DIRECTV HD vs Dish Network Turbo HD

DIRECTV HD vs. DISH Network Turbo HD is the question on many minds in 2009.   As prices continue to fall on plasma and HDTV’s, more homeowners are looking to hook up to the best HD content, whether that be with the local cable TV company,  DIRECTV or Dish Network.  In this article, we will compare Dish Network Turbo HD against the high definition service offered by  DIRECTV, hopefully helping you compare the options available today.

Today both DIRECTV and Dish Network claim to offer more than 100 high definition channels.  While this is technically true, both companies pad their numbers by using pay per view, regional sports networks, and even on-demand channels to reach their numbers.  The marketing of satellite TV, as well as cable television is big business, and all of the players involved certainly stretch the truth in order to put their best foot forward.  While this may just be playing the game in their eyes, the customers suffers as they have to wade through all of the information from DIRECTVand DISH Network in order to really find out how many HD channels they will actually receive as a subscriber.

Another factor when comparing Dish Network Turbo HD to DIRECTV is the number of premium channels that are also counted by both companies.  If you subscribe to all of the premiums such as HBO, Starz, Showtime and Cinemax, you will of course receive them in HD if they are carried in that format.  But the fact is not many people subscribe to all of the premium movie channels, as they are quite costly.  Most subscribers take one or two premium movie channels, or none at all if they just want basic cable-like service.

So what is the bottom line when you subscribe to DIRECTV HD or DISH Network Turbo HD?  Generally you will get between 40 and 60 national HD channels.  Most areas now also have local HD coverage, but you will have to check directly with either Dish TV or DIRECTV to find out if they have local HD in your area.   Both companies are quickly expanding their local HD reach with new satellites, so it won’t be too much longer until almost everyone will have local HD access.

Now when considering Dish Network Turbo HDvs. DIRECTV HD, you should always keep in mind your local cable TV company, whether it be Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cox cable or some other provider.   In some areas, telecom companies now offer HD channels and their own version of cable, such as AT&T U-Verse HD or Verizon Fios HD.    Generally speaking, Dish Network and DIRECTV offer more HD when it comes to channel count than cable TV providers.

This is because the delivery method involved with satellite TV allows for quicker delivery of HD channels than that of cable or telecom networks that rely on last mile technology.  With a provider like Comcast HD for example, the company must have the proper network structure in place before they can add a significant number of HD channels.  With DIRECTV HD, its simply a matter of having the satellite capacity available, then they can deliver the signal to every subscriber across America once the signal is turned on.

Time Warner Cable, Cox, Charter cableand others continue to struggle when it comes to HD content.  If you live in a big metropolitan area, you may be able to get close to the number of channels offered by satellite TV from your cable company.  But if you are in a rural area,  Dish Network Turbo and DIRECTV HD are definitely head and shoulders above cable when comparing the number of HD channels.

Cable companies have been fighting back using their on-demand platforms.  These menus allow customers to start a program at any time.  Often these are in high definition, so the cable company may make a claim that they have a certain number of HD choices.  Comcast for example claims that they have 1,000 or more HD choices, so you have to comparison shop, such as lining up Comcast vs. DIRECTV when trying to figure out exactly what you want.

One way satellite TV companies compete against on-demand is with their DVR capabilities.  Of course Dish Network and DIRECTV both offer their own DVR systems for subscribers.  Generally, you can get a Dish Network ViP722 DVR or a DIRECTV DVR for free when you sign up for new service, but if you want more than one, be ready to make an investment.  DVR service usually runs about $6 per DVR box, but that beats cable TV companies that usually charge anywhere from $10-15 a month for DVR service.  Newer HD DVR models can record all of your favorite high definition content for playback later.

Now there is one significant factor to consider when comparing DIRECTV HD vs. DISH Network Turbo HD.  That factor is pricing, as Dish Network has rolled out a special group of packages that are 100% HD.

In the past with either Dish Network or DIRECTV you would subscribe first to a base package, then add on your HD package if you even wanted it.  This option is still the route most customers take, adding DIRECTV HD access costs $9.99 per month, and with DISH Network, its about the same, costing $10 per month.  Now when you add HD access with Dish TV or DIRECTV this way, the number of channels you will get is dependent on which base package you subscribe to.  For example, if you get the entry level package from DIRECTV, which is the Choice package you will receive less HD then if you subscribe to the DIRECTV Premier package.  Basically, whichever channels that are included in SD will also be delivered in HD for that particular package.

Unfortunately for satellite TV subscribers, not every HD channel that is out there is accessible with the basic HD tier.  Both DIRECTV and DISH Network have created mini-packages including some of the better HD channels, and then offered them as premium HD tier packages.  DIRECTV has the HD Extra Pack, which includes these channels:


Universal HD

HDNet Movies

Smithsonian HD


Dish Network has their own premium pack of HD channels under the title Turbo HD Platinum, which runs an extra $10 per month.  These channels are included:

HD Net Movies
Smithsonian HD
World Fishing Network
NHL Network
Universal HD

Now as mentioned earlier, Dish Network also offers the option of subscribing to just the HD content.  Dish Network Turbo HD comes in several different flavors so to speak.  The entry level price point is the Dish Network Turbo HD Bronze package, for $24.99 a month.  Of course this doesn’t have local channels or a DVR, so add another $11-12 per month for those features, but it is still a great package for someone who doesn’t need a lot of TV channels for less than $40 a month.

From there, Dish Network offers the Turbo HD Silver and the Turbo HD Gold packages for those who need more channels.  Overall, the Turbo HD packages from Dish are a good way to get the best content, as long as you aren’t interested in all of the shopping and religious channels that round out most cable TV packages.

DIRECTV does not currently offer an HD only package, so you have to first subscribe to a base package, then add on the HD access from there.  So if you are interested in HD only, DISH Network Turbo HD is the way to go.

Another consideration is the content, or the actual channels when you compare Dish Network Turbo HD against DIRECTV HD.  As a general rule, you will find most of the major channels on both Dish Network and DIRECTV.   ESPN, CNN, TNT and TBS in HD can be found on both satellite TV providers, as are many other major channels.   What is interesting is when you look for other channels that may be of interest.  Satellite TV companies are always involved in various disputes with content providers, so you may not find the HD version of some channels on DIRECTV or DISH Network.  For example, Dish Network does not have the Fox News Channel in HD.  DIRECTV does not currently carry the Travel Channel in HD, while Dish Network does.  If there is a particular channel you must have in HD, be sure to check things out before you sign up for a satellite TV subscription.

One final thing to consider for sports fans is the large advantage that DIRECTV has over Dish Network when it comes to certain sports programming.  A recent example of this is the recently launched MLB Channel HD.  DIRECTV is a partial owner in the MLB Channel, thus they began broadcasting the network on January 1, 2009.   DIRECTV also carries the MLB Extra Innings package, though this bundle costs around $200 per year extra.   Cable TV companies like Comcast and Verizon Fios also are carrying the MLB channel, but it is nowhere to be found on Dish Network.
This follows a typical pattern with DISH Network and DIRECTV.  There is a decided split between the two when it comes to dealing with premium sports programming.   DIRECTV offers the NFL Sunday Ticket in HD, as well as the NASCAR Hotpass in HD as well, while you cannot even get these packages through Dish Network.  In addition, DIRECTV has begun offing mini-packages covering the Masters and Grand Slam tennis tournaments at no additional cost to their subscribers.

Overall, if sports programming is high on your priority list, DIRECTV HD trumps DISH Network Turbo HD.

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