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DISH Network vs Comcast

Comcast and DISH Network are two of the three largest pay television companies in the United States today.  But how do they measure up from the customers viewpoint?  Which company should you choose if you have just moved and are looking to set up cable or satellite TV service?  In this article, we will compare the two companies.

Comparing DISH Network vs Comcast Cable

When looking at DISH Network versus Comcast, the most obvious difference is the delivery method used.  DISH Network was the leader in providing an alternative to cable TV service, in their deployment of small satellite dish units to the customer.   Comcast uses last mile technology, an actual hard line to each location it serves.  This of course gives Comcast the ability to sell additional services such as their high speed internet offering and home phone service.  So which method works better?

Unless you are in an area that experiences a lot of extreme weather, this contest between DISH Network and Comcast is a draw.  Satellite TV technology has come a long way, and most subscribers experience as good as, if not better service than Comcast.  That’s not to say that your service will be lacking with Comcast, as most areas have experienced upgrades in technology as well allowing Comcast digital cable and on-demand service to be standard.

How do Dish TV and Comcast compare when it comes to programming?  Will you be able to find the channels you want on Comcast and DISH Network?  Both Comcast and DISH Network have been known to drive hard bargains with content providers over the years, and this has left the subscriber out in the cold so to speak at times.  One example of this is the ongoing disputes that both Comcast and DISH Network have been involved in with the NFL Network.  While you can find the NFL Network on some DISH Network packages, the situation with Comcast is still being worked out in court.

Overall, DISH Network provides you more options than Comcast in building a truly customized package.   DISH Network offers customers the ability to order packages that are 100% HD with their Turbo HD lineup, as well as packages that include both SD and HD.   DISH Network packages start from $19.99 for the Dish Family package.  Though this package only has about 40 channels, it is something to consider for families that don’t have any type of cable TV, especially with the digital transition looming.

The standard entry level package with DISH Network is the America’s Top 100 package.  This package is currently $32.99 a month and provides 100 channels.  If you want HD, you can add the Turbo HD Bronze package for another $10.   Local channels cost another $5 per month.  As you can see, DISH Network offers a very low entry price point compared to Comcast, but things can add up if you want to add different options to your package.

With Comcast, there are slightly different prices in each area they serve, but we will compare DISH Network to Comcast in the Denver, Colorado area where Comcast is a big player.  Currently, Comcast offers their Starter Cable package for $53.39 a month, with a six month promotional price of $29.99.  This package is the Comcast basic cable lineup, with a few extras like music channels and a digital converter box.   Note the $53.39 price listed on the Comcast website is a “starting at” price, so it may be more in your area and may increase based on your particular choices.

The next Comcast digital cable package is the Digital Preferred ON Demand, which has more than 100 digital channels and 45 music stations.  This Comcast package starts at $68.34 per month, and also includes full access to the Comcast ON Demand library which has thousands of programs.

Comcast Preferred Plus with On Demand is a high end package available through the cable TV provider.  Right now, Comcast is actually offering a nice deal on this package, which is normally $100.99 a month.  New customers can get this package for just $49.99 a month for the first six month of service.  No such luck though if you are a current Comcast customer.  This deal includes everything in the Digital Preferred package, and adds in all of the premium movie channels.  Enjoy multiple channels of HBO and Starz.

The top level package is the Comcast Digital Premier with On Demand.  Normally priced at $119.99 per month, this bundle is discounted to $79 a month for the first six months for new customers only.  This is the top level package offered by Comcast and is comparable to the DISH Network America’s Everything Pack.  All of the channels are here, including five different premium movie bundles: HBO, Starz, Cinemax, Showtime and Encore.  For more information on Comcast, please read our Comcast cable review.

While we have briefly touched on the DISH Network packages including the AT100, DISH Network offers several packages in the middle so to speak.  The America’s Top 200, America’s Top 250, and the DISH DVR Advantage offerings give the customer several different ways to create a package that is just right.

Comcast includes HD service with each level of service, while with DISH Network, you have to pay $10 a month for HD service.  This is true only if you are adding HD on to one of the standard definition packages that have already been discussed.   DISH Network now offers a separate class of programming package called Turbo HD.  For further information, you can check out our Turbo HD review.  The packages are extremely affordable, and allow customers to get a package of HD-only channels for their viewing pleasure.

Now when it comes to sports programming, DISH Network and Comcast are fairly even.  You will of course find the major sports channels like ESPN, ESPNews, and the Fox Sports channels.  Both Comcast and DISH Network have been locked out of the NFL Sunday Ticket, which is an exclusive of DIRECTV currently.   One area Comcast has an advantage over Dish TV is in Major League Baseball.   The new MLB Channelstarted on January 1st, and while DISH Network has yet to strike an agreement to carry this channel, Comcast and DIRECTV have begun airing the network.  Comcast also offers theMLB Extra Innings package, while DISH Network has yet to carry this premium baseball package.   Both carriers do offer the NBA League Pass, the NHL Center Ice, and the ESPN Gameplan college football packages.

When it comes to comparing DISH Network HD vs. Comcast HD, things can get confusing.  That’s because when it comes to HD every company out there including DIRECTV, Time Warner cable, Verizon Fios, or Comcast all claim to be the leader in HD.  There is a good reason for this, and that reason is money.  All of these companies are in a fierce fight for the customers dollar, and often they are willing to stretch the truth in their effort to convince the public that they have more high definition content than the other guy.

Comcast and DISH Network each have their own distinct advantages when it comes to HD.  DISH Network beats Comcast when it comes to the number of HD channels available.  Currently, DISH Network claims to have over 130 national HD channels, though this number is inflated by video on demand and pay per view channels.  Still, the nice thing is no matter where you live in the United States, you will have access to the full lineup of DISH Network HD service.

With Comcast, the advantage in HD comes into play when looking at their On Demand availability.  Comcast ON Demand has been on a tear of late, expanding their library of programs into the thousands.  While not all of the programs contained in the On Demand setup are in HD, there are hundreds that are.   Obviously this is great for the customer, to have so much On Demand content available at the touch of a button.    Because Comcast generally lags behind Dish TV and DIRECTV in the number of channels, they have invented a new term in order to say they have the most HD.  That term is “HD choices” and they often say they have more than 1,000 HD Choices for their customers.  Again, slick marketing must be evaluated when comparing Comcast to DISH Network.

Another area where Comcast has an advantage over DISH Network is in bundled service.  Because of the nature of satellite TV, DISH Network is pretty much stuck delivering one service, that being pay television.  On the other hand, Comcast has the ability to deliver not only cable television service, but also high speed internet and home phone (voice) service.  The Comcast digital phone service offers both local and long distance calling.   Usually this is a pretty good deal for the customer who is just starting out with Comcast.  A Comcast triple play bundleis often deeply discounted for either the first six or twelve months of service,  Allowing the subscriber to save money by packaging all of these services together. However, many customers report seeing their bills jump by 40 to 50 percent on a Comcast Triple play bundle once the promotion is over.  This is of course something to keep in mind if you are looking for a Comcast deal.

With DISH Network, they used to have an agreement with AT&T to bundle their service along with the telephone and AT&T DSL service offered in many areas of the country.  However, the ATT-DISH Network deal is expiring on January 31, 20009.   ATT is going to partner with DIRECTV, in areas where ATT has not deployed their U-verse service.  What this means for DISH Network is that they will no longer have a partner to offer triple play bundled service with, nor will they have the advantage of having a local telephone company sell DISH Network satellite TV service.

Another area to consider with these companies is the Comcast DVR versus the DISH Network DVR.   For several years now, DISH Network has been recognized as having one of the best, if not the best DVR on the market. Some have even rated it equal or superior to the TiVO DVR.  From its ease of use to its overall functionality, you really can’t go wrong with the Dish DVR, the latest model being the ViP722 DVR.  A new DISH Network DVR called the ViP 922 will have integrated Slingbox technology built in, allowing customers to remotely watch content on their DVR from either a high speed internet connection or even a cell phone.  The new DVR will be $199 for existing customers, while pricing for new customers is unclear at this time.

The Comcast DVR is of course functional, but reviews don’t find anything great to talk about.  Probably the most notorious side of the Comcast DVR is its high monthly service fee, usually between $13-15 per month in most areas served by Comcast.  Compared to the $6 fee for the DISH Network DVR, Comcast really hits up the customer in this area.   Another factor to consider is that Comcast charges around $7 per month just for an HDTV receiver.

A final consideration when comparing DISH Network versus Comcast is customer service.  Of course most cable TV companies are not know for their customer service, and unfortunately Comcast falls in this boat.  Satisfaction surveys from last year had Comcast at the bottom of the heap along with cable TV company Charter communications, while DISH Network came in second place behind DIRECTV.    While this isn’t usually a deal maker or breaker when considering DISH Network vs. Comcast, it is high on the list for customers who can’t stand poor customer service.

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