Is Spectrum’s cable TV better than DIRECTV’s satellite? Should you switch from DIRECTV to Spectrum? Here’s the short answer: in most cases, no.
But there are some areas where Spectrum and DIRECTV have things in common. For example, both providers have a few comparable features:
- Mobile app
- Rewind + restart functions
- Big channel counts
- Lots of on-demand content
But how do the 2 stack up against each other in other areas? To figure that out, we relied on some questions to guide us:
- How do their packages + accompanying prices compare? Who’s cheaper? Who has extra fees?
- How do the included channels compare? What about locals and premiums?
- What about their DVRs?
- How is customer service for each?
Read on to learn what we found.
DIRECTV vs Spectrum: Packages + Pricing
|Plans||Channel count||Price (months 0-12)||Price (months 13-24)||View plans|
|DIRECTV SELECT||155+||$35/mo.||$81/mo.||View plans|
|DIRECTV ENTERTAINMENT||160+||$40/mo.||$93/mo.||View plans|
|DIRECTV CHOICE||185+||$45/mo.||$110/mo.||View plans|
|DIRECTV XTRA||235+||$55/mo.||$124/mo.||View plans|
|DIRECTV ULTIMATE||250+||$60/mo.||$135/mo.||View plans|
|DIRECTV PREMIER||330+||$110/mo.||$181/mo.||View plans|
Why, DIRECTV would easily win the pricing game.
All of DIRECTV’s packages include the price of the DVR, plus plenty of channels that are actually pretty decent: most of the major networks, plus popular ones like Comedy Central and FX.
But even with the price hike – which more than doubles what you’ll pay per month – DIRECTV still winds up being the better deal somehow.
Although it should be said – that’s only true for the lower-tier packages. You’ll get more for your money with DIRECTV, unless you hate contracts (more on those next).
Spectrum takes the lead when you focus on their Gold package, though - their 200+ channels include all the premiums - like HBO, SHOWTIME, STARZ, and CINEMAX. Plus, you won’t have to worry about a contract, which makes negotiation for a lower price later a little more manageable.
DIRECTV, in contrast, starts at $110 a month for their top-tier package, and – although it gives you more channels – jumps up to $181 in the 2nd year.
DIRECTV vs Spectrum: Contracts + Fees
We’ve alluded to it a couple of times already – Spectrum skips the contract, but DIRECTV has one. Here’s how it works:
- Spectrum – no contract, advertised price is for 1st year.
- DIRECTV – 2-year contract required, advertised price is for 1st year with a large price jump in months 13-24.
And with DIRECTV’s contract comes Early Termination Fees if you cancel before it’s over: $20 per month left in your agreement, up to $480 total.
Spectrum, being no-contract, doesn’t have those – just higher rates.
|Installation (1-time)||$49.99||Free up to 4 TVs|
|First DVR||$6.99/month||DIRECTV Genie (free)|
|DVR Service||$12.99/month - $19.99/month||Included|
However, Spectrum really adds onto their higher monthly rate with the extra fees for installation, equipment, and service.
The only extra fee you need to worry about with DIRECTV is Regional Sports – and that’s only in some locations.
Meanwhile, Spectrum charges for installation (1-time, admittedly), plus your DVR, plus DVR service fees, plus HD technology fees, too.
So Spectrum’s already-higher pricing gets jacked up once more – by at least $27 bucks a month, assuming just 1 DVR and no RSN fees.
That alone takes Spectrum’s Select TV package up to a monthly total of around $72 - double the 1st-year price of DIRECTV’s SELECT, and not much cheaper than SELECT’s 2nd-year price, either ($81/mo.)
Oh, and Spectrum Select only gives you 125 channels, while DIRECTV SELECT gives you 155. And that’s at the lowest-tier level – with extra fees added on, the price-per-channel ratio doesn’t get any better.
So pricing? DIRECTV is still better, even with the price jump and contract.
DIRECTV vs Spectrum: Bundles + Deals
If you’re looking to add just Internet service to your TV, go with DIRECTV - you’ll actually get some savings. For internet + TV with Spectrum, you’ll only get 1 bill; DIRECTV paired with AT&T internet saves you about $10 a month.
Plus, with DIRECTV + AT&T internet, you may have the option to nab some fast fiber-optic internet speeds at a discount, too – Spectrum can’t say the same: they advertise only for 100Mbps speeds.
But Spectrum does offer to buy out your current TV provider’s contract for up to $500 bucks – a pretty swell option if you’re switching from another contract. That buy-out would easily cover Xfinity or DIRECTV’s ETFs.
DIRECTV vs Spectrum: Channel Lineup
|Spectrum||125 - 200+|
|DIRECTV||155 - 330+ channels|
Starting out in their base packages, both Spectrum and DIRECTV have similar channels, like Food Network, Disney, Cartoon Network, AMC, and the Hallmark Channel. Plus, they both have a decent selection of locals.
As you move through the tiers with both providers, you start to see more sports and entertainment. For example, starting at CHOICE with DIRECTV, you get NFL SUNDAY TICKET for free.
You’ll also start seeing ESPNU, MLB Network, NFL Network, and more great sports channels – DIRECTV narrowly maintains the upper hand here, primarily because of their inclusion of NFL SUNDAY TICKET.
But Spectrum has the upper hand when it comes to including premiums: you’ll find HBO and SHOWTIME included starting with the Silver package. Jump up to Gold and add in STARZ and CINEMAX. You’ll also get The Movie Channel for free with your SHOWTIME.
It’s actually a close call with channels – although DIRECTV has a higher overall count and gives NFL fans every game with free NFL SUNDAY TICKET, Spectrum close-to-matches them with other sports networks and offers premiums sooner in their lineup.
Premiums + HD
HD-channel wise, Spectrum boasts 1,500 HD options – the most of the industry, although that does include on demand titles as well. DIRECTV offers around 200 HD channels.
DIRECTV vs Spectrum: Availability
Satellite TV is available just about everywhere – which means DIRECTV wins this category with service in 48 states.
Spectrum is available in just 41 – but that’s still solid coverage.
DIRECTV vs Spectrum: DVR + Equipment
|Features||Spectrum Motorola DVR||DIRECTV Genie|
|HD hours||21 HD||200 HD|
|Number of simultaneous recordings||2||5|
|Number of TVs||4||8|
|Extra fees||$6.99/mo/receiver + $12.99/mo. DVR service fee||Included/Free|
|Extra receivers||$6.99/mo. + $19.99/mo DVR service fee||Genie Mini ($7/mo.)|
Also, you can’t choose what model DVR you get with Spectrum: you either get the Motorola or Cisco.
But both providers have some nifty features - both have:
- Rewind of up to 3 days for live shows you missed;
- Restart feature if you start watching a live show halfway through;
- Mobile apps;
- 10,000 or so on demand movies and shows.
Nothing crazy exciting or “gotta have it” here, but still some nice extras.
DIRECTV vs Spectrum: Customer Service
DIRECTV is hard to beat when it comes to customer satisfaction. In the East region, J.D. Power ranked them highly in all categories, while Spectrum came in dead last.
The American Customer Satisfaction Index also ranked DIRECTV several places higher than Spectrum: the former had 66/100 points, while the latter came in at 59/100.
So yeah – DIRECTV wins again.
It’s a shame for DIRECTV that they have that harsh 2nd-year price jump - otherwise, it wouldn’t be a fair fight. But even as it stands, DIRECTV is the better TV provider for most people if you want:
- lower-priced packages;
- A better dollar-to-channel count;
- A better DVR;
- NFL SUNDAY TICKET;
- Multiple TVs; and
- Better customer service.
On the other hand, Spectrum can save you some money on premiums with those included in their Silver and Gold packages. And, no-contracts-necessary is attractive, too. But those extra fees are killer.
Is DIRECTV cheaper than cable?
In some cases, yes. DIRECTV does offer some cheaper TV packages.