Satellite TV - Dish Network vs Direct TV
Updated: March 19, 2016

Dish Network vs Direct TV
A Side-by-Side Comparison

Which Satellite TV service is right for you - Dish or DirecTV?

dish-vs-directvSince the advent of satellite television in the early 90's, millions joined the satellite TV revolution to enjoy the widest range of TV entertainment over a single TV platform.

It all started with DirecTV in 1994, soon to be followed by EchoStar, more known through its brand name Dish Network. Within less than twenty years, these two satellite TV service providers changed the TV entertainment industry.

What started as just few tens of analog TV programs, turned into hundreds of digital high quality TV channels; most of this content is available in HD. In addition, both satellite TV service providers are constantly coming with promotional offers aimed at increasing their subscriber base. Unfortunately, the fierce competition between TV service providers, be it satellite or cable, is often leading to consumer confusion.

In this Dish Network vs Direct TV discussion, we compare the two to help you make the right choice.

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Dish Network vs. DirecTV: Some background information

Before analyzing the services on offer by these satellite TV service providers, it would be appropriate to have an idea what constitutes DirecTV and Dish Network.

What is DirecTV?

DirecTV, more commonly known as Direct TV or DTV, was founded in 1990 and began operation in 1994 to become the first to provide the nation's first high-power direct broadcast satellite (DBS) service.

DirecTV has two broadcast centers, one in Castle Rock, Colorado, and one in Los Angeles, California. These transmit digitally compressed programming to the company's main satellites. The latter forms one of the largest satellite fleets owned by a single TV service provider - twelve in all. The DirecTV System is the fastest selling consumer electronics product, with a subscriber base of over 18 million.

What is Dish Network?

If DirecTV is the fastest selling consumer electronics product, DISH Network is considered to be the fastest growing digital satellite TV service provider in the United States, with a subscriber base that exceeds 14 million. This has become possible thanks to a pricing strategy that aims at coming up with bundle offers at a slightly lower price than similar packages on offer by DirecTV. Despite that this price difference is often of just a few dollars a month, it seems that this has been enough to enable Dish Network achieve the fastest growing subscriber base among the two satellite TV providers.

Dish Network is one of three interrelated business units of EchoStar Communications Corporation, along with EchoStar Technologies and EchoStar Satellite Services; EchoStar Technologies is the manufacturer of the satellite TV receivers, while EchoStar Satellite Services provides video, audio and data delivery services to DISH Network’s Business and Education Television customers.

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EchoStar started in 1980 after Chairman and CEO, Charlie Ergen, entered the satellite TV industry as a distributor of C-band satellite TV systems. Operations quickly expanded while earning a reputation as an innovative company dedicated to providing customers with state-of-the-art equipment, systems and services. In 1987, EchoStar filed for a direct broadcast satellite (DBS) license with the Federal Communications Commission. However, it was not before end 1995 that EchoStar successfully launched its first satellite, EchoStar I, from China after a series of failures. That same year, EchoStar established the DISH Network brand name to market its home satellite TV system. The company used 'DISH' as an acronym for 'Digital Sky Highway'.

DISH Network's headquarters is situated in Littleton, Colo. It is EchoStar's state-of-the-art direct broadcast satellite system with the capacity to offer customers over 500 channels of digital video and CD-quality audio programming using a single small satellite dish. 

What are the differences between the two major digital satellite TV service providers in the US?

We have noted in our introduction that the fierce competition between DISH Network and DirecTV is unfortunately leading to a lot of misinformation, in particular, on part of some of their affiliates. Some may argue that this Dish Network vs Direct TV issue is all a question of identifying the TV operator with the channel line-up that best suits your needs. This is true in that the offered services are very similar; even the so called free satellite TV offers are almost identical and hard to differentiate between the two, making the real difference an issue of TV channel bundles and subscription fees.

At the same time, this implies that it is very important to be fully aware of the basic differences that exist between DirecTV and DISH Network before taking either route.

The truth is that you need to keep an open eye and cut through the confusing promotional noise to be able to see clearly the satellite TV services that best suits your needs. This is important as both service providers maybe in a position to satisfy your requirements.

We therefore hope that this 'DISH Network vs Direct TV' comparative list would come handy when making your choice for a satellite TV service provider.

DISH Network vs Direct TV - Similarities and Differences

Free Offers

Both DirecTV and Dish Network offer new customers free equipment packages, which include an appropriate satellite dish, a number of satellite receivers, multi-room installation (typically covering up to four rooms) by a professional, and possibly a few months of free programming as well.

Lowest-Priced Bundle Offer

DirecTV: $29.99 per month for 12 months, saving you $35/month over a regular subscription. Lock this for a period of two years and you will save $20 a month in your second year. Included as part of the bundle:

  • Free HBO, Cinemax, Starz, and Showtime premium movie packages for 3 months

  • Free HD for Life to new customers with HD equipment & auto bill pay

  • 4 free lease upgrades: HD DVR + 3 HD receivers; additional & advanced receiver fees apply on selected models

  • DirecTV on Demand, giving you access to over 7000 shows & movies.

  • Includes local channels

  • Free professional installation

  • No equipment to buy, no start-up costs, and a guaranteed 99.9% signal reliability.

Pros: Local channels are included in every package. DirecTV has the most sports in HD, while exclusive to DirecTV are NFL Sunday Ticket™, MBL Extra Innings, CricketTicket, and NCAA MEGA March Madness™

DISH Network: $19.99 per month for 12 months, representing a saving of $5 per month over a regular subscription.

  • Free HBO, Cinemax, Starz, and Showtime premium movie packages for 3 months

  • HD FREE for life when you sign up for paperless billing and automatic bill-pay

  • Blockbuster Movie Pass for up to 12 months

  • Free 2 Room HD DVR upgrade ($6/mo. DVR service fee applies)

  • Free standard professional installation for up to 6 rooms; next day installation available

  • No equipment to buy

  • DISH Network’s Service Plan free for six months with the 24 month Digital Home Advantage plan

Pros: Dish Network has cheaper bundles even though channel lineups and equipment offers are pretty much the same as those offered by DirecTV. Compared on a like-with-like basis, Dish Network offers are on average $7/month cheaper than those by DirecTV.

Satellite HD Television

Both service providers offer HD access for $10/month; however, as indicated above, both are offering free HD for life subject to certain terms and conditions. In addition, both have extensive HD channel lineups but with a few differences:


  • Offers the most full-time HD channels, with over 160 channels, soon to be increased to 190 channels.

  • Most movies accessible through DirecTV video-on-demand service are transmitted in 1080p HD, the same as HD on Blu-ray.

  • DirecTV also provides the largest number of sports and local channels in HD.

Dish Network

  • Offers up to 3 HD receivers at no additional cost while new customers can get one of these HD receivers with built-in DVR at no additional upfront cost; instead, DirecTV charges an extra fee for this.

  • As with DirecTV, most of Dish Network video-on-demand content is available in 1080p HD

  • Dish Network HD lineup covers more than 200 channels.

Installation Times

Typically 3 to 7 days from order for both DirecTV and Dish Network; next-day installation is also available from both satellite TV service providers.

Equipment, DVR, and Rewind Live TV


  • First equipment is free; $5/month for each additional equipment

  • Rewind Live TV available with DirecTV Plus DVR for $6/month

Dish Network

  • First equipment free, each additional satellite TV receiver carries a $7/month fee while HD/DVR fee is an extra $3/month.

  • Rewind Live TV available with Dish DVR for $6/month or $5 if you take the DVR Advantage

Programming Differences

Both service providers carry the same premium movie packages, HBO, STARZ, SHOWTIME and CINEMAX. In addition, both offer Pay-Per-View for movies, sports, events, as well as local channels, foreign language programming.

However, DirecTV offers the following additional sports channels in addition to the common sports channels offered by both providers:

  • NFL Sunday Ticket
  • MBL Extra Innings

  • CricketTicket

  • MEGA March Madness

On the other hand, Dish Network offers the largest selection of foreign language channels, covering more than 25 different languages.

Customer Support

Both companies are well-established and have great customer service departments. In addition, both DirecTV and Dish Network rank highest in customer satisfaction by satellite and cable TV subscribers, with cable TV companies falling well behind

Dish Network vs Direct TV: The Bottom Line

Both DirecTV and Dish Network offer an extensive lineup of TV channels, including movies, music, pay-per-view events and movies in 1080p, sports packages, news, weather channels, and international programming. However...

DirecTV is the one with the largest range of HD channels in its lineup. Furthermore, if it is sports that you want, DirecTV provides the best option.

DISH Network offers cheaper bundles, has the biggest variety of programs, the most foreign programs, the most music channels, and the most pay-per-view movies.

Please Note:

Special offers by Dish Network and DirecTV change continuously; we advise to check these service providers customer support lines for the latest updates; the respective phone numbers are given below:

Dish Network Customer Support: 1-888-236-2202

DirecTV Customer Support: 1-888-777-2454

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 Article Content

Issues discussed in this article:

Blue bullet  Dish Network vs Direct TV: Some background information about EchoStar and DirecTV

Blue bullet  Similarities and Differences: Discussing free offers, lowest-priced bundles, satellite HD, installation times, equipment pricing, program differences, and customer support.

Blue bullet  The bottom line: Identifying where each satellite TV service provider fits best.

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