Cable vs. Satellite

Cable TV vs. Satellite TV

Get Ready for a Head-to-Head Television Comparison

It can be easy to come to a deadlock between the two choices of cable and satellite television service. Both options have plenty to offer the television fan, from HD lineups to international programming and more. ConnectMyCable has outlined some of the more notable features from each service in order to help you take the television service plunge.

History and Overview

Cable TV:
Historically, cable is the most popular household video entertainment medium in the United States. As of June 2006, more than 59.1 percent of U.S. households have cable service.

Satellite:
Satellite growth is occurring rapidly (25 percent of U.S. homes have satellite). Although it remains less prevalent than cable, satellite has had an impact on cable growth across the country.

Equipment

Cable TV:
Cable generally requires simply one receiver per television for digital programming. Customers can choose to get other equipment, such as Digital Video Recorders (DVRs). Cable equipment is usually required to be returned upon disconnection of the service.

Satellite:
To have satellite service you need a dish, or set of dishes, that must be placed outside and have a clear view of the southern sky. In addition, satellite customers will need a receiver for each TV. DVRs are available as well. Most satellite providers require all equipment to be leased and returned upon disconnection of the service.

Programming

Cable TV:
Cable can support more than 300 channels of programming, most of which are of digital quality; however, to get digital quality, consumers need a digital receiver. Cable offers local channels in every city and a large volume of pay-per-view movies. Additionally, many cable providers offer video-on-demand, which houses a library of movies and TV shows that can be ordered or subscribed to and viewed at the subscriber's leisure. High definition television (HDTV) services and channels are rapidly becoming available across most cable franchises to compatible TVs.

Satellite:
Satellite can support over 250 channels of programming, all of which is of digital quality. Satellite offers less local channels and may not have local channel availability in some areas; however, satellite providers are adding more local channels to their line-up. Satellite offers HDTV services to compatible TVs.

Reception Quality

Cable TV:
Currently, cable offers both analog and digital channels; however, as of February 17, 2009, analog channels will no longer be available as that date is the end of the transition period to DTV as the national standard. Analog signals are less strong and are generally of a lower quality than digital. Digital channels offer crystal clear images and reception.

Satellite:
All satellite channels are 100 percent digital quality and offer better reception across the channel lineup than cable, although satellite reception is far more dependent upon weather than cable.

Pricing

Cable TV:
Cable pricing includes local franchise and local broadcasting fees. Most cable providers offer several packages, so pricing truly depends on which channels a consumer wants.

Satellite:
Satellite pricing usually offers a better deal from the perspective of how much money is spent on a per channel basis. Some satellite companies offer price points below $30 for over 50 channels of viewing. Equipment pricing can be high initially unless a subscriber commits to at least 12 months of programming. A 12-month commitment will typically lower initial cost.

Interactive Controls

Cable TV:
Digital cable offers an electronic program guide, video-on-demand and subscription services on demand in most areas.

Satellite:
Satellite offers electronic program guides, pay-per-view, DVR functionality including the ability to record programs and rewind, fast forward and pause them during viewing.