Dish vs. DirecTV: Best Satellite TV and Cable Alternative

Written By Jeff Hindenach
Last updated March 5, 2018

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March 4, 2018

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When it comes to satellite TV choices, there are really only two brands to choose from: Dish and DirecTV. The problem is figuring out which option is the best cable alternative for you and your family. Which offers the best value? Which has the most channels? What extras are included? It can take hours to sift through all the information about each service, so we’ve put together a Dish review and a DirecTV review that details all of the information from both so you can compare the services side-by-side.

Dish Review

Dish website

Dish Review image
  • Best for: People who want an alternative to standard cable service and people who live in remote areas with poor access to cable service.
  • Price: Dish prices vary depending on how many channels you want. The cheapest package ($24.99) gives you access to 120 channels. The most expensive package ($84.99) gives you access to 295 channels, including movie channels.
  • Features: A Dish membership comes with several features, including free installation, a two-year price guarantee and nationwide coverage. Depending on what level of membership you pay for, you can also get a free DVR and voice remote.
  • Customer Service: Dish was ranked No. 1 in customer service by J.D. Power when it comes to customer service.

Dish has a system of satellites orbiting the planet. These satellites have the ability to receive and send information. In order to receive content, you will need one of Dish’s satellite dishes and accompanying hardware.

Dish’s network of broadcast centers and satellites makes it possible for you to request content on demand. If you want to watch a movie in the company’s library, then you can have a broadcast center beam the information to a satellite. The movie will then get sent to your satellite dish.

You have a unique account with Dish, so you can choose from a variety of membership options. Typically, the more channels and extras that you get, the more money you pay for your membership.

Dish was the first TV provider to offer integration with Amazon Alexa. The integration makes it possible for you to use your voice to control your television. For instance, if you want to watch your favorite television series, you can ask Alexa to search for the content and play it on your TV.

Dish also stands out because it still offers a DVD rental option. Today, many people rely on online streaming to rent or buy movies. Some of Dish’s customers, however, aren’t interested in streaming technology. Having a collection of DVDs also makes it possible for subscribers to access a wider range of movies. Streaming services only want to spend money on popular titles that a lot of people want to watch. With DVD rentals, though, you can watch obscure movies that don’t have large followings.

Dish has nearly 14 million subscribers in the United States. With that many subscribers, you’re bound to find positive and negative reviews online.

A fair number of people complain about Dish’s customer service. They say that the company responds slowly to requests. Some of them also complain that the company doesn’t attempt to fix interference caused by storms. If the company doesn’t have the ability to make its signal clear during storms, then it should at least train its customer service representatives to explain the situation in a helpful way.

There are also complaints about how the company sells its services. Many online reviewers say that the Dish promised one rate, but then charged them higher rates. Some people even claim that Dish adds fees randomly, so it’s important to pay attention to each bill and look for inaccuracies.

There are at least two positive stories for every complaint about Dish. Some online reviewers say that the company goes above and beyond to provide the highest level of customer service. One man even says that Dish upgraded his system for free after he complained about weak signals.

Dish is a great option if you’re ready to cut the cord and move to a satellite television system. It’s also a good option for people who live in remote areas where cable service isn’t available.

Before you sign up for a Dish membership, you should understand that satellite technology has some issues. For instance, you may lose your signal during intense storms. Granted, cable subscribers can also lose access to entertainment. Satellite dishes, however, seem more susceptible to the weather.

As long as you can accept the limitations of satellite technology, Dish could work quite well for you.

DirecTV Review

DirecTV website

DirecTV Review image
  • Best for: People who want to watch more sports and movies without paying high cable bills.
  • Price: The price of DirecTV varies depending on how many channels you want. The most affordable package ($29.99) gives you 150 channels. The most expensive option ($59.99) gives you 285 channels.
  • Features: NFL Sunday Ticket, access to premium movie channels and Genie HD DVR.
  • Customer Service: DirecTV has a FAQ that can answer common questions about services and devices. If you need to contact someone in customer service, you can call the company from 8 a.m. to midnight ET. You can also use the company’s website to chat online.

DirecTV uses a system that’s very similar to the one used by Dish. DirecTV owns and leases satellites that orbit the planet. The company uses these satellites to redirect signals from broadcasters to satellite dishes owned by DirecTV customers.

DirecTV serves about 37 million people in the U.S. and Latin America. Thanks to satellite technology, the company can do this without running wires into each customer’s home. Instead, it uses satellites and dishes to transfer information and content.

You get a free satellite dish and hardware installation from DirecTV, so you don’t have to worry about the technical details behind how the service works.

DirecTV is one of the best options for people who love watching sports. The company’s sports tickets can give you the opportunity to watch countless matches of basketball and football teams. You can also use the service to watch live boxing and MMA matches. In addition to special sports tickets, you can get sports channels for watching golf, tennis, soccer and other popular games.

The DVR that comes with your DirecTV subscription also helps the company stand out from other satellite providers. The DirecTV DVR can hold 200 hours of HD content, making it one of the most impressive options in the industry.

DirecTV has 37 million customers, so you know that you will find a variety of reviews online.

People who dislike DirecTV often complain about getting stuck in two-year contracts. Before you sign up for DirecTV service, you should consider that your membership will last at least two years. It’s easy to see how unsatisfied customers would get upset by the contract. Realistically, though, DirecTV makes it obvious that new customers must agree to a two-year contract. Without the contract, DirecTV would have to charge new customers for equipment and installation.

DirecTV has also received complaints about its pricing policies. Many people complain that membership prices seem to go up every year. A subscription that may have been affordable a few years ago may become too expensive as DirecTV continues to raise its prices.

Finally, some customers dislike that they can only watch DirecTV on three televisions at a time. One customer says that he ordered five receivers for his vacation house. After having the equipment installed, he discovered that he could only use three at once. This reveals a limitation in the technology. More importantly, though, it shows that no one at DirecTV told him about the technology’s limitations.

Of course, there are plenty of people who love using DirecTV. Most of them enjoy all of the exclusive sports content that they can watch.

DirecTV isn’t the right option for everyone. If you love watching football and other popular sports, then you will probably like the level of access that DirecTV gives you. The football tickets are especially awesome.

The opportunity to watch shows and movies on your mobile device is also a nice feature. If you’re watching a movie at home, you can pause it and start watching on your smartphone. It’s a great way to avoid disruptions while you’re focused on a movie or television show that has grabbed your interest. If that sounds like a cool feature to you, then you should take a closer look at DirecTV to decide whether it’s the right satellite provider for you.

You should also consider DirecTV if you live in an area that doesn’t have access to cable television services. Cable tends to offer a steadier connection than satellites. If you don’t live near a cable provider, though, a satellite-based provider is your best option.

About the Author

Jeff Hindenach

Jeff Hindenach is the co-founder of Simple. Thrifty. Living. He graduated from Bowling Green State University with a Bachelor's Degree in Journalism. He has a long history of financial journalism, with a background writing for newspapers such as the San Jose Mercury News and San Francisco Examiner, as well as writing on personal finance for The Huffington Post, New York Times, Business Insider, CNBC, Newsday and The Street. He believes in giving readers the tools they need to get out of debt.

  • Since AT & T took over DirectTV, prices are going up considerably every year. My “standard xtra” plan, the middle of the road plan, has gone from $102/mo to $127/mo in the last two years. Direct has lousy customer service and they are getting very expensive!!

  • Having been a directv customer since the nineties, I can say that in the reviews and comparisons you should include that the price of your package is nearly double after the two year contract. Is like those of us who have been loyal for all those years pay the price for the new customers!

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