Comparison Between Satellite Providers DirecTV and DISH Network

 DirecTV and DISH Network have battled for satellite supremacy for many years. The current age is critical as cable and Internet Protocol Television (IPTV) threaten their economic stability.

As a consumer, making a decision between all of these programming choices can be overwhelming. That is why I put together this comparison of DirecTV and DISH Network so you can hopefully make a sound decision on choosing a satellite provider or to use this as a comparison against your other local non-satellite providers.

Availability: You can receive programming from both satellite companies as long as you have a clear view of the southern sky. This is something both companies state explicitly in their advertising literature and something you should consider before committing to this type of programming.

This means that if you live in a downtown area with many large structures blocking your view of the sky then you might not be able to receive satellite. When in doubt, ask the provider if they can test your location prior to signing up.

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Customer Commitment or Contract

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To get the best offers on DISH Network you must commit to a service contract, likely 18 months, but you can do a month-to-month service agreement if you like. The penalty for this is financial as you won’t likely be able to take advantage of their programming savings offer. Also, you’ll likely have to pay for installation when month-to-month (approximately $50).

DirecTV requires all subscribers to agree to a service contract anywhere from 12 to 24 months.

If you cancel your contract with either company before it expires then you might be subject to penalties and cancellation fees. Be sure to read the fine print before giving credit card information or signing the contract.

Advantage: DISH Network – only because they offer month-to-month service, which is good for renters or people that don’t plan on living in one residence for more than one year. Should you move while under contract, both companies will likely move your service at no charge if you request it.

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Cost of Basic Programming Packages

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Both providers offer a similar arrangement of packages from basic family programming to all-inclusive packages that include premium movie channels subscriptions. On average, DISH Network's daily prices are generally $10-15 lower per month in comparison to DirecTV’s package of the same type.

The reason DISH Network has lower prices is because they generally offer fewer channels or services on average compared to DirecTV, like offering 100 channels compared to 200 on the same package type offered by DirecTV or by not building in HD or DVR service into a basic package.

DirecTV saves you money on the front-end of their service contract by giving up to four months of free programming to new customers and by building in HD service and expanded channel lineups within basic programming packages. Keep in mind that the cost of the basic package will shoot up to the regular monthly price when the special offer period expires.

Both carriers have a standard $5/month charge for every HD and non-HD receiver beyond the primary receiver on the bill. This is a programming reception charge so four receivers will cost about $15 extra/month. Remember, the first receiver is built into the package cost.

The key difference between DirecTV and DISH Network is that a 4-room system for DirecTV will likely use four single-tuner receivers (You will be charged for three) while a 4–room system on DISH Network will likely use two dual-tuner receivers (You will be charged for one). This is can be significant savings over the course of the contract.

Advantage: When not considering High Definition service, DISH Network gets the nod over DirecTV because the long-term savings of basic programming outweighs the short term benefit of expanded services offered by DirecTV.

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Cost of High Definition Packages

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DirecTV beats DISH Network in price for High Definition and the overall HD-channel lineup. This used to be the opposite in the early days of HD but DirecTV has done a lot recently to improve their HD capabilities. DirecTV HD costs between $10-15/month depending on programming package while DISH can cost $20 without local HD channels and $25 with local HD channels.

Both providers have offers for free HD packages for up to six months. DISH Network has the best monetary value with these specials.

Advantage: DirecTV. They currently have a lower cost for services with High Definition programming and they don’t charge an additional $5/month for local HD channels, like DISH Network.

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Equipment Costs

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New DirecTV subscribers must pay a leasing or upgrade receiver fee upon signing up for service. You won't buy your receiver. You return it to DirecTV after finished with their service.

DISH Network is known for their leasing of equipment but now they also sell receivers, although the cost to buy a receiver is high. But, you won’t have to pay the monthly leasing fee for every receiver you own.

Since the lease or upgrade, the charge is at the time of choosing service you don’t have a monthly leasing fee on DirecTV.

Customers usually get the standard receivers for free with both companies. Standard receivers are digital devices without DVR or HD capabilities. As far as HD and DVR receivers:

  • Digital Video Recorders or DVR Receivers: DirecTV has an upgrade fee of $99 but there is usually an instant rebate that covers the cost of the full cost of the receiver - making it free. DISH Network doesn’t charge an upgrade fee but they have a leasing fee of about $6/month or you can buy it for $349. A second DVR upgrade through DISH Network costs about $100.
  • High Definition (HD) Receivers: DirecTV has the same deal as the DVR - new subscribers can upgrade for $99 but there is an instant rebate that gives you the HD receiver for free. DISH Network does the same for their HD receiver as their DVR. You pay a monthly leasing fee or you can buy it for $249.
  • HD-DVR Combo Receivers: DirecTV has an upgrade fee of $299 but they sometimes have a $100 rebate, which brings the price down to $199. DISH Network has the same deal as their DVR and HD receiver. You can lease the receiver for a small monthly charge or buy it for $499.

Advantage: DirecTV. In terms of equipment costs over the long-term, DirecTV has a better deal in place because their lease fee is a one-time cost (if any) compared to DISH Network's monthly fee.

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Non-HD Channel Lineup

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Minus a few provider-specific channels, the channels both satellite providers offer is relatively equal. This is a business issue. If one provider has one channel then the other will do what they can to get it so they can compete on level ground. So, the key difference is the level of the package the channels you want are offered in.

DirecTV cuts to the chase with their channel offerings as they really give you the full 200 channels on their third lowest cost package. DISH Network makes you move up to their fourth lowest cost package to get 200 channels.

When you get down to it, DISH Network has more options with respect to channel lineups. If you don’t want the full 200 channels, they have a 100 channel package. On the high end, DISH Network has a few more channels than DirecTV but you get the same movie channels so it is pretty much a wash.

Advantage: DISH Network. They have more options than DirecTV with respect to the amount of channels in programming packages. It seems as though DirecTV forces subscribers to buy into their 200 channel packages instead of offering a basic package with 100 channels, like on DISH Network. DIrecTVs model is good for add-ons, like HD and DVR service, but not everybody wants the added expense needed to get the 200 channels.

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HD Channel Lineup

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DirecTV says they offer 70 nationwide HD channels. DISH Network says they offer 38 nationwide HD channels. Both say more are on their way.

Both companies struggle to give you your local HD channels without an OTA antenna but things are getting better. They have many markets available and you can use a tool on their respective Web site to see if local channels in your area are available in HD. If not, you can still use an antenna that attaches to the satellite dish to receive your locals in HD.

Advantage: DirecTV. This is a no-brainer. Not only does their HD package cost less, it has almost twice as many channels.

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Portability or Mobile Reception

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DirecTV and DISH Network both have portable satellite systems.

DirecTV’s model contains a 17” LCD monitor, antenna and satellite receiver. It costs $999. it also has component and composites A/V inputs in case you want to connect a game console or DVD player. It also has a composite A/V output, phone jack, and USB connection. You can use AC or DC power or the unit’s rechargeable 1-hour battery.

DISH Network has a product called PocketDISH that is very similar to a video iPod. The PocketDISH Web site doesn’t have much information about this service but from what I gather you can play pre-recorded programs on a portable console. You would need to download these programs into the PocketDISH. The cost for PocketDISH is $400 and up depending on which of the three models you choose.

Advantage: DirecTV. Live portable television is much better than taped TV.