Because each company offers unique pricing and specials, check with your local providers to find out which would be most affordable. While satellite TV is generally cheaper than cable TV, details like the number of TVs you'll want to connect will have an impact on which service can offer the best price.
How do cable and satellite TV signals get to my television?
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 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?
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.
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?
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 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?
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.
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.