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What is satellite TV?

Satellite TV is an alternative to standard TV services. Sometimes referred to as satellite cable TV, satellite TV is fundamentally different from cable. 

How does satellite TV work?

Satellite television providers send signals to satellites above the earth, which then transmit those signals to smaller dishes attached to homes.

Satellite TV receivers convert the signals into an image, similar to how your modem converts incoming signals into internet service. This technology allows satellite TV providers to offer television service nearly anywhere in the U.S.

What makes satellite TV services different from cable TV?

  • Satellite TV uses a dish to get the TV signal to a customer’s home instead of cable lines. 
  • Satellite service delivers all the typical cable TV channels to areas where cable does not reach. 
  • Satellite TV providers are known for carrying a variety of international and sports programming.

Best satellite TV providers of 2020

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

Best satellite TV providers plans and pricing

Is DIRECTV or DISH better?

It depends on what you’re looking for. If you want lots of package options and channels, including sports coverage, DIRECTV is probably for you. If, however, you prefer a well-priced lower-tier plan, a more advanced DVR system and consistent pricing throughout the length of your contract, DISH may be the better option.

  • DIRECTV – More package options and sports
    DIRECTV offers more package options than DISH. DIRECTV’s additional package is the highest-tier plan so if you want the package that includes the most number of channels, plus premium channels, then DIRECTV is for you. DIRECTV is also the only TV provider to offer NFL SUNDAY TICKET, so DIRECTV may be better if you’re a football fanatic.
  • DISH – Better basic plan, better DVR, two-year pricing
    With more channels for less money compared to DIRECTV, DISH offers a better low-tier channel plan. DISH also 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 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.

Call now: (844) 451-2720 (844) 451-2720

Where can I find satellite TV near me?

It won’t be hard to find a satellite TV provider near you. Satellite TV providers, such as DISH and DIRECTV, offer service in all 50 states. 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.

What channels do I get with satellite TV?

Looking for your favorite channels and TV shows before you sign up for satellite TV? Compare channel guides for the satellite TV programs in your area. Remember, local networks can vary by location. 

With DIRECTV, you have access to some of the most popular channels even with DIRECTV’s cheapest plan Entertainment that starts at $64.99/mo. for 160+ channels. Some of the most popular channels include ESPN, Discovery, A&E, TNT, TBS, History, AMC, Food Network, FOX, Comedy Central, Lifetime, CNN and more. With DIRECTV’s highest-tier package Premier, you get access to over 330+ channels, including all major news and sports channels, plus premium channels, such as HBO, Cinemax, SHOWTIME, STARZ and EPIX for $134.99/mo. 

DISH’s most basic tier plan America’s Top 120 is an even better deal than DIRECTV’s Entertainment package as it offers 190 channels for $59.99/mo. DISH’s highest-tier plan America’s Top 250, however, does not offer as many regular or premium channels as DIRECTV’s Premium package. For that reason, DISH’s America’s Top 250 package is considerably less expensive at $94.99/mo. for 290+ channels.

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 cable or satellite TV better?

Satellite TV companies will likely give you more channel options and lower introductory pricing, but cable is less likely to be affected by inclement weather. Both satellite and cable TV will give you similar channel packages and picture quality. Take a look at some other differences between the two to find the right TV service for you.

Satellite TV vs. cable

Pros of satellite service:

  • Availability – Satellite TV is available throughout all 50 states. Cable service and providers vary by location.
  • Channel selection – Satellite TV typically has more channel variety and package selections than cable. If you’re looking for a basic package with little more than local channels, cable may be your better option.
  • 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 2020, scoring a 65 and 64 out of 100, respectively.

Cons of satellite service:

  • 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 – Both DISH and DIRECTV require a two-year contract.
  • Dish installation – To get satellite TV, you need a satellite dish, so your installer will need to affix the dish to your roof or another exterior surface on your home.

Our verdict: 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. 

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. Cable is less vulnerable to bad weather, such as heavy rain, which can affect satellite TV service.

Best satellite TV options and features

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

Satellite TV FAQs

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.

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

There are two main satellite TV providers to choose from — DIRECTV or DISH. Both TV providers offer a variety of packages, On Demand movies, premium channels, sports packages and more.

The main difference between cable TV and satellite TV is how you receive the channel signal at your home. 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.

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.

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 be able to choose from providers such as Cox, Mediacom, Optimum, Spectrum, Verizon or Xfinity.

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Lisa Iscrupe

Written by:

Lisa Iscrupe

Writer, Broadband & Data Content

Lisa uses years of experience in sales and customer service for internet-TV providers to inform her writing on broadband. Her work has been referenced by CNN and other national sources. In Lisa’s Words: Ever… Read more

Robin Layton

Edited by:

Robin Layton

Editor, Broadband & Wireless Content

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