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Cable vs. Satellite TV

Cable vs. Satellite TV

At a Glance

Although satellite TV offers a greater number of channels than cable, it also requires a dish and may incur installation expenses in some cases. Cable TV is less flexible but may be more convenient.

The battle is on between cable vs satellite TV and many people in the US are moving from one to the other with the hope of getting a better channel selection and improved picture quality at a lower price. Cable and satellite TV providers are some of the major sources of pay TV in the US, and if you’re considering getting rid of your basic antenna and upgrading, we hope this article will make your decision between cable vs. satellite TV an easier one. Cable TV is available nearly everywhere, and the days of big, ugly satellite dishes are long gone. Today’s satellite packages are inexpensive, and you can install a small, modern dish without hiring professional help. So, which service is superior?

Pictured at top: TiVo Premiere DVR

Customer Satisfaction and Reliability

According to J.D Powers and Associates, the customer satisfaction of cable TV ranks between good and poor because its average outages are between 3 to 5 percent.┬áThe average outages of satellite TV on the other hand are approximately 1 percent, leading to a higher customer satisfaction rating in this survey. However, it must be noted that satellite TV is subject to local weather outages, while cable TV generally is not. If a snow or rain event in your local area is severe enough, it can prevent your satellite dish from receiving a signal. This isn’t the provider’s fault, and doesn’t count against them in terms of service uptime. According to J.D Power and Associates, DirecTV and Dish Network, which are some of the major satellite TV providers in the US, have had a higher customer satisfaction as compared to that of all the other cable TV companies for the past five years.


The average cost of cable TV across the US is $39.99 for each month. The cost of cable TV can be significantly lower if you opt not to include a digital converter box, or higher if you want a digital box with recording capabilities, premium channels or cable service in more than one room.

Subscribers pay $41.99 every month to Direct TV for 115 channels on satellite TV while Dish Network charges $31.99 every month for 60 channels. To entice new subscribers, satellite providers may offer additional free boxes for service in multiple rooms as well as free basic installation.


With the transition from analog to digital programming, cable TV providers now have the bandwidth to offer nearly as many channels as satellite TV. In addition, many cable providers now offer extra services such as movies and music on demand — some of which costs nothing. However, all of these features are lumped into an extra monthly cost for the rental of a digital converter box. If you see an advertisement for a cable TV service at an extremely low monthly cost, be prepared for the fact that the advertised price likely doesn’t include a digital box.

Although cable TV services are growing, satellite TV still has the potential to offer a greater number of channels from around the world. Satellite TV offers over 250 channels and high definition TV (more HDTV) programming. In order to give subscribers the highest quality sound and picture, satellite TV broadcasts all its channels in digital format. Subscribers have to pay a few more dollars in order for them to get more digital channels.

Equipment Required

Cable boxes that help in connecting the incoming cable lines to the televisions of the subscribers are the only thing that cable TV subscribers need. In some cases, the cable box is included in the price of the subscription. In other cases, a monthly rental charge is added. In both cases, you’ll be expected to return the box to the cable provider upon terminating your subscription.

TV receivers and TV dishes are however necessary for satellite TV. This equipment in addition to its installation is available from both Direct TV and Dish Network at no charge. HDTV receivers and DVR receivers from Direct TV cost $299 and $49.99 respectively while those from Dish Network are free.