PricingPlans start at $79.99 for the most basic and go up to $109.99 for America’s Top 250Entertainment starts at $64.99 a month, Premier is the most expensive plan at $154.99 a month
Method of ConnectionSatelliteSatellite or Internet
DVR FunctionalityYesYes
On-Demand ContentYesYes
Sports ContentYes, multiple sports options including college sports, NFL, NBA, MLB, and othersYes, multiple sports options including local packages for regional sports content
Number of ChannelsOver 290Over 340
DVR FeeStarts at $10 a month$10 a month

Despite using the same method of delivery, both of these providers have some different content on offer. The most notable difference right away is the huge difference in channels, with DISH having significantly more on its most expensive package.

DISH vs. DIRECTV: What’s the Difference?

Packages Available

DISH TV offers four packages with varying degrees of access. The most basic, America’s Top 120, comes with 190 channels, local TV content, and free on-demand movies and shows. Notably, the least expensive plan on offer from the provider comes with no sports content, unless it is provided by local affiliate stations.

There are three other plans on offer from DISH, each with its own varying content. You start to see sports content with America’s Top 120 Plus, which comes with the Big Ten Network, Pac-12, and NFL Network, in addition to all of the content from America’s Top 120. The most expensive plan, America’s Top 250 offers over 290 channels, with a large multi-sport package and other premium channels.

DIRECTV’s plan structuring is similar, with the basic Entertainment plan coming with over 75 channels and some basic sports content. To entice upgrades or additional fees, DIRECTV also gives three months of free access to its Sports Pack.

dish vs. directv
You’ll find DISH has more content and channels available for its most basic plans.

DIRECTV’s most expensive plan, Premier, has over 340 channels, including some premium ones like SHOWTIME, Max, STARZ, and Cinemax. Going from a sheer channel count, DIRECTV has a superior content offering.

Also, sports fans might want to consider DIRECTV, at least due to specialized regional sports programming. That might be less of a consideration if you’re a transplant to a new area and still want to follow your hometown teams.


The pricing between these two providers is where things really start to get interesting. DISH’s most basic plan, America’s Top 120, starts at $79.99 a month. If you’re reaching up to its most expensive plan, you can expect to spend $109.99 a month.

Now, what DISH hides away in FAQ pages and other locations on the site are the actual fees tacked on to your monthly bill. You can expect to pay an additional $10 a month on top of any plan for DVR use. If you live outside of the continental US, like in Hawaii or Alaska, that is another nominal fee of $5 a month.

If you have multiple receivers, you’re also going to be with variable pricing for equipment leases. The first receiver is free, as you might expect. As such, without a little reading up beforehand, you could have quite a rude awakening when opening your first bill from DISH.

DIRECTV is more expensive overall, with its quote of $64.99 a month for Entertainment actually being closer to $80 a month. DIRECTV does give fee information directly on its main page, but there are a number of additional charges for each plan. The most expensive plan, Premier, starts at $154.99 a month.

However, that is actually closer to $200 a month when you factor in the taxes, service fees, DVR fees, and regional sports costs. Despite offering regional sports, DIRECTV actually charges an additional $14 a month just to get access.

>> Interested in a Streaming Service Instead? Get 3 months of premium channels included with DIRECTV STREAM CHOICE Package!

DVR Recording

Both providers have DVR capabilities available for their plans. DISH gets a slight edge here, as the Hopper 3 receiver is an impressive piece of tech. It combines the functions of a satellite receiver and DVR into one tidy package. You’ve got the ability to record up to 16 shows at a time and there is plenty of room with 2,000 hours of storage space.

However, the fees for the DVR units available from DISH are more variable. Using the deluxe Hopper 3 is $15 a month on top of all additional service fees associated with your plan. Still, if you’re a TV fanatic, this might be the way to go for having content constantly on tap.

The DVR box from DIRECTV is the Gemini, but it has vastly different capabilities depending on your method of connection to the service. Gemini functions as a combination streaming device and DVR but has some interesting features to mark it apart from the Hopper 3.

It has significantly less storage, coming in at only 200 hours of local storage if using DIRECTV through satellite access. If you opt for a connection via the internet, storage is significantly higher but it’s cloud-based, so there will be some extra loading time to get content playing.

Where Gemini really marks itself apart is the 72-hour loopback feature. If you miss a favorite show or movie, you can check the content of the last three days on any of your supported channels to watch or record for later viewing. DIRECTV’s price structuring for DVR fees is a flat $10 a month, with DVR access being optional when piecing together your content plan.

Installation and Cancellation Fees

DISH is arguably a better offering when it comes to initial fees at the time of starting your plan of choice. The provider has a free standard installation for all satellite TV plans, with only a minimum of $15 in shipping if you have the equipment sent to you.

Both DISH and DIRECTV have contracts that run for a couple of years, so you might eventually want to swap providers. When you do, there are cancellation fees for getting out of your agreement early. If you’re canceling as a new customer, you’re looking at $480 just to terminate the service. If you’ve been with the service a while, it’ll be closer to $240.

dish vs. directv
DIRECTV doesn’t have any installation fees, but you will be subject to activation fees when starting your service.

DIRECTV has no installation fees, at least up front. When you sign up for a plan, the installation of all equipment is free. However, you’ll be subject to a $20 activation fee to get your receiver functional. Like with DISH, you’ll have a rather extreme cancellation fee if you decide the service isn’t for you.

Depending on the amount of time left on your contract, you could be looking at cancellation fees of up to $480 to get out of your current contract. If you somehow forget to activate your receiver in the first 30 days after installation, you’ve got an additional $150 surcharge on top of the activation fee.

Both services are rife with hidden costs, but the nod does have to go to DISH, which makes all of this a bit more transparent upfront.

DISH vs. DIRECTV: 6 Must-Know Facts

  1. DIRECTV has the most channels on offer.
  2. DISH has a better quality DVR available for use; the Hopper 3 can even replace the receiver outright.
  3. DISH’s pricing structure is more transparent, despite also being laden with fees.
  4. DIRECTV can connect via satellite or internet access.
  5. DIRECTV’s plans typically have fewer channels than DISH.
  6. DIRECTV has a number of fees just for accessing local sports content.

DISH vs. DIRECTV: Which One is Better? Which One Should You Choose?

So, which of these satellite providers is the one for you? A tip of the hat really has to go to DISH, which offers an overall better and more transparent service. The plans are more expensive on paper, but they come out to roughly the same cost when factoring in the various service fees, taxes, and other expenses.

DIRECTV is certainly a fine option if you’d rather have more local sports. However, you might end up paying more when you start factoring in all the hidden fees. As such, DISH is our winner for the satellite TV provider of choice.

>> Interested in a Streaming Service Instead? Get 3 months of premium channels included with DIRECTV STREAM CHOICE Package!

Frequently Asked Questions

Which satellite provider is best for sports?

DIRECTV has an edge when it comes to sports content. Not only do you get access to pro and college sports, but you also have the option of regional sports content.

Which satellite provider has the most channels on its plans?

DIRECT has significantly higher channel counts.

Which satellite plan is best for movie lovers?

DIRECTV’s Premier plan comes with access to a number of premium movie channels like STARZ and Max.

Which company offers a better DVR?

The Hopper 3 from DISH is the best DVR on offer from any satellite provider currently thanks to its ability to record up to 16 shows at the same time.

Do satellite providers have support for local channels?

Yes, DISH and DIRECTV have support for local news and programming.

To top