Cable vs. Satellite Tv

Cable TV:

Cable TV companies lay wiring throughout the areas they service, including amplifiers to make sure signal strength is good throughout. Cable can then be easily brought into your home and connected to a cable box or directly into your TV.

Satellite TV:

Satellite TV companies send their signal to a satellite in space, which then sends it down to the dish on your roof. The dish then needs to connect to a receiver box, which connects to your TV. What kind of equipment do I need?

Cable TV:

If your home is not wired for cable TV, an installer will need to run cable into your home and create a wall plate with a connector on it. You can plug directly into your TV if you want to receive a basic channel lineup. To receive a fuller menu of digital and HD channels, a cable box is required for each television you plan to use. DVRs and HD-DVRs are generally available that deliver digital and HD channels as well as extra features like the ability to record/store programming and pause live TV.

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Satellite TV:

You’ll need to have a dish installed outside on something like a roof or balcony that has a clear view of the southern sky. Set-top boxes are required for each television you plan to use. DVRs and HD-DVRs should be available that deliver digital and HD channels as well as extra features like the ability to record/store programming and pause live TV. What kind of programming can I get?

Both cable and satellite TV offer digital and HD channels, along with varying amounts of on-demand and pay-per-view programming. Cable TV almost always offers a full range of local channels, while satellite TV’s local channel availability is much more robust now than in years previous (most cities should have access to a full list of local channels). Can I get service where I live?

Cable TV:

If you live in a medium to large-sized city, you will very likely have access to cable TV. If you live in a very small town or isolated area, you may not be able to get service due to a lack of cable lines in the area.

Satellite TV:

Satellite TV can provide programming to city and countryside residents alike, as you only need to have a clear view of the southern sky for your dish. It can be problematic for renters, however, who don’t have access to a southern view or who have to pay extra building fees to install a dish. Are there any issues with reception quality?

Cable TV:

There are outages with cable TV service, but they are infrequent. Some areas of the country and some companies will experience this more than others. While the level of outages is quite low, when service does go out in an area, it can last for a couple of hours or longer.

Satellite TV:

A satellite TV signal can be affected by things like severe weather, causing a loss of picture that usually lasts a few seconds to perhaps a few minutes. Also, if your dish is knocked down due to something like high winds, you will lose reception.

In the early days, someone probably denounced cable by saying, “Television is like water, and no one will ever pay for something they can get for free.” Still, people subscribed. Cable provided a tremendous service for those who couldn’t receive signals by local affiliates. It rapidly became part of the television landscape. Fifty years later, the television world is littered with cable conglomerates who now compete with satellite companies by offering hundreds of digital channels and consumer-friendly interactive services. Their goal is to get your business. Here is a comparison of common services generally provided by cable and satellite companies in the United States and Canada.


Because satellite providers don’t have to pay taxes levied by local governments and feature smaller infrastructures, consumers get more bang for the buck with satellite. Right now, cable’s low-end price is better, but with a third of the channels it’s not an easy sale when compared to satellite’s lowest package. Cable companies have millions of miles of outdated lines buried below ground, and are in the process of converting their technology to digital, which will be expensive. While satellite offers lower programming packages across the board, companies do charge fees per room receiving the signal. Though, some cable companies do, too.

Edge: Satellite PROGRAMMING

Remember the talk of a 500-channel universe? It’s here, and cable and satellite companies are ready to transport the consumer there. While both offer similar channel packages, each has an advantage over the other. Satellite offers both east and west coast feeds and alternate sports programming for channels like ESPN and Fox Sports. Sometimes sports stations televise games based on regional interest. Their alternate feed allows the satellite viewer the choice of either game. Of course, accessibility to some of the alternate feeds might require an additional price. Cable counters by offering plans for around twenty dollars for those who want good reception without paying for the 500-channel universe, and local programming not carried by satellite providers like public access stations.


Cable has an advantage for subscribers who don’t want digital programing because there’s no equipment needed other than a television. For the digital subscriber, cable and satellite are similar. You’ll need a converter box, remote, and compatible television. Satellite needs an unobstructed view of the southern sky to receive signals, which is a huge disadvantage for renters because their leasing company might require a deposit for satellite installation. Homeowners also assume a minimal risk by installing a dish to a side wall or roof.


Cable only reaches as far as their infrastructure is built while satellite has the entire southern sky. This is significant because in some deregulated markets, all cable companies don’t reach all homes.

Edge: Satellite


Concerning digital, high definition, and digital video recorders, cable and satellite companies are equal with one exception. Some satellite companies require an upfront purchase of the DVR and HD box. Others are like cable companies and lease boxes on a monthly basis. Purchasing a receiver is an advantage over time because monthly charges add up. All major companies offer all services in one way or another.


Bundling services is an adaptation of survival by cable and satellite companies. They either own or form partnerships with other telecommunication companies to offer television, phone, and Internet service for one low price. An example of a bundled service is SBC joining with Dish Network and Yahoo! to offer phone, satellite, and DSL. All major cable and satellite companies will offer some sort of one-bill service because that’s the trend in today’s market.


Satellite companies flourish without store fronts because of phone and online customer services. However, store fronts are convenient because they’re a place to pay bills, change out equipment, and voice a compliment or complaint face-to-face.


Some satellite companies require contracts and some don’t, but very few (if any) cable companies require the consumer to commit to a minimum subscription length.

Cite this page

Cable vs. Satellite Tv. (2017, Jan 20). Retrieved from

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