Saturday, April 20, 2024

These Are the 2 Best Satellite TV Providers

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Editor’s Note: This story comes from CableTV.com.

DISH Network is our Editor’s Choice for the best overall TV provider for the last three years due to its high channel count, industry-leading DVR, and two-year price guarantee.

DISH is also our best TV provider for families, with tons of kids’ channels and excellent parental controls. So we highly recommend DISH for almost everyone.

DIRECTV packages once had more channels than DISH, but as of this year, it offers half as many. Now the satellite TV service is an even poorer value, despite adding a two-year price guarantee and at least flirting with pricing transparency in 2023.

DIRECTV still has plenty of sports channels and regional sports networks (RSNs), though, so we recommend it for sports fans who don’t mind paying a premium for live sports.

Just watch out for the $15.99 monthly RSN fee and another 2023 addition — a $15 monthly Advanced Receiver Service Fee for its Genie DVR (formerly included).

For a more in-depth comparison of satellite TV providers, read our DISH vs. DIRECTV guide, which covers everything from DVRs to installation to internet bundles.

Best overall: DISH Network

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  • Price: $84.99–$114.99/mo.
  • Channels: 190–290+
  • DVR storage: 500 hrs.
  • Simultaneous recordings: 16
  • DVR fee: $10.00/mo.

Pros

  • 2 yr. price guarantee
  • Best DVR (Hopper 3)
  • Best kids programming
  • Best parental controls
  • DISH Anywhere app

Cons

  • $10 monthly fee for Hopper 3 DVR
  • Limited bundling options

About DISH Network

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DISH Network has satellite TV packages priced $89.99–$114.99/mo. (and two current-customer plans that you can read about in our DISH review).

We recommend America’s Top 200 ($104.99 a month, 240+ channels) because it has the most channels for the best value.

Like DIRECTV, DISH has two-year contracts, but it locks in your price for two years — that’s why DIRECTV added its own two-year price guarantee last year.

DISH also has the best DVR in the business: the Hopper 3, which records up to 16 shows at once and stores up to a whopping 500 hours of HD movies and shows. The Hopper 3 does cost an extra $10 per month, but that’s an amazing value considering what you get with the receiver/DVR.

If you don’t wanna pay the extra $10 for the Hopper 3, DISH offers the Hopper Duo for $5 a month. The Duo stores only 125 hours of HD content and records only two shows at once, but that’s plenty for smaller households.

DISH offers 190 channels with America’s Top 120 ($84.99 a month). We recommend Top 120 for most people, but sports fans will want to go with Top 120+.

Best for sports: DIRECTV

DirecTV
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  • Price: $69.99–$159.99/mo.
  • Channels: 165–340+
  • DVR storage: Up to 200 hrs.

Pros

  • 2 yr. price guarantee
  • Genie HD DVRs
  • 3 mos. of free premium channels

Cons

About DIRECTV

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We’ve already established that DIRECTV has even worse value now that it’s slashed its channel lineup in half without cutting its already high prices. So let’s get deeper into DIRECTV’s value problem.

DIRECTV’s value is poorest when compared to its main satellite TV rival, DISH, and top cable TV providers. With the $15-a-month Advanced Receiver Service Fee for the Genie, and the regional sports network (RSN) fee (up to $15.99 a month), the advertised plan prices rise by 19%–44%.

To put that into perspective, remember you’re paying the same or (much) more than DISH for half the channels, and DISH charges $5 less for its — superior — Hopper DVR.

If you’re set on DIRECTV, consider this: The ENTERTAINMENT ($69.99 monthly, 75+ channels) and CHOICE ($84.99 monthly, 105+ channels) plans compare more favorably to some live TV streaming services.

So, if you don’t want to pay the $15-a-month Advanced Receiver Service Fee for the Genie HD DVR, or other DIRECTV hidden costs, check out DIRECTV STREAM, which has no equipment fees if you supply your own streaming device.

More DIRECTV considerations

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A downside of DIRECTV STREAM is that you’ll still have to pay the RSN fee.

Also, without the Genie HD DVR, you won’t have some of the fun features sports fans love, like mix channels (watch up to six sporting events at once) and 72-hour rewind (catch missed events up to 72 hours later).

We don’t recommend the ULTIMATE ($114.99 monthly, 140+ channels) or PREMIER ($159.99 monthly, 150+ channels) plans for either DIRECTV or DIRECTV STREAM. Sigh.

At least DIRECTV now has a two-year price guarantee, which means there’s no longer a massive, second-year rate increase.

We think DIRECTV’s CHOICE All Included package ($84.99 a month, 105+ channels) is a decent deal, especially when you consider the added value of free three-month trials of Paramount+ with SHOWTIME, Max, STARZ, Cinemax and MGM+.

For perspective, DISH offers 190 channels with America’s Top 120 ($84.99 a month).

What to look for in satellite TV providers

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What are the most important qualities of a satellite TV provider (besides a good personality and sense of humor)? If you said channel count or DVR equipment, you’re right.

It’s also smart to see if the provider has an app for mobile watching and account management, value-adding perks, and good customer satisfaction ratings.

Let’s dive deeper into why these are key features.

Channel count

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For TV providers, channel count is a crucial stat. The higher the number, the more impressive.

But quality also matters: to make sure you can get the channels you want, check out our channel guides for each provider:

DVRs and other equipment

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When you sign up for satellite TV service, you’re also committing to a DVR/receiver unit — and possibly a monthly rental fee. Make sure the machine meets your needs.

  • Is the DVR included or is there a rental fee?
  • Is there also a separate fee for DVR service?
  • How many hours of HD content does the DVR store?
  • Can you buy separate DVRs or receivers for multi-room viewing?
  • Does the DVR have cool, exclusive features?
  • Does the remote control have voice search capabilities?

Also, many providers offer access to your DVR content (and maybe even your channel package) via a mobile app. Let’s discuss, shall we?

Mobile apps

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Most cable and satellite service providers have apps that allow account management (bill pay, support, etc.), watch-anywhere streaming, or both. You should get some of that convenience in your life.

DIRECTV (Android, iOS) and DISH (Android, iOS) both have mobile apps that allow you to watch your live channels, on-demand content, and DVR recordings on your smartphone or tablet.

You can also use both apps to set and manage DVR timers and parental controls.

Perks, deals, and other promotions

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DIRECTV and DISH sell pretty much the same product for the same price. So, to get your business, they regularly offer deals to entice new customers to sign up.

Customer satisfaction

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It’s always smart to see what other customers think of a provider before you commit.

In our annual customer satisfaction survey, we asked customers of the top cable and satellite TV providers to rate providers on billing, channel selection, customer and technical support, DVR satisfaction, installation, signal reliability, user experience, and overall satisfaction.

DIRECTV finished second in overall customer satisfaction with 69% indicating complete or very high satisfaction.

DISH finished 7th with 62% (remember, these are customer ratings, not CableTV.com’s editorial ratings).

Is DISH or DIRECTV more worth it?

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So which satellite TV service is best? We recommend DISH.

Like we said earlier, DISH’s three-year price-lock was the clincher (with a boost from the awesome Hopper 3 DVR).

DISH might have fewer channels than DIRECTV, and charge a monthly fee for the Hopper 3, but it’s still more affordable than DIRECTV.

Sports fans, however, might be okay with paying more for DIRECTV’s sports offerings.

Next up are the best satellite TV providers FAQ.

What is the cheapest satellite TV provider?

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DISH is the cheapest satellite TV provider — its plan prices and DVR fees beat DIRECTV’s, and so does the DISH three-year price guarantee.

DIRECTV has more channels and offers a two-year price guarantee, but its hidden fees add up.

Can I get free satellite TV?

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You can pick up free-to-air satellite TV channels with your own satellite dish and receiver, but you won’t get the kinds of channels that are available through satellite TV companies like DIRECTV or DISH.

It’ll be mostly government-sponsored stations like PBS. But if you’ve relocated to the US from another country, free-to-air satellite TV can pick up channels from your home country.

What are the best satellite TV providers?

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Out of the two satellite TV providers in the U.S., DISH is best. It has 290+ channels, the Hopper 3 DVR (500 hours of storage, 16 simultaneous recordings), and a three-year price guarantee.

What is the difference between cable and satellite TV?

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Cable TV comes through a cable. Satellite TV bounces from Earth to a satellite and back to a satellite dish on top of your house.

What are the best satellite TV deals?

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Here are the deals and promotions we dug up for DIRECTV and DISH.

DIRECTV

  • Free premium channels: Get three months of CINEMAX, MGM+, Max, Paramount+ with SHOWTIME, and STARZ free when you sign up for ENTERTAINMENT All Included or higher.

DISH

  • Free installation: DISH currently waives the $199 installation fee on new orders.
  • DISH 55: Dish customers aged 55 or older get free installation, one free movie rental, six free months of equipment protection, and upgraded identity theft protection.
  • DISH “Those Who Serve”: If you’re active military, a veteran, or a first responder, you’ll get one free movie rental plus the Stars & Stripes channel pack (regularly $10/mo.) at no additional cost. If you’re a healthcare worker or a teacher, you’re eligible to get a movie rental plus the Heartland channel pack (regularly $6 a month).
  • Free premium channels: New customers get 3 free months of Paramount+ with SHOWTIME, STARZ, and the DISH Movie Pack. Remember to cancel before the promo period ends, or you’ll be charged $20 per month.
  • eAutoPay discount: DISH gives you a $5/mo. discount for using paperless billing.

Methodology

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Our experts employed hours of hands-on testing and crunched the numbers, rating DISH and DIRECTV on bang for your buck, reliability, features, and customer satisfaction.

Then we matched up the satellite TV providers head to head to give a clearer picture of their strengths and weaknesses. For more information on our methodology, check out our How We Rank page.

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