DISH offers a sweet three-year price guarantee and one of the best DVRs available, but picture quality is unreliable, and you’ll miss out on regional sports networks.
Mediacom offers a decent value in TV, but it’s far from perfect. First, you must bundle it with internet—standalone TV isn’t available. A thin sports selection and lots of fees also hurt. That said, Mediacom internet isn’t bad, so if you’re going with that, it probably makes sense to go with Mediacom TV, too.
DISH stands out in the satellite TV space for its straightforward billing and three-year price guarantee for new customers. The basic package starts at about the same price as DIRECTV’s lowest-tier package, but premium packages cost a lot less. You’ll pay a little less for cable TV compared to DISH in many parts of the country, but things like competition between carriers and available technologies lead to big geographic differences.
DISH has a lot to offer casual viewers, but you won’t have access to NFL SUNDAY TICKET or any 24/7 channels in 4K resolution like you would with DIRECTV. There might be occasional problems with the picture quality for live sports, but those issues are rare for movies and most TV shows. Compared to cable TV, DISH usually offers better picture quality and many more channels.
While DISH is a lot more straightforward than DIRECTV, there are a few fees that can sneak up on you, including a local broadcast fee. You can get out of that fee by finding another way to watch local channels, but be sure to read your bill carefully each month.
Mediacom offers reasonable value to TV customers. It’s not the most affordable TV provider and doesn’t offer the highest channel count or fastest internet speeds, but it’s also not outrageously expensive. It’s just…reasonable.
Depending on your chosen package, you get 50+, 125+, or 170+ channels, along with internet speeds up to 1 Gbps. The channel selection is good, with popular networks including ESPN, HGTV, and Telemundo available. You’ll need to bump up to the second tier to get FS1 plus local channels, but that's all you get for sports. You'll need the third tier for ESPN and most regional sports networks. Channel selection varies quite a bit based on where you live.
It’s worth noting that Mediacom does not offer a standalone TV service. It’s available only as part of a bundle with internet service. We expect most people will want to bundle, so this isn’t a huge deal, but it’s good to know.
DISH Hopper DVRs are fantastic, and they easily outshine the competition. The Hopper 2 is the standard model and comes with voice control, a Netflix app, and internal Wi-Fi. The Hopper Plus, released in 2022, is an add-on streaming box that lets you add thousands of streaming apps. With DIRECTV’s set top box, you miss out on the apps.
If you upgrade to the Hopper 3 or Hopper Plus with DISH, you’ll pay about $5 more each month. But you get a whole lot for the money. The super-powered DVRs can record up to 16 shows or games at once and save 500 hours of HD recordings. Plus, they're 4K-enabled and beam your DVR content straight to your smartphone or additional set-top boxes around the house so you can watch from anywhere. It also comes with more streaming apps than the basic version, plus built-in Bluetooth so you can watch with earbuds.
The Hopper 3 and Hopper Plus at extraordinarily powerful, but you won’t be able to use all the extra features if you don’t have high-speed internet. If you do, and you want to catch a metric ton of games and shows on your schedule, we think the extra monthly cost is worth it.
Remember TiVo? Well, it lives on with Mediacom as the provider’s DVR of choice. Mediacom subscribers get a TiVo DVR box that can record up to 150 hours of HD content (or 1,000 hours of standard definition), which should be plenty for most users.
The Xtream TiVo system also has powerful search and voice control capabilities, making it easy to find what you want to watch. Finally, the Mediacom TV Everywhere service gives you access to your favorite shows and DVR recordings no matter where you are. You can use your Mediacom login information to access a network’s content in the network’s app or via its website (like ABC or A&E, for example), or you can use the Mediacom mobile app.
DISH covers satellite antenna installation and DVR setup for what it calls “credit-qualified customers,” meaning customers who sign up for a two-year contract. Some competing cable companies charge closer to $100 for installation, so it’s nice to see both top satellite providers—DISH and DIRECTV—cover the initial setup.
Your standard monthly package price with DISH includes rental of one Hopper Duo DVR, but you’ll pay extra to add a wireless Joey receiver for other TVs or to upgrade to the Hopper 3. You will also pay extra for DISH Outdoors, a portable satellite antenna and receiver system you can mount on your truck or RV. If you already have DISH at home, the Outdoors setup doesn’t cost much more, making it a great option for camping or tailgate parties.
If you want to skip the Hoppers and Joeys altogether, you’ll need the Wally receiver and your own hard drive for recording shows. DIY DVR with DISH isn’t worth the hassle for most folks, but it is an option if you're tech-savvy and already own the equipment.
There’s also an option for people who don’t want the contract: Flex TV. You have to buy your DVR outright and pay for the installation out-of-pocket, but you can skip the credit check and pay for TV month to month.
Installation of your new Mediacom service will cost at least $35, and there’s no option to self-install. This fee can sometimes be waived with certain promotions, and we highly recommend hunting one down or discussing it with your sales rep. There’s also a $10 activation fee that’ll show up on your first bill.
The first TiVo DVR is included in your monthly price, but you'll have to pay around $15 to use it. Additional boxes cost about $9 per month. Finally, since you have to bundle with internet, you’ll be on the hook for a $12 modem fee each month. There’s also a standard $10 monthly fee for an eero Wi-Fi router system, but you might be able to get it free with certain promotions.
DISH can’t compete with DIRECTV’s exclusive access to NFL SUNDAY TICKET and its growing list of options in 4K resolution. There are no regional sports networks, either. But you’ll pay a lot less for DISH (in both English and Spanish) and still get access to a wide variety of pro and college sports. The lowest-tier package includes five different ESPN channels and FOX Sports 1 HD, and you can add the Multi-Sport Pack plus your regional sports channel for about $25 per month. To catch the best pro basketball, hockey, and soccer games, you’ll need to upgrade to the second-tier package.
Where DISH lacks in NFL coverage and 4K sports, it shines in entertainment. A huge list of movies and shows is available at all pricing levels, and you can add even more by going up a tier. You can also add channels like Encore and EPIX for a monthly fee. Other add-ons cost a dollar or two more than they do with the competition, but you’ll still pay less overall. DISH wins points for having a user-friendly, sortable channel guide on its website, making it easy to choose the right package for your needs.
In a truly bizarre move, Mediacom offers only local networks on the first tier, only local networks plus FS1 on the second tier, and no ESPN or TUDN until you get to the top-tier Variety package. This means sports fans on a budget might have to look elsewhere. Even then, the selection is pretty slim. Popular channels like NFL Network, MLB TV, and the Golf Channel are nowhere to be found, but you can pay about $8 per month for the Sports & Info PAK, which includes the Tennis Channel, MSG Network, and a variety of news channels.
Mediacom also offers all the usual premium channels, including HBO Max, SHOWTIME, Cinemax, and STARZ. Prices are on par with other providers. Better yet, some of the add-on costs were reduced by a few bucks at the end of 2022!