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RCN is a good option if you'd rather not sign a long contract, and don't watch a lot of TV outside local news and couple series. RCN also works well for “cord cutters” using Netflix and Sling.

Dish TV is the premium option of the two, offering a huge library of content and HD channels, plus some strong sports and premium TV packages.

If you're using RCN for Internet, it's tempting to bundle in their TV service as well. So how come you see Dish reception devices hanging out the windows of so many houses and apartments in the RCN service area?

The answer: satellite TV providers like Dish and DirecTV are simply hard to beat when it comes to premium channels, pricing, and sports content. Unless you live in an area with fiber options, satellite TV is still the “gold standard” for TV.

The main benefit of RCN's cable TV service is that it comes in the same bill as your Internet, and you can often get it without a contract. (RCN is one of the friendliest Internet providers in terms of flexible service agreements and unlimited video streaming.)

Below, I've broken down the details so you can decide which makes more sense for your TV viewing habits.

RCN pros and cons

Pros

  • More channels for the price
  • More reliable service compared to satellite
  • No commitments

Cons

  • Less sports packages overall
  • Smaller coverage areas
  • Less premium content than Dish

One of the primary benefits of RCN comes from its cable TV service, as opposed to Dish Network’s satellite service that is vulnerable to disruption from certain weather patterns. In addition to this, however, I discovered that the no commitments, no contracts pricing structure is also typically popular with cord-cutters.

At the same time, major sports fans might find RCN’s offerings a bit lacking in variety, at least compared to Dish Network’s own choices. RCN also lacks the variety and amount of free sign-up bonuses that Dish Network enjoys, such as free HBO for a year and the free Echo Dot device.

Dish Network Pros and Cons

Pros

  • More premium and sports channels
  • More robust, higher capacity DVR functionality
  • Lower equipment rental pricing

Cons

  • 24-month commitment
  • Satellite Dish installation required
  • Less base channels than RCN overall

Dish clearly has an upper hand here with its premium and sports channel options. It also features tight integration with Amazon Alexa, one of the leading home automation hubs that can be configured to control your entire smart home, much less your television.

On the other hand, I’ve found that Dish’s 24-month commitment can put off users who may be moving in the near future, as well as those who simply prefer to engage with companies like this on a month-to-month basis.

RCN vs Dish Network Coverage Areas

Dish TV has Nationwide Coverage

Dish TV is one of the only options for premium TV out in the country and preferred by city and suburb dwellers as well thanks to the low price tag on premium channels. Since it comes down from satellite, anyone with space for installing a dish outside their house or apartment can get access. The only catch here is that tall buildings or trees on the southern side of your location can block a signal in some cases. This is less common in rural areas, but when you call the rep should be able to walk you through the process and check whether or not your building has availability.

RCN vs Dish Network TV Service

RCN

  • Support for HD channels
  • More channels included in the base packages
  • Commitment-free service policy
  • Watch shows on the go with the RCN2GO mobile app
  • More stable and reliable cable service compared to Dish satellite
  • Equipment powered by TIVO included Facebook, Netflix and more all in one box

Dish Network

  • Support for HD channels
  • Amazon Alexa integration for robust voice control
  • Over 8,000 free On-Demand titles
  • Over 70 Sirius XM Music Channels
  • Watch TV from anywhere using the Dish anywhere app
  • Free Amazon Echo Dot device
  • Free HBO premium service for one year
  • All premium content free for three months

Both services allow some form of remote viewing on mobile devices via an app, and both offer support for HD channels. Having said that, Dish seems to be a more attractive choice for those looking for robust on-demand and music channels.

Sports Packages

Dish Bundles in Sports

Dish also includes many of these packages in higher-level base plans, something that doesn’t appear to be the case with RCN’s offerings.

In general, RCN and Dish Network both offer a selection of packages for sports fans, but Dish seems to have a leg up in this department.

They offer more premium sports channels, including an outdoor package geared specifically towards sports like hunting, fishing, cricket, and horse racing.

In addition, you’ll have access to NFL Red Zone, ESPN, ESPN 2, and Fox Sports, as well as over 20 regional & college sports networks, ensuring that there will always be a game on to catch.

Equipment

Both RCN and Dish feature DVRs in their packages, however, Dish’s options are more robust overall. For instance, both the Hopper 2 and Hopper 3 support 8 and 16 shows to be recorded at once, and both feature up to 2000 hours of storage time. RCN’s best options only allow for 6 shows at once and max out at up to 1000 hours of storage time. Their lower-tier DVR’s can support only 2 simultaneous recordings and just 100 hours of storage time.

In addition, Dish Network has also integrated with Amazon Alexa, which is one of the most popular and versatile smart home hubs on the market currently. Certain plans even come with a free Echo Dot device upon activation, as mentioned above.

RCN Key Advantage: Cable TV Service and Great Bundle Packages

Despite Dish offering more premium and sports channel options, RCN still features more total channels in their base packages. In addition, they also offer some great bundle deals including TV and Internet, a few of which have attractive pricing options even relative to other national carriers.

Finally, as mentioned above, there are some clear advantages to having cable service over satellite. Not having to worry about frequent service outages is something that many may find very valuable, especially those that live in areas prone to consistently bad weather. Snow and heavy rain are the main offenders here. That said, there are steps you can take to make your satellite reception Dish more weather-resistant, such as spraying it with non-stick cooking spray for a DIY-style water repellent and selecting a mount point that doesn’t have overhangs that can drop streams of rain or chunks of snow onto the Dish.

Dish Network Key Advantage: Sports Packages and Superior DVR Technology

Dish has an impressively large assortment of sports packages to choose from, and they even bundle some of these in with certain base plans available, depending upon your region.

In addition, the Amazon Alexa-enable DVR works in conjunction with the included Echo Dot device to deliver powerful and easy-to-use voice control across your entire TV setup. For instance, with Alexa, it's possible to program in a “movie mode”, wherein with one command, you are able to navigate to the correct channel, turn the volume up, dim the lighting in your living room, and much more. In terms of capacity, Dish’s options exceed RCN’s in terms of both simultaneous recording abilities and total storage time.

Equipment and Installation Considerations

Both companies advertise free installation with a base package, but keep in mind that each one will likely have additional fees that vary by region, as well as fees that tie into additional premium equipment installation, such as the Echo Dot with Dish.

Another potential drawback with Dish is that an actual satellite Dish will need to be installed in order to receive service. Depending on your personal preferences, this may not be a desirable look, and in some areas it may even be difficult to achieve (IE apartments, closely placed home lots, etc).

Our Selection: Dish Network, for Their Premium Channel Support and Advanced DVR functionality

Based on everything above, I feel that Dish provides more overall value to the end-user thanks to a robust variety of premium sports, movie and adult channels and advanced, convenient DVR functionality and capacity. In addition, DVR rental prices tended to be a bit cheaper overall, despite their more advanced nature.

This said, I can absolutely see RCN being ideal for those who are simply looking for a straightforward TV service with the most base channels possible, or for those who simply prefer the reliability that comes with using cable instead of relying on satellite reception.

The takeaway: if you like to spend a couple of hours vegging in front of the TV when you get home, go with Dish (or DirecTV if you need NFL Sunday Ticket). If you're a budget shopper or just getting TV to satisfy the kids, RCN has nice basic packages and is compatible with “cord cutter” streaming services like Netflix.

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