Cable vs. Satellite TV -- Which is Best?

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Cable vs. Satellite TV -- Which is Best?

By: Brian Stevens

The move is on. Last year millions of Americans switched from cable TV to satellite TV.

Why? When you compare satellite TV to cable TV you'll discover the main reasons are cost, picture quality, program choices, and customer satisfaction.

Let's check out the differences ...

Cable vs. Satellite TV Fees

Cable TV fees across the country average $39.99 per month. In our area the cost for cable TV is $37.30 a month for 64 channels, plus $10.95 a month to add digital channels. Installation in one room is $39.95, plus $9.95 for each additional room.

Satellite TV fees from Dish Network are $31.99 per month for 60 channels, while DirecTV charges $41.99 per month for 115 channels. Both satellite TV providers currently offer free satellite TV equipment and free installation in up to four rooms.

Cable vs. Satellite TV Programming

Cable TV in most areas offers almost as many channels as satellite TV, and is broadcast in analog (over-the-air) format. If you want to have digital picture and sound you'll have to pay an additional fee, usually $10 to $15 a month.

Satellite TV offers more channels than cable TV (more than 250 channels), and more HDTV (high definition TV) programming. All satellite TV channels are broadcast in digital format for the highest quality picture and sound.

Cable vs. Satellite TV Equipment

With cable you only need cable boxes that connect the incoming cable line to your televisions. There is usually no charge or rental fees for cable boxes, however, If you want a digital video recorder, you'll have to pay an extra fee.

With satellite TV you need a satellite TV dish and TV receivers. Both Dish Network and DirecTV offer that equipment, plus installation, for free. Dish Network will give you a DVR (digital video recording) receiver or an HDTV receiver at no charge, while DirecTV charges $49.99 for DVR receivers and $299 for HDTV receivers.

Cable and Satellite TV Reliability and Customer Satisfaction

Cable TV outages average 3% to 5% per year. J.D. Powers and Associates ranks cable companies as good to poor in customer satisfaction.

Satellite TV outages average about 1%. J.D. Power and Associates has ranked the two satellite TV providers -- Dish Network and DirecTV -- higher in customer satisfaction than any of the cable TV companies for the last five years

The Bottom Line

If you only watch a couple of shows a week, and you live in an area where you can't get over-the-air TV and cable TV costs less than $20 per month, then cable may be your best option.

If, on the other hand, you want the biggest variety of shows, movies, sports, and news for the least amount of money ... you want to watch your all your shows in digital video and sound ... and you want the option of watching them in HD format and recording them on a DVR receiver, then satellite TV is what you're looking for.

About The Author

Brian Stevens is a professional freelance writer and webmaster who has written extensively on free satellite TV systems. For more information on free satellite TV systems go to:


B.C. 11.08.2009. 09:46

What are the advantages of cable TV vs satellite TV? We're thinking of getting cable. We've had satellite TV and we're pleased with it for the most part, but in this part of the country (Oklahoma) we get a lot of thunderstorms and even a shower can sometimes make the satellite go out, and we're getting real tired of it. Is cable TV underground? If so, would it be advantageous to us to get cable?


Admin 11.08.2009. 09:46

Satellite TVs biggest issue certainly is the outages due to weather, even though they make it sound like a rare instance.
If those outages are that annoying, cable is certainly the way to go. Cable is sometimes buried, but usually run right along the telephone cabling. It varies depending on your locale.
Even with cabling above ground, the only outages that you'll probably see is when there's a power outage, and you probably won't have your TV on at that time anyway.
The down side is that you'll have fewer channels and possibly fewer of them as digital channels. It depends on how much you've got in your budget to spend.


Nicka Nolita 19.01.2011. 17:37

Science h/w on wireless and wired communication systems due tomorrow? I'm only asking this because it's due tomorrow and I couldn't find info on this anywhere.

Compare the wireless and wired communication systems, including:
- cable vs satellite tv
- mobile/cordless phones vs plug-in phones
- fibre optic broadband vs a wifi network

For each case, explain how the signal travels at each part of the process and what the advantages and disadvantages of each are. Why is one used in preference to the other?

Nicka Nolita

Admin 19.01.2011. 17:37

Wired systems are more reliable and secure [in the sense of being more private].

If you have an important telephone call, where every word must be heard, use a pug in phone. If the conversation is something private, use wired. Celebrities have use mobile phones and have learnt they are less secure, when their conversations have appeared on the front of the tabloids.

Similarly fibre optic broadband can both carry a lot of data and the connection is reliable.

Wifi can be hacked into, so don't don't use your credit card to buy at an airport.


Donald B 20.05.2013. 02:22

of all the cable/satellite tv companies in america, do they all offer more or less the same? programming? which cable/satellite tv company in america offers the most channel assuming it beats out it's rivals/competition? comcast, time warner, att, directv, cox, ect....? would it be more than 450 channels? let's say one of these has natgeo, can those natgeo episodes be seen online? what i mean is that on TNT they were airing southland, but i discovered that southland was being shown online that very same day of the brand new episode airing! what about hbo, can it's episodes be seen later on over the internet? are there shows on cable/satellite tv that simply will not/never be seen online, like southland from TNT? can a tv expert please tell me. thank you.

Donald B

Admin 20.05.2013. 02:22

Pretty much they all offer the same channels except for a handful of channels. As for cable vs Satellite all depends on where you are located exactly to determine which would be your best option . If you live in a house Satellite is the way to , if you live in a apartment, cable would be the best option. Bottomline it all comes down to your preferences, do you like movies, sports, sitcoms, news, are there kids in your household who like Natgeo, nick, etc. Once you have a list your preferences you need to find out what offers are available in your area for that you can use bundlesrus , should save you time and money.


RedThread 22.09.2007. 21:57

Do you still have to use a phone line to get satellite tv? I love my digital HD cable, but I'm pondering a move outside the city where satellite will be my only option.

My question is this:

Do the satellite companies still require you to have a phone line connected to your receiver?

While I'm asking a question about satellite tv, your opinion on DISH vs DIRECTV would be appreciated. Keep in mind that getting HD channels (even local channels) is extremely critical to my decision.

Also, I will want to get my Internet connection from whichever company I go with, too.

So I guess there are really three questions in here:

1. Do the satellite companies still require a phone line?
2. Do you prefer DISH or DIRECTV, and why?
3. What about their Internet options?

Thanks for your answers.


Admin 22.09.2007. 21:57

There is no requirement, but if you use a DVR, Dish requires to pay $5/month extra if you don't connect it to a phone line.

You can buy a simple wireless phone line extender, about $20. It will pay-off the $5/month in no time. Or skip the PVR/DVR function.

Dish works with Yahoo/ATT (DSL). Direct TV probably offers something similar. There is no true satellite internet since there is no uplink sat. channel. You just combine DSL and Sat service in one account.

Call both and ask for the availability of HD local channels in your area.


Lori 21.11.2012. 18:27

How does satellite tv work on hdtv's and can I watch a program not broadcast in HD? I have DISH satellite TV and some channels are in HD and some aren't. Would I be able to watch programs on my HDTV that are not in HD? Does it require a different box?


Admin 21.11.2012. 18:27

You can watch non-HD channels on a HDTV. They will appear a bit fuzzier than the HD channel. Also, by default, they will appear in a box in the center of the screen with black bars on the sides. This is because non-HD channels use a different aspect ratio than the HD channels.

To actually watch HD channels in HD, you need to make sure you use a cable that supports HD video. I recommend HDMI. It's cheap and easy to connect.

Tip: If you have Dish's DVR, to save space you may wish to record the non-HD version of certain shows - like the nightly news for instance. After all, you don't really need HD when all you're watching is someone sitting there talking to you, do you? Also, older TV shows, like Seinfeld, were not filmed in HD, and won't look any better when recorded in HD vs. SD, so you might as well just use SD. This helps save space for things like modern drama or action programs where HD makes a difference.


lizz c 13.08.2012. 01:55

Direct tv a good idea for us in the northeast USA? We are thinking of switching over to direct tv as it costs less, but we are in buffalo ny, and rarely do we get rainstorms, but snowstorms? YES! Lots and lots of heavy snow here! I've never had satellite tv, with the crazy weather from the great lakes- lake effect snow- is it a better idea to stick to time Warner cable and pay more, vs satellite and have it go out in winter? How do dishes hold up with a foot of snow on them?

lizz c

Admin 13.08.2012. 01:55

The snow has to pile up on the dish to block the signal, so just have it put on a pole in your yard and wipe it off when it does get covered. It takes quite a bit to actually block your signal.


V for Vendetta 12.07.2011. 21:04

What is the difference between having satellite tv installed directly or by 3rd party? I mean if I call up directv or dish network directly vs. looking up satellite installers in the yellow pages and calling them. Differences in terms of:

-time it takes to set up an appointment
-installation fee
-ability to get better promotional offers
-difference in contract signed
-warranty guarantee difference if installation is defective
-other fees
-any other differences you can think of

I would prefer people who can speak from experience.

V for Vendetta

Admin 12.07.2011. 21:04

Pricing/fee/contract is the same. Installation times going with the big boys (Dish and Directv, VMC, DirectStar ect) is usually longer and your business is less important to their them/sales person that you will never talk to again - They serve thousands of customers a day.

VMC, DishPronto (bought 1 year ago by Dish Network), DirectStar (owned by Directv) get special RIGHTS TO MARKET Directv, Dish Network, Charter and other cable companies online and the independents lose their dealerships left and right due to "breaking business rules" when they attempt to do the same. The small, independent businesses don't get those same considerations in their "business rules" specifically to funnel revenue into the major communications "monopoly" and shut down the dealers that started the companies so they don't have to pay residuals as promised.

You can learn about Antitrust laws here:

Rockefeller did the same with Standard Oil - buy/stomp out your competition and enslave the rest (workers). Before that, America was built on small businesses and farmers - we were the largest world power.

Don't feed the tyrants - go with a local installer and business, by state here:

Get better, faster service for the same price while KEEPING money in your community.


Nathan C 04.04.2010. 21:32

The cheapest / best value in cable and satellite TV service? I am looking around at different cable TV and satellite options, and it seems overly complicated and ultimately very expensive. What are the best deals available at the current time, and how can I keep the costs low but the service still reasonable?

Nathan C

Admin 04.04.2010. 21:32

if you are in to cheapest and best value, then cable tv is not for you. everyone knows that cable tv is the most expensive of the 3. however, choosing with dish network and direct tv for the best and reasonable value depends on your tv entertainment preference. this artcle might help you keep the costs low --


Mrs. Doe 11.07.2010. 21:04

Is it my TV or is it normal for the music in a movie to be 3 times louder than the talking? My TV is fairly new and it seems that the music in movies are so much louder than the talking. Also different channels have different volumes. One channel I can't hear it, but when I turn it to another its blaring. Is that my TV or the networks?

Mrs. Doe

Admin 11.07.2010. 21:04

It is probably a combination of things. Sometimes there is a setting in the TV itself on how the equalization is set up for music vs talking but the issue with volume levels changing from one channel to another is a problem with the provider is typically with the provider. (problem with the cable or satellite provider not properly balancing things out correctly. usually happens more often with their commercial insertions)


Frankie 29.02.2012. 18:12

What channel is the mexico vs colombia game on sky? My dad got sky satellite 2days ago but i dont know what channel its going to be on.we have charter cable in the bedrooms but i dont want to watch it on univison because i cant stand bracamontes and the other stupid lame.if u have sky plz let me know.
@ulises avila,mexico has it to and my dad bought from a guy in l.a that does it for a living.

@don ramon thanks ill watch it on televisa.


Admin 29.02.2012. 18:12

If you want to watch it on televisa, it's going to be on 105 (canal 5) NOT 102 (canal de las estrellas) or you could watch on tv Azteca 107


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