For many years, people who wanted cable television could only subscriber through the local franchise that served their neighborhood. But along came satellite television in the mid 90’s, and Dish Network and DIRECTV were finally able to break the cable monopoly and offer consumers a choice. The mid 2000’s brought a new option as consumers have a third choice – Verizon and AT&T have rolled out new technology which allows a true triple play alternative to cable providers like Comcast. In this article, we will compare two of these relative newcomers:
Dish Network vs. AT&T U-verse
Dish Network and AT&T have a bit of history, as in the past they used to be business partners. AT&T used to sell Dish Network satellite TVuntil early 2009. So you might wonder, why did AT&T sell Dish Network and now DIRECTV service when they have their own video service?
The reason for this is because U-verse is was in the early stages of deployment. Telco packages with U-verse were not available, as the buildout took some time to be deployed from city to city. Plenty of red tape must be overcome by AT&T in applying for a cable TV franchise for every area they intend to serve with U-verse. AT& T is still adding new areas, as their buildout of Uverse will continue until at least 2015.
The major difference between the two initially is the systems used to deliver signal to your home. AT&T uses a combination of fiber and their existing network of copper lines to deliver U-verse – while DISH installs a small satellite unit to deliver content. AT&T does have fiber lines going to the neighborhoods it serves to get U-verse started, but does not deliver fiber to each individual home or business. Many are under the impression that U-verse uses a satellite dish, but this is not the case.
If you are concerned about reliability, you should be fine with both U-verse and DISH. Satellite television has been around now for more than 15 years, and usually only goes out during very intense storms. With AT&T U-verse, most issues are ironed out during installation, insuring you will have a strong and reliable line once the technician has completed the work.
So how do Dish Network and U-verse compare when it comes to pricing and programming options? AT&T wants you to buy more than one product when you are subscribing to U-verse, so if you are in the market for high speed internet or home phone service it is a good idea to price out the U-verse bundle options. AT&T U-verse now offers a triple play package which also combines U-verse voice along with your cable TV and internet service, so you don’t have to have a home phone line if you don’t need or want it.
There was a price hike announced recently, which takes effect in late January 2013, so these prices reflect the 2013 rates for just U-verse TV service with one receiver.
The U-verse Family package is currently $59 per month. This is a $2 increase over the price in 2012 which was $57 per month. The U-verse family package has around 130 channels, so it would be comparable to a basic cable package. This has replaced the old U-100 package, and is most like the DISH Network Americas top 120 package. As the name implies, there are around 120 channels there, and it is normally priced at $49.99 monthly after any promotions expire.
The AT&T U-200 package is next up, and has up to 270 channels of programming depending on your area. Currently priced at $74 per month, the U-200 increased $2 from last years price of $72 per month. Here you will find all of the major cable channels, but no premium movie networks. There is also a U-200 Latino package which adds quite a bit of Spanish language programming for an additional charge of $10 per month. The comparable Dish Network package would be America’s Top 200, which has in the area of 235 all digital video and audio channels. The AT 200 is regularly priced at $64.99 per month.
The next offer from U-verse is the AT&T U-300 bundle for $89 per month. Here you will basically find the U-200 package with the AT&T Movie package added on to bring the channel count up to nearly 300 networks. The movie package contains 31 commercial free feeds from Starz, Showtime, Encore and Flix. You won’t get HBO or Cinemax channels here though. The closest option to this from DISH is probably the America’s Top 250 package which is offered at $74.99 per month, though is does not contain the premium movie channels like the U-300. With DISH, you can add on premium movie channel feeds for $13 each. The exception though is HBO, which will run you $18 a month. Oftentimes providers offer you a three month trial of premium channels when you sign up, so its a great way to see what is available before committing for the long term.
Finally, we come to the all inclusive packages offered by U-verse and Dish Network. The U-450 offers nearly 430 channels for $121 per month on a stand alone basis. In addition to all of the channels in the U300 package, the U-450 adds several HBO and Cinemax channels. It also adds the Sports pack, which carries dozens of regional sports networks from around the country – though most live sports action is blacked out. The U-450 compares to the Dish Network America’s Everything Pack, which has over 280 channels of service for $119.99 per month. This DISH bundle does include several feeds of the premium movie channels like HBO and Showtime.
Now if you are a big sports fan, there may be some things to factor in when comparing Dish TV vs U-verse. While both Dish Network and U-verse carry the main sports channels like ESPN and Fox Sports, they aren’t equal when it comes to premium sports packages. Both are locked out of the NFL Sunday Ticket package which is only on DIRECTV. DISH does offer NBA League Pass and MLB Extra Innings, but you won’t find the latter on U-verse yet – it wasn’t there in 2012. These packages currently run in the area of $200 per season, but are a real bonus for displaced fans. ESPN Gameplan is available through both providers currently.
Now when it comes to promotional deals, you should closely compare offers and see what they are willing to give as far as discounts and promotions. Currently, both Dish Network and U-verse offer free installation, so you don’t have to worry about having a big upfront cost with either service. They also will throw in equipment such as the U-verse Total Home DVR or the DISH Hopper DVR. These advanced digital video recording devices allow you to watch and record television programming on your terms, and save you plenty of time as you can skip through commercials on programs already recorded. Keep in mind, you do have to pay additional monthly service fees for DVR service with Dish Network, which is about $7 per month. AT&T includes DVR service in their U450 package at this time.
AT&T and Dish Network do offer other deals though to entice you to subscribe. AT&T has been big on their “cash back” offers with U-verse, which can net you anywhere from $100 to $300 back when you subscribe as a new customer. One thing U-verse has been pushing is the online ordering process, so if you decide to go with their service, you can usually get a Visa cash back card in the mail by ordering U-verse service online.
Dish Network deals currently offer a monthly discount on programming during the first year of service, which is anywhere from $10 to $20 off of a package each month. AT&T offers similar discounts on monthly service, but you may have to commit for at least a year. All new DISH customers have a two year agreement from the date you start service.
If you are looking for lots of high definition content, you really can’t go wrong with either Dish Network or AT&T U-verse. Right now, Dish Network offers 117 national HD channels, not counting any of the pay per view movie channels. That number does include premiums like HBO, so you won’t get that many unless you pay extra for the premiums. AT&T currently offers about 145 channels in HD with U-verse, tops in the country right now.
Again, this number counts all of the premiums, and there are quite a few there that aren’t available in HD through DISH at this time. As far as cost goes, right now DISH will include HD at no extra charge monthly, though you do have to set up automatic payment. U-verse charge a $10 fee for access to HD channel content -with the exception to this being the U-450 package. Dish Network Turbo HD used to be an option for those who only wanted HD content, but it looks like this has been eliminated permanently.
Both U-verse and Dish Network offer DVR service, though depending on your situation you may want to go with one company over another. AT&T was one of the first providers to offer a Total Home DVR – a unit that allows you to move from room to room and still watch the content saved on your DVR device. The AT&T DVR also allows you to record up to four shows at one time, while with Dish Network you can only save two shows at a time on the DISH Hopper (the exception being PrimeTime Anytime, where all of the content on the four major networks is recorded for you). The DISH Hopper does have a huge hard drive, allowing you to save up to 500 hours of HD content. Customers subscribing to the U450 can get 233 hours SD/65 hours high definition DVR device from AT&T.
Remember these prices are for base packages only, if you have multiple TV sets throughout the home you are going to have additional charges each month for each box. Deals change frequently, and because of the highly competitive nature of the marketplace you can sometimes call and negotiate further with both DISH and AT&T. For addition information, we invite you to read our AT&T U-verse review, and our collection of Dish Network articles.