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Last updated: November 17, 2020

Starts at $44.99/mo
Starts at $59.99/mo

RCN providers a good cable experience, particularly in NY and PA, but their HD channel variety and sports options fall short of DirecTV. RCN makes sense if you don't want to sign a contract, but DirecTV has better lifetime value if you are sticking around for two or more years.

Overall, RCN is more suitable for people who want to bundle Internet and TV and live in the New York, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania areas since that’s where they provide the most coverage. They offer very high Internet connection speeds and a lot of customer-oriented perks (including a 30-day money-back guarantee).

DirecTV features varied TV plans and attractive sports options. While they don’t have phone and Internet services of their own, they partner with other popular providers to offer them.

I should also mention that DirecTV was bought by AT&T in 2015, so consumers can now pair up DirecTV services with AT&T Internet and phone services for around $10/month discount. That said, I haven't been overly impressed with AT&T's Internet speeds. If RCN is in your area, it's probably worth the $10 to stick with RCN cable, even if you wind up buying DirecTV as a side dish.

RCN Pros and Cons


  • No-contract policy
  • No data caps
  • 30-day money-back guarantee


  • Limited availability (six states)
  • TV plans not as interesting as DirecTV’s plans
  • Internet speeds are not guaranteed

DirecTV Pros and Cons


  • Better sports selection
  • Varied TV plans
  • 4K support


  • No Internet and phone services of their own
  • High post-promotional price increases
  • Two-year contracts

RCN vs DirecTV Network Comparison

DirecTV: Nationwide Availability

DirecTV currently offers service throughout the US, for TV anyway. Unlike RCN they specialize exclusively on TV, so it's a common choice for rural areas where cable or digital IPTV is completely unavailable.

You'll need space for the dish installation and willingness to sign a 2-year contract in order to get service, but unless a tree or building blocks your view south coverage is virtually universal in the USA.

RCN offers cable Internet, which means you generally get to enjoy fast connection speeds and cost-efficient deals. Naturally, you might be concerned about data caps.

Fortunately, you don’t have to worry about that with RCN. Their networks have no data caps.

DirecTV doesn’t offer its own Internet services. Instead, they let consumers bundle DirecTV services with Internet services from their partners:

  • Mediacom
  • AT&T
  • CenturyLink
  • Cincinnati Bell
  • Windstream
  • Exede by Viasat
  • HughesNet

Data cap-wise, it depends on the partner you choose.

For example, with Mediacom, for example, data caps range from 150GB (Gigabytes) to 6TB (Terabytes) per month. AT&T’s data caps, on the other hand, range from 150GB to 1TB per month, but they offer unlimited data allowance free of charge if consumers maintain a bundle of TV and Internet services on a combined bill.

RCN vs. DirecTV – Internet Performance and Bundle Deals

RCN’s download speeds go up to 1,000 Mbps (megabits per second), and their upload speeds go up to 20 Mbps.

As for bundles, RCN offers Double Play and Triple Play bundles. Their bundles come with cost-efficient pricing, as no bundles goes over the $100 per month mark. Most bundles are priced between $30 and $90 per month.

The only drawback I could think of is that the promotional prices only last for 12 months. On the flip side, RCN bundles don’t require a contract.

DirecTV offers both Double Play and Triple Play bundles through its partners. Price-wise, it’s hard to get an estimate as it varies. DirecTV offers a small $10 discount if you bundle with AT&T for Internet, but I don't recommend this personally since I'm not terribly keen on their speeds compared to RCN. Especially if you want to stream Netflix as well, RCN is the way to go for putting Wi-Fi in your house.

Still, you might want to know that DirecTV + AT&T bundles are generally decently priced, as they average around $80-$100 per month for the first two years.

All in all, I feel that RCN bundles are more appealing and straightforward. While DirecTV has a lot of variety in this regard, you’ll have to set some time aside to sift through each provider to see if they’re the right choice.

RCN vs. DirecTV – TV Service


  • Get access to entertainment on any device, anywhere you are with RCN2GO if you have Internet access
  • View live Pay-Per-View titles or on RCN’s replay schedule
  • An improved TV experience courtesy of RCN’s Netflix + TiVo combination
  • Access thousands of On Demand titles that are usually available the same day as the DVD (according to RCN)
  • Access Netflix, Facebook, YouTube, and other apps through the TiVo menu


  • You can watch On Demand shows that aired in the previous 72 hours
  • Exclusive access to the NFL SUNDAY TICKET
  • Watch and stream your favorite shows from wherever you want as long as you have a WiFi connection
  • Watch up to eight channels on the same channel
  • 4K support and content
  • HD support
  • Watch 1080p HD movies through Pay-Per-View with DirecTV Cinema
  • 10,000+ On Demand titles

DirecTV definitely seems like the more appealing option just from looking at the TV features.

RCN vs. DirecTV – Sports Packages


  • Get access to out-of-town games with NHL Center Ice, MLB Extra Innings, and MLS Direct Kick
  • RCN also features the NBA League Pass, Fox Soccer Plus, and the NFL RedZone
  • Premiere Sports package includes the NFL Network in HD, CBS Sports Network, the Tennis Channel, the Golf Channel, and much more
  • A decent selection of sports channels
  • HD support


  • Get access to NHL Center Ice and NBA League Pass
  • Features all major sports networks
  • DirecTV sports packages include 30+ regional sports networks
  • Sports packages also come with international sports, specialty sports, the MLB Network Strike Zone, college sports, and much more.
  • Get to watch all out-of-market NFL games with the NFL SUNDAY TICKET

RCN works pretty well for people who like watching sports. But if you want to get the most out of your TV-viewing experience, you can’t go wrong with DirecTV’s NFL SUNDAY TICKET.

RCN vs. DirecTV – Equipment

RCN’s DVRs are all powered by TiVo. Basically, you have your choice of:

  • The 2 Tuner DVR
  • The 4 Tuner DVR
  • The 6 Tuner DVR

They also have an HD DVR box, but it’s weaker than the 2 Tuner DVR.

The 6 Tuner DVR is the highlight, as it lets you record up to six shows at the same time, and has up to 1,000 hours of storage available. You can also access Netflix through the DVR, control it remotely, and take advantage of the Whole Home Bundle with it (essentially, it means you can stream, record, and share shows from any room in your home).

DirecTV features three main options: TiVo, the DirecTV Plus HD DVR, and the Genie.

The TiVo offered by DirecTV has around 100 HD and 400 SD hours of storage, and lets you record up to two shows at the same time while watching a previously recorded show. The DirecTV Plus HD DVR comes with 500GB of storage, while the Genie offers 1TB of storage.

The Genie also lets you record up to five shows simultaneously, and lets you use Picture-in-Picture to watch two shows at the same time. If you add the GenieGO into the mix, you can also watch recordings on your laptop and mobile devices without needing an Internet connection.

While DirecTV’s equipment options are fine, if you’re looking for powerful recording equipment, RCN is your best bet.

RCN Key Advantage: No Data Caps and 30-Day Money-Back Guarantee

If you don’t like feeling constrained when using the Internet, you’ll definitely love the fact that RCN has a no-data cap policy. Basically, you get to enjoy unlimited data at your leisure.

You’ll also be happy to know that RCN offers a 30-day money-back guarantee. Add to that the fact that they have no contracts, and you get to enjoy a completely safe investment.

DirecTV Key Advantage: NFL SUNDAY TICKET and More Varied TV Plans

If you love sports, you surely don’t want to miss out on out-of-market NFL games. This perk is exclusive to DirecTV, which is why so many sports junkies love this provider.

What’s more, DirecTV’s TV plans are far better fleshed out. They’ve got something for everyone, as DirecTV offers six stand-alone TV plans that are adequately priced for the first year. Plus, each plan offers plenty of channel variety.

RCN vs. DirecTV – Equipment and Installation Considerations

RCN offers free installation if you order online (they’ll give you a coupon for that). They also provide access to two-hour service windows every day of the week.

The installation is generally straightforward since RCN is a cable provider, and they also offer you the chance to “bring your own modem” if you want to save money — provided it meets their minimum requirements, of course.

Oh, and if RCN technicians are not on time, you get a $20 credit.

DirecTV offers free installation as well. The only thing you might not like is that you need to deal with a satellite dish installation.

It’s all up to you which installation method you prefer, though I can’t help but mention that RCN’s perks are pretty nice.

Our Top Pick: RCN, for Their No-Contracts Policy and Customer Satisfaction

While DirecTV is a great provider, RCN simply knows how to better address consumer needs. They offer lighting-fast download speeds, superior recording equipment, and — best of all — you don’t feel pressured by any contracts and you get a money-back guarantee.

It’s no wonder that most people who use RCN as a provider are really pleased with their services.

Of course, if you don’t mind contracts and want to get your sports fix or if RCN simply isn’t available in your area, DirecTV might work better for you.

One thought on “RCN vs DirecTV: Comparison of Core Premium TV Services

  1. alison says:

    Great review…very helpful, concise and unbiased. Thank you. We had DTV for 16 years and appreciated everything about it…never had internet w/them. Our current location would not do well with a dish so we switched to RCN…satisfied but one odd thing..there aren’t any subtitles if you need them. Thanks again.

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