The best satellite TV providers for 2020

Compare DIRECTV and DISH to find the best satellite TV provider for your home.

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How does satellite TV work?

Satellite TV companies send TV signals to satellites above the earth which then transmit those signals to smaller dishes attached to homes. Satellite TV receivers convert the signals into a TV image, similar to how your modem converts incoming signals into internet service. This technology allows satellite TV providers to offer TV service nearly anywhere in the U.S.

Satellite TV is a great option whether you’re looking for a basic TV package or one stacked with premium channels, sports networks and more. In addition to channel package variety, satellite TV also delivers high-quality picture and sound, advanced DVR technology and exceptional availability.

Best satellite TV providers for 2020

When it comes to satellite TV companies, DIRECTV and DISH have 100% of the market share, making them your only two options. Either DIRECTV or DISH could be the best satellite TV provider for you depending on what you’re looking for.

Satellite TV providers comparison

ProviderStarting prce*ChannelsDVR recordingsContract
DirecTV
DIRECTV
$35/mo.155-330+Up to 5 shows at once2 years
Dish
Dish
$59.99/mo.190-290+Up to 16 shows at once2 years

DIRECTV offers more channel package options than DISH. Plus, DIRECTV is the only TV provider to offer NFL SUNDAY TICKET. DIRECTV may be better if you’re a football fanatic or already have services from AT&T, which owns DIRECTV.

On the other hand, DISH has the unrivaled Hopper 3 DVR, which can record up to 16 shows at once and automatically skip commercials. Plus, you can store up to 500 hours of HD content. DISH may be better if you love to record and store lots of shows. DISH also offers a two-year price guarantee whereas DIRECTV prices increase after the first year.

For a more in-depth look at satellite TV services in your area, check out our DIRECTV vs. DISH page. Or, you can always call our TV experts to get more information about available satellite TV packages for your address.

Bundle satellite TV and internet

You can get high-speed internet with satellite TV service. DISH and DIRECTV both work with internet providers in your area to bring you satellite TV and internet bundles.

Can satellite TV provide internet?

While neither satellite TV provider offers internet directly, you can combine their TV packages with an internet plan from leading providers in your area. Call today to build your satellite TV and internet bundle with providers such as:

Availability, pricing and internet speeds will vary by location and provider. Call to check satellite TV and internet bundle availability and pricing for your address.

Is satellite TV better than cable?

Satellite and cable are two popular choices for TV service. While both satellite and cable will give you similar channel packages and picture quality, there are some differences between the two. For example, satellite TV companies will likely give you more channel options and lower introductory pricing, but cable is less likely to be affected by bad weather such as heavy rain.

Pros and cons of satellite TV compared to cable

Pros:

  • Availability: Satellite TV is available throughout all 50 states, whereas cable service and providers vary widely by location.
  • Channel selection: You’re likely to get more channel variety and package selections with satellite TV vs. cable.
  • Picture quality: Satellite TV supports higher bandwidth than cable, which can allow for more 1080p HD channels, or even 4K programming.
  • Customer satisfaction: DISH and DIRECTV had higher ACSI ratings than most major cable TV providers in 2019, scoring a 67 and 66 out of 100, respectively.

Cons:

  • Service disruptions: Inclement weather such as rain, snow, strong winds and heavy cloud coverage can interfere with your signal and cause a temporary service outage. However, your recorded programming will likely still be available.
  • Contracts: DISH and DIRECTV require a two-year contract, and may include price increases after the first year.
  • Dish installation: To get satellite TV, you need a satellite dish. While the equipment and installation costs are typically included, your installer will need to affix the dish to your roof or another exterior surface on your home.

Satellite television will likely give you more channel options and lower introductory pricing than cable. Satellite service can be a better option for you if you live in a rural area with fewer TV options, want to spend less on TV service or prioritize high customer service ratings. However, rain, heavy cloud cover and snow can affect satellite TV service, so there might be times where you can’t view live programming.

Cable is less vulnerable to bad weather such as heavy rain, but can cost more initially. Cable can be a better option if you don’t want a TV contract or if a cable provider offers special incentives for bundling TV and internet.

What to consider when comparing satellite TV and cable

  • Packages: Satellite TV companies offer more channel package options than most cable companies. Plus, you’ll likely have more add-on channel options with satellite TV, so you can get more sports, premium and international channels. If you’re looking for a basic package with little more than local channels, cable may be your better option.
  • Pricing: Monthly costs for satellite TV can run lower than cable, especially during the first year or two of service. After that, price increases can bring your satellite TV up to or higher than what you’d pay for a similar cable package. Pricing varies by provider and location, so it’s best to shop multiple providers and plans in your area.
  • DVR equipment: Satellite TV boasts some of the most advanced DVR equipment available. You can record up to 16 shows at once with DISH and up to five shows at once with DIRECTV. Cable providers typically vary from recording two to six shows at once.
  • Contract: Satellite TV often comes with a contract of one or two years. Cable service may require a contract, but some providers, such as Spectrum, do not.

Get details about satellite and cable TV services from our experts. Call to shop available TV providers, plans and special offers for your home.

Frequently asked questions about satellite TV

Can I get satellite TV without a dish?

No, a satellite dish is required for traditional satellite TV service. However, if you do not want a satellite dish or are restricted from installing one, AT&T TV NOW (formerly DIRECTV NOW) offers live TV streaming without needing a satellite dish.

Is satellite TV equipment and installation expensive?

Satellite TV providers often include select equipment such as the satellite dish, mounting hardware, cables, etc. at no extra cost. Standard satellite installation services are also commonly included for free.

How many satellite TV companies are there?

Currently, there are two main satellite TV providers to choose from — DIRECTV or DISH. Both TV providers offer a variety of packages with dozens to hundreds of channels to choose from, as well as On Demand movies, premium channels, sports packages and more.

What is the difference between cable TV and satellite TV?

The difference between cable TV and satellite TV is the method through which you are connected to receive the channel signal. Cable TV uses a wired connection and receiver box to bring the TV signal into your house. Satellite TV uses a satellite to receive the signal and display the channels on your TV.

Are there any free satellite TV channels?

Yes, just as you can use a TV antenna to pick up free over-the-air TV broadcasts, there are “Free to air” (FTA) satellite TV channels that are broadcast via satellite. These FTA channels are typically local news or sports channels, or government-sponsored public TV stations such as PBS. To pick up these channels, you’ll have to invest in an FTA receiver box in addition to your satellite dish.

What other satellite TV companies are there?

While there are niche satellite companies, such as Christian satellite network Glorystar, the two main satellite TV companies are DIRECTV and DISH. If cable or fiber TV is also available where you live, you may also be able to choose from providers such as Cox, Mediacom, Optimum, Spectrum, Verizon or Xfinity.


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