Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the match night! Yesterday, these two fighters traded insults at the weigh-in but tonight, they’ll be trading blows. In the red corner, weighing in at just over 14 million subscribers, it’s the Dish Network with a killer uppercut. In the blue corner, weighing in at over 20 million subscribers, it’s the DirecTV with the amazing footwork. Who’s going to win? There’s only one way to find out.
Dish Network and DirecTV are two fierce competitors in the field of providing TV content, directly comparing against one another on their respective websites, of course, with each claiming superiority. These two companies even go so far as to play into the “red vs blue” trope, with Dish Network’s website having a red theme and DirecTV’s a blue one.
The truth is, both companies profit from this supposed competition and build on one another’s success, just like Coca-Cola and Pepsi do. Coupled with an array of packages and setups both companies offer, the lines between them begin to blur and it’s very difficult to find substantial differences. Ultimately, the choice of one or the other comes down to the package availability, content types and hardware preferences of the user.
Signed in blood
All DirecTV packages require a 2-year minimum contract and a credit approval beforehand. The early termination fee can be quite brutal, going up to $480 plus other cancellation fees. There are minimum programming requirements and other nuances in the fine print, all of them priced at a predatory rate, making it really important to examine any DirecTV contract with a magnifying glass before signing it. There is a fair offering of cinematic packages, including HBO, Showtime, Cinemax and Playboy as well as channels and packages in different languages, such as Spanish, Vietnamese and Korean.
Probably the biggest strength of DirecTV are the four sports shows: NFL Sunday Ticket, MLB Extra Innings, NBA League Pass and NHL Center Ice. They are hands down the best imaginable choice for any sports fan, coming with a slick app that supports desktop devices, last two generations of Playstation and Xbox, along with pretty much every Roku device, Google Chromecast, Amazon, Apple and Android TV and even Apple Watch. An entire slew of tablets and smartphones is also supported for direct streaming, with a very good degree of compatibility and interoperability, making it possible to watch a single match across all devices in the household continuously.
DirecTV isn’t allowed to broadcast certain sports events near the venue where they’re being held, to prevent them cutting into profits of other rights holders. Also, some nationally televised events are exclusively broadcast by specialized channels such as ESPN and TNT. There is a “Sports Pack”, though it doesn’t carry professional games beyond those in the immediate geographical region. DirecTV is aware of the appeal of sports and plays that card to its fullest extent. Baseball, football, basketball, hockey and soccer are prominently displayed among all other channels, coming with specialized packages and viewing functionality, such as live stats and fantasy leagues.
Dishing it out
The similarities are immediately noticeable, as Dish Network also uses the 2-year minimum contract length and prior credit qualification, but with the addition of eAutoPay that prioritizes Dish bills. The contract includes the Dish Protection Plan (free for first 6 months) that makes shipping the replacement equipment free and lowers the cost of in-home service visits. This should be a good indication that Dish tends to have issues with both the hardware and the reception. However, Dish does have the Hopper 3 Smart DVR.
Powerful black box
Hopper is front and center of the Dish Network offer, and rightfully so. This powerful receiver can record up to 16 videos at once (!) but also has 2 TB storage with the option to expand it even more via external drives. For those who can’t get enough storage, there is a palm-sized drive called HopperGo that has 64 GB of storage and can serve as a private WiFi hotspot for wireless streaming of video to other devices. Hopper has all possible ports on its back, including Ethernet, HDMI, coax and composite, supporting older TV sets but also being able to display 4K content. The receiver has WiFi and comes with a voice-controlled remote. Finally, a neat function of the receiver AutoHop, which skips commercials in certain content. Perhaps the only flaw of the Hopper is its clunky user interface.
Choose your package
The package selection is much more flexible with Dish, with a core set of around 50 channels for a flat rate and other channels being added according to the customer’s desires. The overall selection is very rich and includes drama, fashion, reality, music, cooking and tons of other diverse content, making it much more likely that everyone will find something that just might make their day incredibly entertaining.
DirecTV comes out on top as the best solution when it comes to watching sports, period. However, it might still have issues due to licensing, but that’s simply the reality of watching television. On the other hand, Dish Network is for those who can’t resist geeking out on powerful gadgets and devices. In all other aspects, the two are tied.