Info & Answers
Dish Network or DirecTV?
As each satellite provider boasts more HD content and features, the competition for satellite supremacy has never been tighter.
Dish vs DirecTV
September 19, 2008 by Jennifer DeFeo

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?

Programming
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.

DVRs
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).

Picture Quality
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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Comparison Charts
A seemingly straightforward task of comparing DirecTV to Dish Network features gets increasingly more difficult as you search their Web sites. Both company's sites have misleading and conflicting information, and neither gives it to you straight. Here, after searching the different pages of each's site is a breakdown. We've chosen the highest end package available from each to use as an example.

HARDWARE
DirecTV
Dish Network
DVR Model
DirectTV Plus HD DVR
ViP722
Record Capacity (hrs)
50 HD/200 SD
55 HD/350 SD
Recording Options
2 satellite tuners to record two shows at once
2 satellite tuners to record two shows at once
Hardware Price
FREE with the PREMIER package, $99 after $100 instant rebate with any other package
$39.99 activation fee, $99 installation rebate with Turbo Gold
Service Price
$5.99/month
$4.60/month
Length of Contract
2-yrs.
2-yrs.

PROGRAMMING
DirecTV
Dish Network
Pricing

Premiere Package (SD channels only)
$74.99 with current NFL Ticket promotion (avg.normally $104) SD Channels + $9.99 additional to get channels in HD.

Turbo HD Gold Package (100% HD)
$39.99 + $5.00/month for local channels in HD (ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC)
Premium add-on: Pick any 2 movie packages for only $22/mo., any 3 for $31/mo., any 4 for $40/mo. and all 5 for $50/mo.

HD Add-ons
$4.99/month; HD EXTRA PACK: HDNet Movies, MGM HD, Palladia, Smithsonian Channel HD, Universal HD (first three months free)
$10/month; Platinum HD: HDNet Movies, MGM HD, NBA TV, NHL TV, Smithosonian Channel, WFN HD (World Fishing Network), Universal HD
1080p Content
Video-on-demand by end of 2008
Video-on-demand on select titles
HD Channels
ABC HD
CBS HD
FOX HD
NBC HD
A&E HD
ABC Family HD
Altitude HD*
Animal Planet HD
Big Ten Network HD
Biography Channel HD
Bravo HD
Cartoon Network
Cinemax HD East
Cinemax HD West
CMT HD
CNBC HD+
CNN HD
CSN Bay Area HD*
CSN Chicago HD
CSN Mid-Atlantic HD
CSN New England HD
CSTV HD
Discovery Channel HD
ESPN HD
ESPN2 HD
ESPNews HD
Fox Business Network HD
FSN Arizona HD
FSN Cincinnati HD*
FSN Detroit HD
FSN Florida HD
FSN Midwest HD
FSN North HD
FSN Northwest HD
FSN Ohio HD
FSN Pittsburgh HD
FSN Prime Ticket HD
FSN Rocky Mountain HD
FSN South HD
FSN Southwest HD
FSN West HD
Fuel TV HD
FX HD
HBO HD East
HBO HD West
HD Theater
HDNet
History Channel HD
MASN HD
MSG HD
MSG PLUS HD
MTV HD
National Geographic Channel HD
NBA.TV HD
NESN HD
NFL Network HD
NHL Network HD
Planet Green HD
Science Channel HD
Sci-Fi Channel HD
Showtime HD
Showtime Extreme HD
Showtime Showcase HD
Showtime HD West
Showtime 2 HD
SNY HD
Speed Channel HD
Spike HD
SportSouth HD
SportsTime Ohio HD
Starz Comedy HD
Starz Edge HD
Starz HD East
Starz HD West
Starz Kids & Family HD
Sun Sports HD
TBS in HD
Tennis Channel HD
The Movie Channel HD
TLC HD
TNT HD
Toon Disney HD
USA Network HD
Versus HD/Golf Channel HD
VH1 HD
YES HD
ABC HD
CBS HD
FOX HD
NBC HD
A&E HD
ABC Family
Animal Planet HD
Biography Channel
Big Ten Network
Cartoon Network
CNBC HD+
CNN.HD
Bravo HD
Discovery Channel HD
dish NETWORK ON DEMAND
dish NETORK PAY.PER.VIEW (5 Channels)
Disney Channel HD
ESPN HD
ESPN2 HD
ESPNEWS HD
Food Network HD
Golf Channel HD
Hallmark Movie Channel HD
HD Theatre
HDNet
HGTV HD
History Channel HD
MHD
NFL HD
National Geographic Channel HD
Science Channel HD
SciFi HD
tbs in HD
Tennis Channel HD
TLC HD
TNT HD
Toon Disney HD
Travel Channel HD
USA HD
Weather Channel HD

Disclaimer: The HD channels listed have been taken directly from each satellite company's site. However, each site's lists vary from section to section of their sites, and there are some inconsistencies. If there's a specific channel you're looking for your best bet is to call and ask.


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