DIRECTV is our top choice for regional sports networks and offers channels for every appetite, but watch for price hikes, 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 best cable TV options on the market—and it’s also one of the most widely available.
DIRECTV’s satellite service is a solid choice for viewers who don’t have access to cable TV or fast internet, and it’s the only way to catch every Sunday NFL game. However, its high prices, required two-year contract, and steep second-year price hikes (up to $70 per month) make it a poor fit for budget-conscious shoppers.
Starting with DIRECTV’s first-tier subscription, you get access to HGTV, cable news, Nickelodeon, and ESPN. That basic offering starts at about the same price as its biggest competitor, DISH. For around $10 more each month with DIRECTV, you also get one season of NFL SUNDAY TICKET. But compared to both satellite and cable TV competitors, DIRECTV gets expensive fast.
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’s Genie HD DVR receiver is everything you’d expect from a premium cable TV or satellite service. It 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.
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.
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.
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. The only unfortunate thing about the X1 system is that you need to order at least two set-top boxes to get an X1—the first box will just be a basic DVR without the advanced features and voice control. That said, many users will want at least one box for the living room and one for the bedroom, so this shouldn’t be too steep of a barrier to entry.
The standard X1 system comes with a sleek charcoal-colored remote with small buttons, but the company also offers a large remote with optional wrist-strap for customers who need the extra accessibility.
Xfinity also offers the 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).
Professional installation of your new DIRECTV satellite dish is included with your subscription and $19.95 activation fee, but you’ll have to schedule an appointment with a local technician. 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 two-year commitment.
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. Check the fee schedule from DIRECTV for a complete breakdown.
In comparison, DISH charges about the same for additional receivers and about $10 less to connect your DVR every month. Most cable companies also charge a DVR connection fee, but the DIRECTV DVR fee is one of the highest we found.
Xfinity offers both professional and self-installation options. Having a pro come by costs less than $90, which is less 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.
Aside from the installation fee, you’ll need to determine how many DVRs you want for your home prior to installation. You don’t have to pay for them up front, and you can always add more later, but ideally, you’ll have the right number of boxes from the outset, so you can just start enjoying your new TV service.
DIRECTV is the only way to get NFL SUNDAY TICKET, at least through the end of this season, and it offers more regional sports coverage than the competition. That’s a big win! It offers premium packages for MLB, NBA, and international sports as well, but you’ll pay extra. You can also get a wide variety of college games, but it might be easier with DISH than with DIRECTV.
For the best of the best in entertainment and solid foreign language coverage, DIRECTV has you covered. If a particular channel isn’t included in your package, there’s a good chance you can add it for a fee. You even get the first three months of top movie channels included with the second and third tiers—just don’t forget to call and cancel or you’ll be charged premium fees.
Xfinity has all of the premium channels you could want, including HBO Max, SHOWTIME, STARZ, Cinemax, EPIX, and more. Prices for these add-ons vary from around $5 per month to around $15 per month.
Xfinity also has a healthy selection of sports channels available, including ESPN, the Golf Channel, the Tennis Channel, MLB Network, the Olympic Channel, and many more. It’s worth noting that with sports, the selection does differ slightly between packages, so while the higher-tier plans offer more sports channels, you actually give some up in the process—just pay close attention to make sure you’re still getting the networks you want!
If the sports coverage isn't up to snuff, you may be in luck! Check out our expert resources on how to watch pro baseball, how to watch NFL games, how to watch hockey, and more.