Broadcast satellite service providers DirecTV and Dish Network offer hundreds of television channels, including high-definition (HD) channels, features like commercial skipping, and various bundle packages for satellite-based phone and internet.

This is an unbiased comparison of the two service providers with the aim of helping consumers make an informed decision. DirecTV is the larger of the two, with about 35 million subscribers compared with the roughly 14 million households served by Dish Network. The key differences between Dish and DirecTV lie in their pricing, DVRs and customer service. Dish is more affordable, costing an average of $60 to $120 a year less than DirecTV. Dish also offers portable satellite service, unlike DirecTV.

Comparison chart

DirecTV versus Dish Network comparison chart
Edit this comparison chartDirecTVDish Network
  • current rating is 2.96/5
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  • current rating is 3.13/5
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Introduction DirecTV is an American direct broadcast satellite service provider and broadcaster based in El Segundo, California. Dish Network Corporation, commonly known as DISH, is an American direct broadcast satellite service provider based in Meridian, Colorado.
Industry Satellite television Satellite television
Products & Services Direct broadcast satellite, Pay television, Pay-per-view, Internet, Phone Direct broadcast satellite, Pay television, Pay-per-view, Internet, Phone
Area served United States and Latin America United States
Cost $29.99 to $91.99 per month $19.99 to $84.99 per month
Channels 285+ 330+
DVR Genie Hopper
No. of Recordings at once 5 6
Recording capacity 1TB 2TB
Watch Anywhere Additional Equipment GenieGO ($115) Sling ($55)
Portable Satellite Not available The Tailgater ($350)
Unique Additional Sports Packages Racetrack Television Network, Outdoor Sports NFL Sunday Ticket
Key people Michael White Chairman, President and CEO Charles W. Ergen (Chairman), Joseph P. Clayton President & CEO)
Headquarters 2230 E. Imperial Highway, El Segundo, California, US Meridian, Colorado, USA
Founded December 20, 1985 as Hughes Electronics Corporation), 1990 (as DirecTV) March 4, 1996 as Dish Network
Employees 27,200 (2013) 34,000 (2011)
Revenue US$ 31.754 billion (2013) US$ 13.9 billion (2013)
Net income US$ 2.885 billion (2013) US$ 807.492 million (2013)
Operating income US$ 5.15 billion (2013) US$ 1.22 billion (2012)
Total assets US$ 21.905 billion (2013) US$ 20.375 billion (2013)
Total equity US$ -6.544 billion (2013) US$ 997.005 million (2013)
Subsidiaries DirecTV U.S.; DirecTV Latin America; DirecTV Sports Networks Blockbuster; DBSD North America; Liberty Bell Telecom

How they work

Both Dish Network and Direc TV require subscribers to install a south-facing satellite dish to their residence. Each company owns a number of satellites orbiting Earth that transmit signals to subscribers' dishes.


Each company provides professional basic installation for free as part of the setup package. Dish Network also offers additional setup services like mounting a television on a wall or installing home theater systems for an additional fee.


Both companies provide a receiver box, which customers connect to their TV to actually watch channels. Additional boxes are available to service more than one room at a fee.

DirecTV charges $5 per month for each additional receiver, and Dish Network charges $7.

DVR options

Dish Network touts its Hopper DVR system as one of the best available. The Hopper is unique because it automatically records prime time programming on the four major networks – CBS, NBC, ABC, and FOX – allowing viewers to skip through commercials. Like any DVR, users can use Hopper to record up to 2,000 hours of standard definition television for playback later.

DirecTV's Genie DVR has approximately half the recording power of Hopper, but can record up to five programs at once.

Programming and Cost

DirecTV's entertainment packages – particularly the entry level one – are slightly more expensive than Dish Network's.

DirecTV’s packages range from $29.99/month to $91.99/month, but the company sporadically offers introductory 12-month packages at approximately $5 less per month. The biggest difference between the packages, generally, are the number of channels offered. Also, all packages above the most basic include the NFL Sunday Ticket football package; all packages include three free months of access to premium channels like HBO and Showtime.

DirecTV packages as of January 2014.
DirecTV packages as of January 2014.

Dish Network offers an entry level Welcome Pack that includes a number of popular channels, though far fewer than the more expensive packages. The Welcome Pack costs $19.99 per month, and is not a promotional cost.

Dish Network's other packages begin at $49.99 per month, but the top level package costs just $79.99 per month. However, Dish Network discounts its packages to cost between $29.99 and $44.99 per month. That discount is contingent upon customers ordering Hopper, Dish Network's DVR box.

Dish Network packages as of January 2014.
Dish Network packages as of January 2014.

HD Channels

Dish Network claims that it offers the most overall high-definition channels “in the industry,” and offers them for free – as long as you sign a 24-month contract and meet credit qualifications. However, the number of HD channels you get depends on which package you select, which means you may not get all 200 available HD channels.

DirecTV claims to offer 195 HD channels, which are available across several packages for an additional $10 per month.

Premium channels

Both satellite providers offer HBO, Cinemax, Starz, and Showtime Unlimited.

However, DirecTV offers a Starz pacakage with 15 movie channels; Dish Network's Starz package only offers 14 channels.

Plus, DirecTV offers the GSN Game Lounge channel, where users can play games with their remote, and BabyFirstTV, a learning channel.

Customer service

Both companies offer 24/7 technical support either through phone, email, or online chat. However, Dish Network exclusively offers 24/7 customer support. The DirecTV customer support line is only open between 8 and 1 am EST.

Internet and Telephone Service

Both satellite providers offer telephone and Internet packages. However, DirecTV partners with service providers like Verizon to offer Internet and telephone.

Dish Network offers voice and Internet though its Dish NET service; there are four different packages available that include Internet service starting at $49.99. Customers may add phone service for an additional $10 per month.

Popularity of DirecTV vs Dish Network

DirecTV has always been the bigger company, with a larger customer base than Dish Network. The following chart by the New York Times show the growth in subscribers for both Dish and DirecTV from 2008 to 2013. The chart also compares cable and satellite TV subscribers.

The number of U.S. subscribers for TV entertainment via cable TV, satellite TV, telecom TV and Internet streaming provider Netflix. Chart by: The New York Times.
The number of U.S. subscribers for TV entertainment via cable TV, satellite TV, telecom TV and Internet streaming provider Netflix. Chart by: The New York Times.


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