DIRECTV is our top choice for regional sports networks and offers channels for every appetite, but watch out for second-rate DVR tech and hidden fees.
Xfinity TV offers a lot of features and strong channel prices, as well as powerful internet to bundle up with. High fees hamper the experience, but Xfinity remains one of the cheapest cable TV options on the market—and it’s also one of the most widely available.
DIRECTV satellite offers a metric ton of channels, including almost all the most popular networks in the US. It also offers more regional sports networks than any other TV provider, making it one of our top choices for content among all the providers we review.
Local channels are the heart of a good TV package, and DIRECTV has you covered at every tier. You get access to the big four networks (ABC, CBS, NBC, and FOX) plus a handful of Spanish-language channels. You’ll miss out on a few of the nation’s top 100 picks because they’re only available over the air, but there’s no provider out there that can beat out DIRECTV for local coverage.
DIRECTV offers access to every one of the top sports channels out there plus a bunch of regional sports networks, meaning you can catch nearly every game under the sun. We have to say nearly, though, because DIRECTV lost its exclusive contract with NFL Sunday Ticket at the end of 2022. We still think DIRECTV is a stellar choice for sports fans of all kinds, but you’ll have to add the Sunday Ticket channel from YouTube TV if you want every out-of-market game. Pricing starts at $349 per season for YouTube TV subscribers and $449 for just the premium channel.
Family and education: 5/5
When it comes to shows for kids and families, you can’t do better than DIRECTV. You get access to all the heavy hitters, from Disney Jr. to PBS and National Geographic. There’s also PBS, Cartoon Network, and plenty of shows and movies to choose from.
News and politics: 5/5
Like with sports, DIRECTV offers almost all the news and analysis you could hope for. You get local, national, and international coverage plus commentary from both sides of the aisle.
Entertainment and lifestyle: 4.5/5
DIRECTV offers all the movies, reality shows, home improvement series, and true crime channels you can think of. At its top tier, you even get premium channels like HBO, Showtime, and STARZ. When you want everything under the sun with just one package price, DIRECTV is a fantastic option.
Xfinity is one of the country’s biggest cable TV providers, and it offers a wide range of basic and premium channels. If you pay for the highest tier of service, you’ll have access to an excellent selection of shows and games. Even at lower tiers, you’ll still get a respectable selection of channels, but you’ll miss out on a few faves. We based our scores primarily on English and Spanish options, but Xfinity has some great international options you might want to check out as well.
Local channels are some of the oldest and most popular networks out there, featuring local and national news, national sports, and syndicated favorites. With Xfinity TV, you get access to almost all the top local channels. You’ll miss out on Comet, but most users won’t be too sad about missing its infomercials and reruns. You also get CBS All Access, the streaming service from CBS, but whether you can watch your local CBS affiliate depends on where you live.
Xfinity is one of the best TV providers out there for sports. It offers channels for everything from pro basketball and football to golf. You can get ESPN, TNT, Fox Sports 1 (FS1), and more. Whether you can access regional sports networks depends on where you live, so check the channel guide in your area if there are specific games or teams you can’t miss. There’s no way to see all out-of-market games like you can with NFL Sunday Ticket from YouTube TV, but there’s still enough games for almost any appetite.
Family and education: 4/5
Xfinity offers a lot for families to love, including a huge selection of educational channels and shows for kids, with everything from travel and history shows to Disney and Disney Jr., Nickelodeon, and Animal Planet. You’ll miss out on Heroes and Icons and may not have access to CBS, which brings the score down a bit, but it’s still a solid choice.
News and politics: 4.5/5
If you live for breaking updates and political commentary, Xfinity has you covered. You get access to all the biggest national networks on both sides of the aisle, including Fox News, Newsmax, and MSNBC. You even get BBC America, VICE, and almost all your local channels. You’ll miss out on the Weather Channel and the Castilian Spanish station Estrella, but Xfinity is still one of the best options out there for news junkies.
Lifestyle and entertainment: 3.5/5
If there’s one area where Xfinity’s lacking, it would have to be movies and entertainment. Don’t get us wrong—you’ll still get Hallmark, Lifetime, Comedy Central, HGTV, and more, but you’ll have to pay add-on prices for HBO, STARZ, SHOWTIME, Cinemax, and MGM+ (formerly Epix).
DIRECTV’s satellite service is a solid choice for viewers who don’t have access to cable TV or fast internet, and it has all the most popular channels, plus access to more regional sports networks than any other provider. However, its high prices and required two-year contract make it a poor fit for budget-conscious shoppers.
With DIRECTV’S top offering, PREMIER, you get more than 340 channels. That’s more channels than you can get through most other cable or satellite services and more channels per dollar. You might not care about all the channels—specifically the music and advertising ones—but there’s sure to be something for everyone. You’ll pay extra for sports add-ons, but prices for these extras are on par with the competition.
If you look at package rates alone, Xfinity is one of the cheapest TV providers out there—prices are low, and while the channel count isn’t the highest, it’s got all the most popular channels (1) covered. However, a slew of additional fees causes the monthly price to be quite a bit higher than advertised (it wouldn’t be a stretch to see $60 or more in fees on your TV bill, in addition to the package price). Ultimately, while the service itself is a solid value, it’s going to end up costing you.
DIRECTV offers one of the best day-to-day viewing experiences available from any live TV service, and its picture quality is hard to beat.
Ability to watch: Great
Watching DIRECTV is a pleasure, whether you’re watching from your couch or catching up on your DVR shows from bed. The companion app is also easy to use, and it lets you watch from all the top streaming devices, including Apple TV and Roku.
DIRECTV reports 99% signal reliability (virtually the same as DISH), but if you live in an area with a lot of storms or other interference, it’s possible for your signal to drop out. If that happens, you can still access your DVR, find on-demand content, or stream online. You can also stream away from home using the DIRECTV app on your iPhone or Android.
Ability to record: Great
DIRECTV’s Genie HD DVR receiver is everything you’d expect from a premium cable TV or satellite service. We like how easy it is to find shows you’ve saved to your DVR or bookmarked, and the on-demand library is solid. Your Genie can record five channels at once and store up to 200 hours of HD content. That’s not quite as many channels as with the latest DISH Hopper 3 DVR, and you also get less storage capacity than with almost any live TV streaming service we tested. But unless you need to record a ton of content or several channels at once, DIRECTV’s tech should be adequate.
Rental of your first Genie HD DVR receiver is included with your subscription, but you may have to pay up to $25 every month to use the HD DVR. You will also be charged $7 per month (plus activation fees) to rent additional mini receivers or to upgrade to the wireless version of the Genie HD DVR.
Ability to find: Great
DIRECTV has done a stellar job with its channel guide, making it easy to find your shows in a variety of ways. You can sort the channels in a few ways, choose favorites, or browse by category. You can also select favorites for quick access.
The included backlit remote comes with all the controls you expect for finding, recording, and selecting channels. It doesn’t come standard with voice control, but it’s possible to set that up if you have one of Amazon’s Alexa devices. You also won’t be able to watch streaming services like Netflix and Hulu on your Genie, but that comes standard with DISH.
Xfinity brings a lot to the table for its viewers, from a very nice DVR system to decent picture quality and a nice on-demand experience. We like its remote options, but are a little less excited about its fees and DVR costs.
Ability to watch: Great
You can watch Xfinity on a standard TV in your living room, and it’s a nice experience. The picture quality isn’t quite as good as satellite and the fees are a bummer, but the viewing experience is perfectly acceptable for most families.
Xfinity also offers the highly rated Xfinity Stream app, which gives you access to your entire channel lineup—plus on-demand content and your DVR recordings—on any device. Xfinity Stream works on iPhone, iPad, and Android devices, and it’s a great way to stay up-to-date with your favorite shows while you’re traveling (or just waiting in line).
Ability to record: Good
Xfinity offers the X1 DVR system, which is one of the best all-around DVRs on the market. It’s easy to use and offers a substantial amount of storage—up to 300 hours of HD video. You’ll have to pay $9 a month for the first box and each subsequent box, and you’ll have to pay extra if you want to record any more than 20 hours of shows.
Ability to find: Great
The standard X1 system from Xfinity comes with a sleek charcoal-colored voice remote with small buttons, and it works really well to help you find the shows and channels you crave. The company also offers a large remote with optional wrist-strap for customers who need the extra accessibility.
DIRECTV has some factors that make the customer experience great, but others that we find almost unacceptable. You get free professional installation if you sign a 2-year contract, for example, but there’s a weird $20 activation fee. DISH also includes installation at no extra cost, but traditional cable TV providers can charge $50–$100 or more, even if you do the work yourself.
Included installation is a big benefit, but you’ll pay for it in the long-run over the course of your 2-year commitment. Plus, there are massive cancelation fees of nearly $20 per month remaining on your contract if you want to get out early. There are other fees to watch out for, too. Check the fee schedule from DIRECTV for a complete breakdown.
If you need to contact customer service, your experience will be about average among TV providers we reviewed. You’ll find a lot of complaints in online reviews, but that’s pretty par for the course.
Xfinity offers both professional and self-installation options. Having a pro come by costs less than $90, which is cheaper than many other providers. The self-install kit is free of charge, though you may pay for shipping and handling. We generally recommend self-installation whenever possible, both because it’s cheaper and because you can do it on your own time.
When it comes to billing, Xfinity has improved in recent years, and we hope the trend continues. It’s great that you can see the regional and broadcast fees right in your online cart, for example, but we wish Xfinity would just roll the fees into its regular pricing. Unfortunately, we’ve also experienced billing errors and had to call the company multiple times to get them resolved. The overall TV service is pretty great, but we recommend keeping an eye on monthly charges, especially if you pay automatically.