Talking tech since 2003

With more time at home, you want the best entertainment for your dollar. Luckily, in almost every town in the US, you can snag satellite TV. You’ve decided to join the fold, but it’s hard to know who to choose between the long-standing rivals DIRECTV and DISH—until now.

If you want premium channels like HBO and CINEMAX, DIRECTV is the best choice. But if straightforward pricing means more to you, go for DISH. DIRECTV’s prices go up in the second year of your contract, but DISH prices stay the same.

Those aren’t the only differences, though. Let’s take a closer look.

DIRECTV vs. DISH overview

Here’s an overview of the most significant differences between DIRECTV and DISH.

Price changeMore expensive in 2nd yearSame in 2nd year
Max number of TVs87
Sports offeringsNFL SUNDAY TICKET and FOX SPORTS RSNsPac-12 Network
DVR leaseIncluded in cost$5–$10/mo.
Max DVR storage200 HD hours500 HD hours
Voice control remoteN/AGoogle Voice Remote

Price change

Although TV providers change their prices all the time, DIRECTV’s plans for new customers tend to start cheaper than DISH’s plans. But once the second year of your two-year contract rolls around, your DIRECTV plan will cost a few more Hamiltons each month.

If the price is a crucial factor to you, keep in mind that while DIRECTV’s plans look like the better deal, DISH might end up saving you more in the long run. Die-hard DIRECTV fans should take a look at that fine print to know how much their bills will grow in year two.

Max number of TVs

If you’ve got a lot of TVs at home—and we mean a half dozen roommates level of “a lot”—keep in mind that satellite TV providers can only service so many at a time on one plan. DIRECTV’s max is eight televisions, and DISH falls a little short with a max of seven televisions.

Heads up—it’s not cheap to hook up a fleet of TVs to your satellite TV service. DIRECTV includes the first TV box in your monthly cost, but every additional box is $7 per month. If you get all eight TVs, that will be a full $49 per month in just equipment fees.

DISH’s first TV box starts at $5 per month, but every box after that is only another $5 per month. Once you get up to the fourth box, DISH’s equipment lease becomes the better deal. Maxing out at seven TVs will cost you $35 each month.

Sports offerings

With sports seasons being up in the air this year, access to the best sports channels may not matter. But for the long term, here’s what you can expect from your satellite TV provider.

DIRECTV has long been the sports champion of the satellite TV world. Its exclusive NFL SUNDAY TICKET can hook you up with every out-of-market live NFL game each football season. We hope you’ve got the popcorn and little smokies ready to go.

But the divide between DIRECTV and DISH became even wider last year when DISH dropped FOX SPORTS RSNs. Depending on where you live, the regional networks are often the only way to catch local games, so many fans were left high and dry for coverage of their favorite local teams. If you need a FOX SPORTS RSN to watch your local team, DIRECTV has you covered.

There is one area where DISH does better—DIRECTV doesn’t offer Pac-12 Network, but DISH does. It looks like DIRECTV can’t win them all.

Premium channels

HBO is one of the biggest channels on TV, but you won’t find this favorite or CINEMAX offered by DISH. DIRECTV is the provider to go with if you want all the best premium channels, including HBO, CINEMAX, STARZ, and SHOWTIME.


DIRECTV’s Genie and DISH’s Hopper 3 are both excellent DVRs. The Genie even comes included in your package cost, and it’s always nice to not pay extra.

Most DISH packages start with the Hopper Duo, which can store 125 hours of HD recordings—not quite as many as the Genie’s 200 hours, and not even in the same ballpark as big brother Hopper 3’s 500 hours. The Hopper Duo will cost you $5 per month, or you can upgrade to the Hopper 3 and pay $10 per month.

Movie fans should keep in mind that, while the Hopper 3 costs a bit more, its storage has incredible potential. If you use the Hopper 3 to store the full 500 hours of TV and movies, you’ll amass yourself such a vast library that you can cut back on movie rentals and streaming services. Considering that, a DISH plan could be a movie lover’s best friend.

Voice control remote

While it’s more icing than cake, DISH’s voice remote is one cool gadget. It’s connected with Google Assistant, so you can control more smart home devices than just your TV.

DIRECTV’s remotes aren’t quite so flashy, but you can connect your Amazon Alexa to control your DIRECTV top box. Just keep in mind that you might be shouting to your Echo Dot across the room, not chatting to the remote in your hand.

Take your pick

In the end, DIRECTV and DISH are close enough services that you can’t make a wrong choice here. Though if any of the differences above align with your special interests, you might find one provider a better fit over the other.

Drop us a comment below if you have your own preference for satellite TV. Your personal experience might help someone else make the best choice for them.

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