We’ve had DirecTV now for a few months and that experience has given me some good insight about how it differs from DISH. As I have previously mentioned, my son took a job working for one of DirecTV’s biggest contract installers, and that allowed us to get the top-of-the-line DirecTV package for free. There’s really no way to argue with free, so we cancelled DISH after more than 15 years to see how DirecTV would work out. Here’s what I have concluded so far.
About The Same
As far as programming goes, DISH and DirecTV offer the same channels. Surely there are a few differences here and there, but so far I have not noticed anything that I previously had on DISH that I can no longer watch. DISH has a long history of offering a better selection of international programming, but since that’s not something we are interested in, it really wasn’t a factor for us.
A lot of sports fans might not agree with me about how the programming from the two satellite services differ, and since I am not a sports fan, I really couldn’t argue with them. I know a lot of football fans consider DirecTV’s “NFL Sunday Ticket” to be essential, so that may give DirecTV the edge with a lot of football fans. Sports fans will probably make out best if they carefully evaluate all the sports programming available on both DISH and DirecTV and make their decision based on their findings.
All of the most popular channels are going to be available on both DISH and DirecTV, although they will definitely be bundled differently when the two are compared. I’ve taken some time to review the programming packages that are available on both services, and I think I have to give a slight advantage to DirecTV. I looked recently at the lower-priced programming packages for both of them and I think DirecTV may be a bit more generous when it comes to providing some of the most popular channels, although be aware that you’ll probably pay a little more.
Don’t take the “low” prices that are advertised too literally. By the time they are done tacking on DVR fees, HD fees and other fees, you can easily end up paying twice as much as the prices they advertise for their programming packages. Those prices are the “base” prices for the packages and do not include extra fees and taxes just about every subscriber will have to pay. When you call to order service, you will be told what the final cost of your service will be.
So as far as programming packages go, I’d rate them about the same with a slight edge for DirecTV.
A Clear Difference
If you are curious about where DISH and DirecTV really differ, you’ll want to consider equipment. I have many years of experience with DISH Network’s receivers and DVRs and I have to say that DirecTV’s was a big disappointment in comparison. DISH’s equipment blows DirecTV’s away – there’s no doubt about that for me.
First of all, DirecTV’s equipment just isn’t as user-friendly. For me, their user interface just isn’t very intuitive, and they seem to have used confusing terminology for various functions, and just didn’t put as much thought into making their products as easy to use as DISH did.
I’ve been a DVR addict since I got my first DISH DVR a number of years ago, and I record just about everything I watch. Even if it is something I really want to see, I am usually willing to wait 30 minutes or so after a program airs before I begin watching the recording since it allows me to skip long, annoying commercial breaks. I guess what I am trying to say is that I have a lot of experience using a DVR, and when I first sat down to use the DirecTV DVR (the “Genie”) I found myself floundering around a bit trying to figure out how it worked.
There is bound to be a learning curve involved in switching from one DVR to another, but the difficulties I had ran deeper than that. The way DirecTV set up their functions and menus just didn’t make sense to me. In contrast, DISH’s DVRs were set up very logically and were easy to learn very quickly. With DirecTV’s equipment, it’s almost like the user interface was an afterthought – something they just threw together with a kind of “good enough” approach to the whole concept.
Another thing I have noticed is that there seems to be a bit more “lag” with DirecTV’s equipment than with DISH’s. What I am talking about is the amount of time between when you press a button on the remote and the time when you see the result. A good example would be changing channels. It just takes a tiny bit longer for the DVR to react when I change channels or do just about anything else on the DirecTV DVR than it did on the DISH DVR. It’s not a big deal, and probably not something to base a decision on, but it was something I noticed.
The Bottom Line
Comparing DISH and DirecTV based on their programming packages and available channels didn’t really convince me that one was clearly better than the other. You may be hard pressed to find channels that are not available from both of them. That does not include “specialty” programming like sports or international channels. If sports or international programming a major considerations, it would be best to carefully compare the two services side-by-side yourself and then make a decision.
If you’re a person who’s not really comfortable with gizmos and technology in general, it is my opinion that you will find the DISH Network equipment easier to learn and less of a hassle in the long run. For me, DISH Network’s equipment and user interface is clearly superior to DirecTV’s.