Are you amongst those who look forward to watching their favorite show after a tiring day of work? Whether you were caught up with constant deadlines at your workplace or have just recently completed a hectic move, there’s nothing that watching your favorite show while sipping on some cold coffee, cannot fix.
Along with being a source of entertainment, watching television is also a popular way of unwinding yourself after a stressful day. But with multiple options available with both Cable and Satellite TV, choosing one over the other could be a tough debate for many.
If you also are at a crossroads between the two, we can help you decide the better choice for you. Just read along our article that compares Cable vs Satellite TV from different aspects like pricing, installation and more. Let’s dive right into it!
Cable vs Satellite TV: What’s The Difference?
Before we get into a battle of which one’s better than the other, it’s important that we understand the difference between cable and satellite TV. Simply put, cable TV uses radio frequency signals, transmitted through fiber optic cables which help you tune in to your desired channels.
Satellite TV, on the other hand, uses an antenna or the satellite dish to catch signals from the communications satellite and lets you enjoy the channels on your television. While both cable and satellite TV are broadcasting networks offering a variety of channels, they do differ in a few other factors. Let us know look at each of these factors individually, so it gets easier for you to make your choice.
Now even when you have a preference for one over the other, whether it is available in your locality is an important factor to consider. Let’s see how both cable and satellite TV fare, when it comes to easy availability.
You may have access to cable TV only if it is in a provider’s coverage area. If you’re living in the central parts of the city, then you may even have an option of choosing from different cable operators. However, if you’re living in rural or remote areas, you may not be able to find cable TV providers in your area.
One of the biggest advantages of satellite TV is its availability in almost all corners of the world. Even if you’re situated in the remote parts of the country, you have higher chances of getting a satellite TV connection for your house. The only thing to keep in mind with satellite TV is the fact that its installation needs are rather specific (read more on the installation process ahead).
Which One’s The Winner?
Purely in terms of its widespread availability, we could say that satellite TV ticks the winner’s box. While cable TV service providers are more in number, it’s easier to find satellite TV connections, no matter your location. But even with this easy availability, getting the satellite dish installed in your house may not always be feasible.
If you do have both the options available, we suggest you also have a look at some of these other aspects, before making your final choice.
2. Costs And Pricing
No matter the topic of discussion, it is always going to feel a little incomplete without looking at the price perspective. Because at the end of the day, it all boils down to how you could save those few pennies to use elsewhere, right? Here we have a few costing details and how different cable and satellite TV providers are priced. But before getting to the prices, let us first look at the different elements determining these prices.
- As soon as you make a booking with your service provider, you may have to pay some installation charges. These could either be the charges for professional installation of your service equipment or some companies also charge a self-installation fee for the self-install kit and shipping charges, if any.
- In addition to this, you may also have to pay a one time activation fee and device fees for your usage. Some providers may add these device fees in your monthly bill while some others could even waive these off.
- Apart from these, you have the broadcast TV service charges and taxes as applicable. You may even be subjected to late fees or reconnect fees if you fail to make your payments on time.
With multiple cable service providers throughout the country, your prices could vary based on the individual service provider and the package that you choose. Usually, cable TVs have a month to month contract, which means that your television bills would be generated on a monthly basis. If you’ve chosen bundled services with internet and phone, then your service provider could also help you get a combined package to save a few bucks.
Depending on the channels you choose, cable TV packages could also start from a price as low as $25 per month. Here are a few popular cable TV service providers in the US:
Cox TV: As one of the best and most popular cable TV service providers, Cox TV is known to offer packages at a starting price of $25 per month. Their monthly packages range between $25 – $70 and have around 140 available channels. However, do note that these prices are only applicable to the first 12 months of your subscription.
Xfinity TV: Another popular cable TV provider is Xfinity TV. It has a Digital Starter Pack of around $50 with over 140 channels to offer. Most of its monthly packages range between $50 – $90 with the availability of around 220 channels to enjoy. However, some Xfinity TV packages may have a one year contract and their starting prices would be applicable only for the first 12 months.
Spectrum TV: With monthly packages ranging between $45 – $105, Spectrum TV offers around 200 channels to its customers to enjoy. But like most other cable TV providers, these prices are also valid only for the first 12 months of your subscription.
In the United States, DISH and DIRECTV are the dominant satellite TV providers. Because most of their packages have at least a year or two, long contracts, and thanks to the fact that they are more widely available, satellite TV prices seem to be a little more stable in nature. Overall, you may find more channels offered in your basic satellite TV package in comparison to cable TV packages.
DISH: As one of the prime satellite TV providers, DISH TV usually offers monthly packages ranging between $65 – $100. You’ll have access to around 290 channels, with some even being HD channels. But an important thing to take note of is that you have to sign a 2 year contract and use eAutoPay to make your payment. While some may not be willing to give such a long commitment, it’s definitely worthwhile for people who are looking for steady prices in their budget.
DIRECTV: Offering around 330 channels, DIRECTV has monthly plans between $65 – $135. However, you will be required to sign a 2 year contract with them, but these prices would only be applicable for the first 12 months. For the months thereafter, prices could increase. Also, you will have to use AutoPay and paperless bills when subscribing to DIRECTV.
Which One’s The Winner?
If you’re looking for the minimum amount of channels at reasonable prices, then cable TV could be the one for you to choose. But if you’re looking at a more wholesome package with better quality channels, satellite TV will give you all that you need. Additionally, the cost per channel ratio is slightly better with satellite TV. Overall, we think satellite TV packages could offer better value in comparison to cable TV packages.
3. Equipment And Accessories
Again, one of the key factors that often decide the choice between cable and satellite TV for many, is the equipment they need. Let us look at what is each one’s requirement and the process for getting them installed.
If you choose to go with cable television, the only equipment you would need is a cable box and a remote. Basically, for a cable TV, you would have a wiring system running from a network point in your neighborhood trunk line, that is connected straight to an exterior box near your house. From there on, the cable is extended first to a wireless router and then to the set top box or the cable box, placed close to your television set.
You would need a dish, a box and a remote, if you choose to install a satellite TV in your house. The satellite dish is usually attached to the side or roof of your home. And because it is out there in the open, it is going to be prone to all weather fluctuations or could even be a victim of a flying baseball! What we mean to say is that the satellite dish placed on the exterior of your house could be damaged because of these unforeseen circumstances, resulting in poor or no signal for your TV.
Which One’s The Winner?
Overall, cable TV clearly seems to win the battle when it comes to not hampering the aesthetics of your house. With a clean and close knit wiring affair inside your house, you won’t have to bother about how cable TV settles in the house. However, with satellite TV, even though a major chunk of the equipment is placed outside your house, it may not give a desired look to your home exteriors. Additionally, the satellite dish is easily prone to damage in case of poor weather.
4. Cable vs Satellite TV: How To Install?
Now that we know the equipment that is needed by both cable and satellite TV, let us see how the installation process is like for the two of them.
As we’ve mentioned before, cable TV has minimal accessories attached to it and similarly, it also usually has a no fuss installation process. In most cases, you would need an expert technician to get the cable installed. They will hook up a cable wire from your router and cable box and then install a cable card in your television. In case you already have a cable line installed in your house for an internet connection from the same provider, chances are that you yourself could also install and enable the cable TV services. Just get in touch with your service provider and they would guide you through the process.
You could install the satellite dish on your own, but it is usually very time consuming. Along with the dish on the roof, a receiver would also need to be installed inside your house. A prerequisite for installing the satellite dish is that it has to face the south. Now this may not always be a feasible option especially when your apartment has a shared wall on the southern side. The satellite dish is known to have a clear reception as long as there is nothing obstructing between the open sky and the dish. You could be facing major signal issues with poor weather conditions.
Which One’s The Winner?
For the overall installation process and good reception, cable TV has again taken the winner’s spot. While, there isn’t any rule binding you to a particular television provider even when you’re staying in a rented apartment, it may just be slightly easier to install or uninstall cable TV. However, satellite TV has the advantage of having nationwide availability. So, even though the installation process could be a little tedious, it may still be your best and rather only option, in all remote or rural countryside locations.
5. Channels And Services Offered
One of the other important factors that could determine your choice between cable and satellite TV is probably the channels and services that each of them offers. Here’s a comparison between the two:
If broadcast TV shows and primetime local news are your regular source of information and entertainment, then cable TV could be a good choice to invest in for many. You could also opt for premium packages if you need those additional or special channels.
While these premium add-ons, multiroom viewing, DVR and mobile app services could be common to both cable and satellite TV, the former seems to have a little edge when it comes to bundling services. In most cases, your cable TV operator may also be providing internet and phone services. You could check with your provider if they have a special offer for taking these combined services.
If your day isn’t complete without watching your favorite sports team play, then satellite TV could definitely help you end your day as you would like. Along with offering a wide range of sports and news channels, satellite TV is also known to offer better international programming from all over.
To add to this, the quality of satellite TV channels is also superior to most of your cable TV channels. You may even get some HD channels already included in your basic package with satellite TV. When it comes to a superior viewing experience, satellite TV does not usually disappoint as long as the connection is stable.
Which One’s The Winner?
To pick one between the two could genuinely be tough when you’re looking at it from the channels provided aspect. Both cable and satellite TV offer a good variety of channels and if you’re looking for some special or additional ones, then you could add them to your packages as well. However, if we have to look at it from the channel quality perspective, then the scales would weigh a little higher for satellite TV, as it gives you better HD channel options.
6. Reliability And Customer Experience
When you’re right in the middle of a plot twist on your favorite show, the last thing you want is to lose the signal, right? And on top of that, if you cannot reach your service provider for customer support, your mood is bound to go the other way. We understand what a bummer that could be and that’s why you should know about the customer experience you could have with both cable and satellite TV.
In most cases where cable wires are underground, your television viewing may not be affected by weather conditions outside your house. As observed, cable TV rarely loses signal unless the entire cable line network in your neighborhood is down or there has been some interruption along the cable route to your house.
As far as customer support is concerned, some of the popular cable providers like Cox, Spectrum and Verizon Fios Communications, are known to provide good customer experience on the whole. But this could still vary with different operators as well as what excellent customer service means to you.
Because the satellite dish is placed outside your house or on the roof, it is bound to be affected by the weather conditions. As soon as there is any kind of disruption to your dish or any interruption between the sky and the dish, you may lose signal until the issue has been resolved. In case of storms or heavy rain and snow showers, you may keep losing connectivity or could even end up with a damaged satellite dish.
With DISH and DIRECTV being the most popular satellite TV providers, customers have often said that they receive fairly decent customer support from them. Again, do keep in mind that a good customer experience is subjective to each person’s choice and preferences.
Which One’s The Winner?
From a reliability aspect, it is safe to say that cable TV seems to be more reliable than satellite TV, mainly because the latter could directly be affected by the weather. However, when it comes to customer experience, it could be difficult to choose one over the other. According to the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI), all TV service providers usually have low ratings between 50% – 70% for most. So, irrespective of the choice that you make between cable and satellite TV, your overall customer experience would actually be determined by the service provider you choose.
Is Cable TV The Same As Satellite TV?
In terms of their primary function, yes, Cable TV and Satellite TV are similar. Both of them are broadcasting networks that give you access to specific channels within that signal range. However, a major difference between the two is in the form of connection they are available in, at your house. While Cable TV works through a wired connection from a dedicated network, Satellite TV on the other hand, functions on radio waves received from a satellite dish.
Is Satellite TV Becoming Obsolete?
With the rising boom in OTT platforms and fiber optics, Satellite TV seems to be losing its popularity with the upcoming generations. But even though there has been a shift in the source of entertainment per se, it is highly unlikely that Satellite TV will ever become obsolete or disappear completely. That’s mostly because Satellite TV is the only medium that can be accessed in almost all parts of the world. So, for all those rural or interior areas, Satellite TV will still be a popular choice, since most cable and fiber optics cannot be reaching them.
Conclusion: Which One Is Better For You?
Now after knowing the difference between Cable vs Satellite TV, and the advantages of each over the other, you would probably have a better idea as to what suits you the best. If easy installation, better reliability and no commitments are your deal breakers, then cable TV could be the winner for you. But if you’re looking for a more cost effective and easily available solution, satellite TV will definitely please you. And in case none of these seem like attractive options for you, then you’ll always have Netflix and Hulu to fall back on!