DIRECTV offers six TV packages, 315 channels, and no installation or equipment fees for your first two rooms. Like most TV providers, you have to sign a two-year contract, but while some lock in your rate for the entire term, DIRECTV raises your rates after the first year unless you bundle with AT&T’s internet and phone service. So if your budget’s tight, you’ll be better off with a cheaper option, like DISH Network. But if price isn’t a big concern, DIRECTV is the way to go. It consistently outscored DISH Network and most other major cable providers in customer satisfaction surveys.
DIRECTV markets itself as a “one-stop shop for all the entertainment you want.” It promises an exceptional TV experience at a reasonable value, as well as transparency about all services and their associated costs. Unlike cable providers, who are notorious for their poor customer satisfaction, DIRECTV aims to always put you first.
DIRECTV offers six satellite TV packages and an assortment of optional add-ons so you can build a TV lineup that matches your interests. It’s a great choice for sports fans, being the exclusive provider of the NFL Sunday Ticket. All plans come with On Demand movies and shows and the ability to stream your recorded programs to any device. DIRECTV also supports 4K Programming, including its own full-time 4K Ultra HD channel, which is the first of its kind. And thanks to its recent acquisition by AT&T, DIRECTV customers can now bundle their satellite TV with AT&T’s internet and phone service for a reduced rate.
DIRECTV is hard to beat when it comes to programming and customer service, but it’s not the best choice for those on a tight budget.
In the latest customer satisfaction surveys DIRECTV consistently scored higher than cable providers and its top competitor in satellite TV, DISH Network. The American Customer Satisfaction Index ranked DIRECTV the third-best subscription TV service, behind Verizon Fios and AT&T U-verse. J.D. Power ranked DIRECTV among the best TV providers in the nation, with consumers reporting high degrees of satisfaction with the company’s programming selection and customer service, in particular. Customers were less satisfied with DIRECTV’s reliability, but that’s an unavoidable flaw of satellite TV. When there are storms, service is going to be interrupted and you just have to wait for the weather to pass.
As far as price goes, DIRECTV lives up to its promise of transparency, but affordability is another story. Its plans include free installation, no monthly equipment fees for up to two rooms, and no DVR service fees, but your rate is only locked in for 12 months. After that, you’ll see your monthly fees rise anywhere from $31 to $49, depending on your package. Over a two-year contract term, DIRECTV actually comes out to be more expensive than DISH Network, which locks in your rate for the entire duration of the contract. DIRECTV charges you $1,572 over the course of two years for its entry-level plan while DISH Network’s comparable plan only costs $1,320 over the same time period.
If cost is a concern for you, though, you may want to keep an eye out for DIRECTV’s new streaming services coming later this year. Pricing information has yet to be released, but since it’s designed to compete with other streaming services like Netflix and Hulu, it’s likely to be much friendlier to your wallet.
A Closer Look at Features
Select Package: $50/month for 12 months, then $81/month
Select Package: 145+ channels
TV Provider Type
Up to $100
Early Termination Fee
Prorated fee of up to $20/month, up to $480
Credit Check Required?
Internet and Phone Bundles Available?
Sports fans, frequent TV watchers
Those on a tight budget
- Available nationwide: Unlike cable TV providers, which are limited by their physical network, DIRECTV is available wherever you have a clear view of the sky.
- Rate increases after the first year: DIRECTV guarantees you a low monthly rate for the first year of your contract, but in the second year, prices go up considerably. If you’re willing to bundle your TV with AT&T’s internet and phone service, you can get your price locked in for the full duration of your contract.
- No installation or equipment fees: DIRECTV won’t charge you any equipment fees for your first two rooms or DVR service fees, as these are already built-in to your plan. If you want to add more than two TVs, though, you’ll have to pay extra. Installation is also free for up to four rooms and there’s no charge for shipping.
- Inclement weather interrupts service: All satellite TV service is at risk of interruption during major storms. This doesn’t mean you’re going to lose service every time there’s a little bit of rain, though. DIRECTV promises 99% signal reliability, so you shouldn’t have to worry about outages unless you’re facing severe weather.
- HD and 4K channels: DIRECTV offers over 200 HD channels as well as several 4K movies and shows. 4K Ultra High Definition is the latest revolution in TV, offering the best picture quality currently available. DIRECTV offers HD channels on all packages, but if you’re interested in 4K programming, you’ll have to go with either the Ultimate or Premier package.
- Bundle with internet and phone: Customers can now bundle their DIRECTV service with AT&T’s internet and phone service to save money. There’s a TV+Internet bundle for $80 per month and a TV+Internet+Phone bundle for $90 per month. Both plans include 6 Mbps internet speeds, unlimited data, and a locked-in price for the duration of the contract.
- Great for sports fans: DIRECTV is the exclusive provider of the NFL Sunday Ticket, which gives you access to every live game Sunday. For an extra $14 per month (included in Premier Package), you can add the DIRECTV Sports Pack. This includes international soccer, the MLB Strike Zone, 30 regional sports networks, and ESPN college sports channels.
- Free trial for premium channels: When you sign up with DIRECTV, you get free access to 46 premium channels, including HBO and STARZ, for three months. If you decide you don’t want to pay for this service, you’ll have to remove it from your plan before the trial period is over, or you will be charged.
- Record up to 200 hours of TV: With DIRECTV’s Genie, you can record up to five programs at once and store up to 200 hours of HD TV and movies. If you have more than one TV in your home, you can start a program on one TV and finish it on a different one. And if you have one of DIRECTV’s mobile apps, you can access your recorded programs from your Android and iOS devices, or your Kindle Fire, wherever you are.
- 72-hour rewind: If you miss your favorite show, you don’t have to wait for it to be posted online. With DIRECTV, you can immediately start any program that aired within the last 72 hours on 37 networks.
- Control your TV from anywhere: With DIRECTV’s mobile apps, you can watch recorded shows, stream live TV and movies, set parental controls, and schedule recordings on your DVR at home. You can also use the app as a remote for your TV and its voice search feature can help you find the programs you’re looking for without searching through the entire guide manually.
- On-screen apps track weather and sports: DIRECTV’s free HD apps let you discover new shows, check your local weather, and stay on top of sports scores without ever leaving the comfort of your couch.
What Others are Saying
CNET discusses AT&T’s recent acquisition of DIRECTV and its new TV, phone, and internet bundles. It explains the logic behind AT&T’s decision: “The move is an attempt by the nation’s second-largest wireless carrier to get more people on its TV service. AT&T spent $49 billion to buy DirecTV last year so it could serve up bundles of wireless, home broadband, video, and home phone services. It comes at a time when consumers are dropping their pay-TV service or never signing up for it in the first place.”
Consumer Reports explains the new streaming services DIRECTV is expected to come out with later this year to cater to the market of consumers shying away from traditional TV subscriptions:
“Targeted to cord-cutters and those looking for a more cable-like TV service, DirecTV Now will feature a wide range of content, including ‘much of what is available’ from the DirecTV service today, the company says. Think on-demand and live programming from a variety of networks, plus premium add-on options such as HBO. Though no channel lineup has been announced, AT&T says there may be several DirecTV Now plans. It also expects to have local channels in the mix.”
WIRED reviewed DIRECTV’s Genie DVR to see how it compared to DISH Network’s Hopper. The review is largely favorable, though it does point out that the Genie isn’t the best choice for place-shifting. But the final verdict is positive: “For me, the main value is the Genie’s ability to auto-record recommended shows. It means not having to study every channel’s schedule and research new or obscure programs. Also, being able to record five shows at once was a lifesaver in our household. There are plenty of TV-watching and recording options to be had here.”
Other TV Providers We Like
DIRECTV’s main competitor in the satellite TV space, DISH offers three TV packages as well as a Flex Pack option. This enables you to choose only the channel packs you want (News, Kids, Outdoor, etc.) so you don’t end up paying for channels you won’t watch. All plans have a locked-in price for the duration of the two-year contract. You don’t have to pay for installation, but there is a $10 monthly DVR fee, for those who choose to add that service. DISH also offers bundles of TV, internet and phone service with download speeds starting at 12 Mbps.
Comcast is one of the largest cable providers in the country, offering service in 40 states. It offers eight TV packages, all of which come with a one-year contract. If you’re interested in internet or phone service, you can go with one of Comcast’s double or triple play bundles. If you go this route, you’ll save money and you’ll also have the option to choose a month-to-month contract if you’d prefer. Comcast’s customers aren’t happy with the service they’ve received, though. It was consistently rated among the worst TV providers in J.D. Power’s customer satisfaction survey.
Verizon FiOS Verizon Fios is the only cable provider to offer 100% fiber-optic digital television, but is only available in 13 states.
This is the only provider that offers true fiber-optic digital television, which offers crisper quality and faster download speeds than traditional cable. And, unlike satellite TV, the service isn’t interrupted by the weather. It’s only available in 13 states, currently, but its Premium Service plan can record up to 12 shows simultaneously and store more than 200 hours of programming. The standard FiOS TV and DVR options are similar to a standard cable package anywhere else.
Cheaper (or Free!) Alternatives
With the rise of Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Fire TV, there’s no need to pay for a traditional TV subscription if you don’t want to. The majority of shows you want to watch are available online and the price is much easier on your wallet. Hulu gives you access to movies, current TV episodes and original series for $8 per month — that’s a sixth of what you’ll pay for cable or satellite TV.
If streaming sounds like something you’re interested in, we recommend the Roku 3. It enables you to easily search across all your streaming apps at the same time in order to help you find out if the program you want to watch is available for free anywhere. It also has voice search functionality, so you can just tell it what to search for without having to manually enter any information.
Of course, the value of streaming all depends on what shows you’re interested in. If your favorites aren’t available on one of these streaming apps, you may be better off signing up with a traditional TV provider. DIRECTV plans on moving into the streaming space later this year, and one of these plans may be a better fit for you, so this is something to look out for if you’re not ready to commit to a high monthly fee and a two-year contract.
The Bottom Line
DIRECTV has built a reputation as one of the best TV providers, offering quality customer service and a huge selection of programs to cater to all interests. Apart from the price increase after the first year, you won’t find much to complain about.