Dish vs. DirecTV? DirecTV vs. Dish? The debate rages on as rumors and speculation of a possible merger brim to the surface every few weeks. And with both satellite companies ramping up their offerings as of late, it’s hard to keep track of who has the edge. Dish Network recently launched its 100-percent TurboHD package, and boasts over 100 HD channels available. DirectTV is claiming over 130 HD channels. Both have moved to MPEG-4 and both want to be “Master of the Universe.” Since there can’t be two masters, is one of them good enough to hold the title?
DirecTV currently boasts 130 HD channels and projects 150 by end of the year. The Premiere package, which consists of 265+ channels (100 HD channels), is regularly priced at $104.99 a month. DirecTV generally offers promotions, like the current NFL Sunday Ticket plus Premiere package for $74.99. DirecTV says by end of year there will be access to local channels in HD in 121 markets, or more than 88-percent of U.S homes.
Dish Network is claiming 114 HD channels now, and 150 by the end of the year. Their latest offering is called TurboHD and it’s a 100-percent HD lineup. TurboHD Gold ($39.99) is the top-of-the-line package that offers the most HD channels. For $10 more you can add a seven-channel PlatinumHD package (includes channels like NBA TV and Universal HD) to any of the packages. For $5 more, you get your local network affiliates in HD like ABC, NBC, and Fox. That seems like a lot of add-ons, but you’re still only at $55 a month. (Premium channels and sports packages are also offered in HD, and cost extra.)
Does the satellite provider with the most channels win? It depends on who you ask. Many people say “more is better.” And the providers themselves love to tout the number of channels they offer as a benchmark for comparison. DirecTV is seemingly more aggressive than Dish in getting and promoting special content (mostly sports), such as NFL Sunday Ticket, MLB Extra Innings, and Mega Madness (March Madness college basketball coverage). One cable user, who’s deciding which satellite company to go with, said “I’ll probably go with DirecTV just because of NFL Sunday ticket.” On the flip side, not all subscribers think more is better.
Depending on where and how you sign up for DirecTV, the HD DVR (H20/H21) will either be leased to you for free, cost $99 (with instant rebate) or $200. The HD DVR can record over 50 hours of HD programming (200 hours standard). You can schedule programs for recording from your computer or phone, which is a good feature, and record two shows at once. Interestingly, it was just announced that sometime during the second half of 2009, a new HD DirecTV TiVo will be available.
As for Dish Network, their HD DVR is heavily praised in the media. You pay for a one-time set up fee, (about $39.99 with no promotion) and the equipment is leased to you for free with most packages. The HD DVR ViP722 can record over 55 hours of HD content (up to 350 hours of standard content), and you can independently watch and record programming on two TVs (one in HD, one in SD).
Earlier this year, there was an outcry against the compression rates that satellite providers were using to broadcast HD channels (See: HD Lite: A Not So Dirty, Little Secret) A recent move from MPEG-2 to MPEG-4 seems to have eased some of the pain.
“MPEG4 is about twice as efficient a compression scheme as MPEG2 and it is essential that satellite TV services use it in order to make maximum use of the available bandwidth. As cable companies are discovering, consumers do notice when you squeeze the video stream too hard and start producing visible artifacts.” says Alfred Poor, who writes the daily online HDTV Almanac.
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