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Satellite TV Buyer's Guide

Content The primary concern in the satellite TV debate is one of content. The basic programming packages DISH and DirecTV offer are very similar, but there are a few exceptions that can help you choose one company over the other. First, here’s what you’ll get by going with either: More than 300 available channels 200 available high-definition channels Three free months of HBO, STARZ, Cinemax, and Showtime. Access to locally broadcast programming That’s quite a bit in common, but there are perks to choosing one over another depending on your viewing preferences. With DISH, you’ll receive free HD programming for life — no monthly access fees involved — as well as Sirius XM radio for accessing a host of satellite music channels plus a built-in Pandora app featured on “The Hopper,” DISH’s DVR box. If you opt for DirectTV, though, you’ll lose out on the free HD programming given there’s an additional monthly fee included in your DVR bill. However, you will gain access to the NFL Sunday Ticket package — an (expensive) add-on that is exclusive to DirectTV — along with a bundled SmartMusicTap subscription. Hardware When comparing the DISH and DirecTV’s DVR boxes — the Hopper and the Genie, respectively — the major sticking point is recording capacity. While both require a monthly charge for various DVR services, their storage capacity differs. The DISH Hopper can save up to 500 hours of HD content or 2,000 hours of SD content for a monthly, $12 fee. The DirecTV Genie, on the other hand, touts enough space to store 200 hours of HD programming or 800 hours of SD programming for a monthly, $15 fee. Each company also charges extra for an additional tv, but either way, DISH has the edge in terms of hardware. However, it’s important to note that the likelihood you’ll use all of the storage space is not particularly high and the minor pricing disparity between the two services can become a moot point depending on what package you opt for. Nonetheless, DISH offers slightly better hardware for price. Pricing DirecTV has a more competitive entry-level package, while DISH has the edge when it comes to the middle-tier packages. Both top-tier packages are practically the same, however, each company’s special offers and promotions are most likely to drive your buying decision. Below is a brief rundown of what each service offers as of July, 2015, but keep in mind the promotions tend to change periodically. Signal Stability DISH Network and DirecTv’s satellites are in geosynchronous orbit around the earth, so they remain in a fixed position in the southern sky for those of us located in North America. The satellites are relatively close to each other, however a single tree or building between your dish’s mounting location and the line of sight to the satellites could block one service or the other’s signals from reach you, potentially forcing you to choose on service over the other.  If you are concerned this could be a problem for you, ask a representative from your preferred provider to come to your home and do a site survey to let you know if you’ll be able to pull in a stable signal.
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