Which is The Better Choice: Satellite vs Cable

In an age when more and more people are cutting the cord, especially in the United States, there are still those who prefer the ease and simplicity of a cable or satellite subscription. With cable or satellite, you can have all of your entertainment in one place rather than go to multiple online outlets, like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, and individual broadcaster websites, to get your TV fix. Also, when you add up the subscription fees for all of these individual services, it can sometimes cost just as much as a television subscription.

But when it comes to cable vs satellite, which one is the better choice?

Cable vs Satellite

Cable and satellite have a lot of similarities in terms of content. Both types of providers offer premium channels like HBO and Showtime, as well as higher-tier cable networks like BBC America, FXX and the SyFy Network. Both types of services also provide local channels to keep you abreast of local news and weather, international channels, On-Demand programming, HD channels, and DVR services.

Where cable and satellite differ is in cost, availability, and the way they get the services to your home.

Cost Differences

Cable tends to be slightly more expensive than satellite. On average, $50 a month will get you approximately 80 channels on a lower-tier cable subscription, whereas the same money will get you about 190 channels through a satellite service.

However, many sites offer discounts and deals on DISH Network and DIRECTV Satellite TV, so you could actually get a lot more than 190 channels for considerably less than $50 per month.

Cable companies do give you the ability to cut costs by combining TV, internet, and phone; however it can often be difficult to keep track of the individual costs when you bundle services, and it could still end up costing more than having separate satellite, phone, and internet accounts.

Satellite tends to have more HD channels, even on the lower tiers, and satellite DVRs tend to have more storage space, which ultimately gives you more bang for your buck as compared to cable.

How the Signal Gets to You

Cable relies on your home connecting to the cable company’s wiring, which is usually mounted on telephone poles. Because the signal comes through the wire, you don’t have to worry about things like clouds or trees disrupting your signal. Satellite dishes pick up signals over the air, and need a clear line of sight to the satellites orbiting in space. Because the signal relies on line of sight, it could be disrupted by cloud cover or interference from shadows cast by trees or other buildings.

The risk of interference is one of the biggest drawbacks to satellite TV, but technology is improving and there are other work-arounds, such as accessing content through the Satellite’s company’s remote internet app.


Although cable is generally available across the country, there are some areas where the companies have not been able to run the wiring necessary to provide service. On the other hand, satellite is available everywhere because you don’t have to connect to external wiring. Satellite is the clear choice for people who live in rural areas, because cable might not even be available.

The wide availability of satellite also means that subscribers can have access to the service no matter where they go.

In other words, a DIRECTV customer who lives in Hilton Head, SC can move to Seattle, WA and continue to subscribe to DIRECTV. He will probably need to have a tech come out and set it up, but he should be able to move his service to his new address with no problem. A Time Warner subscriber making the same move would have to change services, because Time Warner is not available in Seattle.

It also means that moving to states that don’t have coverage from either cable service is also not a problem.

When it comes to choosing a television provider, satellite TV is the better choice, it’s cheaper than cable, the equipment is comparable, and it’s available everywhere. The only exception would be if you live in an area with a lot of old trees that could interfere with the signal, and even then you can still access television content online, or through the satellite provider’s app for no extra charge.

By Derrick Manning

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