Dish Network vs. DirecTV: Battle of the satellite TV titans

Dish Network or DirecTV: Which is the better choice for you?

dish network versus directv version 1438534826 cable options
Sean Pavone/Shutterstock

So, you’ve chosen to go with a satellite television provider over cable or a live-TV streaming service. Now the question is: Dish Network or DirecTV? The two companies offer remarkably similar programming packages, but there are still some serious differences between them. If you’re looking for specifics about what it’s like to be a subscriber to each service, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve put together this handy guide to give you a thorough rundown of each service, and how they compare in terms of specialty content, hardware, and pricing.

Content

directv plays catchup expands mobile viewing android app directtv ipad

The programming packages Dish and DirecTV offer are very similar, but there are a few notable differences that will likely drive your decision in selecting one company over the other.

First, here’s what you’ll get by going with either:

  • More than 300 available channels (exact number ranges between packages)
  • 200 available high-definition channels
  • Three free months of HBO, STARZ, Cinemax, and Showtime
  • Access to locally broadcast programming
  • 4K Ultra HD support

That’s quite a bit in common, but there are perks to choosing one over the other, depending on your viewing preferences.

One major difference between the services is the channel options included in their sports packages — specifically those outside the domain of Disney’s ESPN channel suite. The lion’s share of sports packages — including MLB Extra Innings, ESPN GamePlan, NBA League Pass, Fox Soccer Plus, NHL Center Ice, and MLS Direct Kick — are available on both. Both providers also include common pay-TV options like Fox Sports and NFL Red Zone, the latter of which offers a commercial-free way to watch scoring plays from every NFL team that plays each Sunday.

When it comes to differences, Dish’s exclusive sports packages include Outdoor Sports and Racetrack Television Network. DirecTV, however, has the monopoly on NFL Sunday Ticket, which includes every regular season NFL game, regardless of your market. That’s a pretty big point in favor of DirecTV. It’s worth noting, however, that each of these packages provides supplemental add-ons to your base channel package, and costly ones at that.

Lastly, the languages each service supports vary quite a bit. Dish supports 29 different languages ranging from Spanish and Italian to Tagalog and Urdu. DirecTV offers a mere eight options, including Spanish, Brazilian, Korean, Chinese, Russian, Filipino, Vietnamese, and South Asian.

DirecTV’s Support for NFL Sunday Ticket tilts the scales in DirecTV’s favor, here, albeit at an extra cost to your subscription. Unless you’ve got a specific language need that Dish covers, those looking for the most content will want to go with DirecTV.

Winner: DirecTV

Hardware

We’ve included this handy table so you can compare the hardware specs of the two services side by side, and then we’ll dig a little deeper into specifics.

Dish DirecTV
DVR Hopper 3 Genie
Internal storage 2TB, supports USB storage expansion  1TB
Apps Netflix, YouTube, Pandora, Dish Music & more. N/A
Watch Anywhere-supported devices Mac, PC, iPad, iPhone, Android Phone, Android Tablets, Kindle Mac, PC, iPad, iPhone, Android Phone, Android Tablets, Kindle (Watch Anywhere on DirecTV requires extra GenieGo hardware)
4K streaming Yes Yes
Local programming Yes Yes
Auto-skip recorded commercials Yes (after 24 hours) No
On Demand Yes Yes
Home security No Yes
Tivo No Yes
Picture-in-picture Yes Yes
Max TVs 7 8
Max simultaneous recordings 16 5

When comparing Dish Network and DirecTV’s DVR boxes — the Hopper and the Genie, respectively — the major sticking point is recording capacity. You’ll have to shell out a monthly rental charge and supplemental fees for various DVR services, but exactly what those extra services are, and the amount of storage capacity available, differs between each.

Dish Hopper 3

Dish’s Hopper 3 can save up to 500 hours of HD content or 2,000 hours of SD content for a $12 monthly fee. That’s more than double the storage of DirecTV’s Genie, which offers 200 hours of HD programming or 800 hours of SD programming for a $15 monthly fee. Plus, the internal storage on Dish’s Hopper can be expanded with USB storage devices, which could push it well beyond its base 2TB drive, while DirecTV’s Genie remains at a static 1TB. If you aren’t recording dozens of shows, this might be a minor sticking point, but Dish easily carries the day here.

The two boxes also offer varying feature sets. Dish’s Hopper includes commercial auto-skip for select recorded content after 24 hours and support for apps including Netflix, YouTube, The Weather Channel, Game Finder, and Dish Music, which includes Amazon Music, Pandora, iHeartRadio, SiriusXM, TIDAL, and Napster. DirecTV’s Genie supports picture-in-picture mode, and even offers home security options when paired with your AT&T service.

Both set-top boxes feature some support for voice control, with Amazon Alexa available on both DirecTV and Dish hardware. Dish does currently have a leg up here, however, as its hardware also supports Google Assistant, making it a winner for Android users and those heavily invested in the Google ecosystem.

There’s also a difference in the number of devices and simultaneous streams the two DVR boxes support, as well as mobile viewing options. Dish’s Hopper will allow up to seven TVs to be connected in a single home, and up to 16 simultaneous recordings. The Hopper also allows mobile viewing of DVR content on Mac and Windows PCs, iOS devices, and Android devices including Kindle.

DirecTV’s Genie, on the other hand, allows a maximum of eight TVs (one more than Dish), but only supports five simultaneous recordings. While the Genie features mobile viewing as well, and supports all the same devices that the Hopper does, it requires mobile devices to be connected to the same Wi-Fi network as your receiver to view DVR content. Dish’s Watch Anywhere has no such network restrictions, and grants access to the same content no matter where you are watching. Dish even offers a special mobile storage device, the HopperGo, which can store up to 100 hours of your DVR recording that can be accessed by your mobile device without an internet connection.

Despite allowing for one less TV connection than DirecTV, Dish’s Hopper is all about allowing for easy access to a multitude of devices, content, and recordings. Storage size and simultaneous recordings available top the Genie, plus it doesn’t require any extra hardware for remote watching on mobile devices. DirecTV’s Genie offers picture-in-picture, but so does Dish’s Hopper 3, and this goes further with MultiView, which offers the ability to split your screen into quadrants, each displaying its own live, recorded, or even on-demand content. Those are some major points for Dish. While DirecTV has a number of extra features like home security options if you bundle with your AT&T service, Dish still gets the win.

Winner: Dish

Home Theater

Sling TV offers free shows, a la carte subscription channels to Roku users

If you are among a select group of Roku users, Sling TV has added free TV shows and the option to subscribe to individual channels without having to subscribe to the company's base level of channels.
Home Theater

Looking to cut cable? Here’s everything you need to know about Pluto TV

Pluto TV offers plenty of entertainment in a fashion similar to live internet TV services, only at no cost — you don’t even need to register. Too good to be true? Here’s everything you need to know.
Home Theater

Cutting the cord? Let us help you find the best service for live TV streaming

There's a long list of live TV streaming services available to help you cut the cord and replace your traditional TV subscription. Each is different in important ways, and this guide will help you find the best one for you.
Home Theater

New TV? Here's where to go to watch the best 4K content available

Searching for content for your new 4K UHD TV? Look no further. We have every major source of the best 4K content, along with the cost, hardware requirements, and features that make each service worth a look.
Apple

Apple may be developing a new iPod Touch to woo younger users

Apple may be developing its first new iPod touch model since 2015 as it aims to capture younger users who are not yet ready for their own smartphone, and expand its overall listening base in the future.
Home Theater

Cord-cutting has grown by 48 percent in 8 years, according to Nielsen

People are continuing to ditch cable but not all cord-cutters are the same. In fact, there are two distinct groups within the cord-cutting universe, with a very small, yet growing third group that's worth paying attention to.
Home Theater

Spotify adds simplified Car View mode for Android users

What was once just a test is now a reality: Spotify is rolling out a new, simplified in-car user interface for all Android users called Car View, which automatically engages when the app detects a car Bluetooth connection.
Home Theater

All of the TVs getting Apple’s AirPlay 2 in 2019

This year, Apple made it clear it was done keeping its AirPlay wireless streaming technology to itself. With an open API, the way is clear for a plethora of third-party devices, including this growing list of TVs.
Movies & TV

New trailer for 'The Punisher' season 2 teases a bloody showdown

The Punisher is getting a second season on Netflix, with Jon Bernthal returning to play Marvel Comics' gun-toting antihero Frank Castle. Here's everything we know about season 2 of The Punisher so far.
Buying Guides

Block the outside world, tune into your own with the best in-ear headphones

Over-the-ear headphones offer top-flight sound, but they're not so easy to take along with you. If you're looking to upgrade your portable sound, check out our favorite in-ear headphones -- there's a model for every user and every budget.
Home Theater

Set your ears free with the best completely wireless earbuds

If you can't stand the tangle of cords, or you're just excited about completely wireless earbuds, you're going to need some help separating the wheat from the chaff. Our list serves up the best true wireless earbuds around.
Home Theater

How much are the initials ‘LV’ worth? $700 if you put them on your earphones

If you're looking for truly wireless earbuds that make as much of a statement about the state of your finances as they do about your high-tech street cred, Louis Vuitton's Horizon earbuds fit the $995 bill.
Home Theater

What’s new on Amazon Prime Video (February 2019)

Amazon Prime Video adds new titles each month that are available for free to all Prime members. Check out our list to find all the content hitting Amazon Prime Video in January and February, from new original series to classic films.
Home Theater

What are HDMI ARC and eARC? Here’s how they can simplify your home theater

HDMI ARC is one of the coolest TV features at your disposal. But if you're like most folks, you have no idea how it works, if you even know what it is at all. Here's our primer on HDMI ARC, as well as the next generation technology, eARC.
1 of 2