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What is Satellite TV?
If you’re in the market for a new TV provider, you might have wondered whether satellite TV makes sense for you. As the name implies, satellite TV is delivered via signals beamed to your home from a broadcast center by way of a satellite orbiting above the Earth. This differs from other TV providers, which may offer streaming through your existing internet connection, cable or fiber-optic solutions or old-fashioned broadcast TV transmitted from one antenna to another via radio waves.
Is satellite TV right for you? Which is the cheapest satellite TV? Who offers the best satellite TV? Let’s dig a little deeper to find out.
What Satellite TV Providers are Available?
If you search for “cable companies near me,” you may find that one or more of the many cable TV providers in the country are available in your neighborhood. It all depends on which companies have decided to invest in providing service to your area. Satellite TV companies are different. Since the signals are beamed to and from a satellite, distance is irrelevant. There are only two satellite TV providers in the country: DISH and DIRECTV.
|PROVIDER||PRICE RANGE||CHANNEL COUNT RANGE|
|DISH||$59.99 to $94.99/mo.||190 to 290|
|DIRECTV||$49.99 to $124.99/mo.||155 to 330|
Satellite TV Plans and Pricing
|190 Channels||$59.99/mo.||190||• Two-year price guarantee|
• Includes local channels
• 28,000 free on-demand titles
|190+ Channels||$74.99/mo.||201||• Everything above, plus 11 sports networks|
|240+ Channels||$84.99/mo.||240||• Best value|
• Everything above, plus 35,000 free on-demand titles
|290+ Channels||$94.99/mo.||290||• Everything above, plus 36,000 free on-demand titles|
|DIRECTV Select||$49.99/mo.||155||• 12-month price guarantee|
• HD DVR
• Three months premium movie channels
|• Everything above|
|DIRECTV Choice||$59.99/mo.||185||• Best value|
• Everything above, plus 12 months of HBO
• NFL SUNDAY TICKET
|DIRECTV Xtra||$69.99/mo.||235||• Everything above|
|DIRECTV Ultimate||$74.99/mo.||250||• Everything above|
|DIRECTV Premier||$124.99/mo.||330||• Everything above, plus all the major movie channels|
Satellite TV Channel Lineups
Sports fans should note that DIRECTV features the NFL SUNDAY TICKET. Included as part of every Choice or higher package, the NFL SUNDAY TICKET lets you stream all out-of-market Sunday games, with the exception of certain international games. You can even watch multiple games on a single channel and then zoom in to any game with the click of a button.
In addition, each satellite TV package includes a different collection of popular channels, so it’s important to look at the lineup to decide which provider and package has the programming you most want to see. All your favorite cable channels are available on satellite, from kids’ favorites, such as the Disney Channel and Nickelodeon, to the premier movie channels like HBO and Showtime, as well as sports channels and family entertainment channels. Compare the channel lineups for DIRECTV packages and DISH packages.
Satellite TV Equipment, Contracts and Fees
Both DISH and DIRECTV have some benefits and costs that should be considered. Both providers allow multi-device usage and offer DVR recording, but the specifics vary. Likewise, both have their own contracts and early termination fees, along with various surcharges. Let’s dive a little deeper into the specifics.
DISH offers three levels of DVR, each at its own price point. The Hopper, included with all packages, can record up to eight shows at once from a single TV. The Hopper Duo expands recording capacity to two TVs, allows you to start a show in one room and finish it in another, and even watch two shows simultaneously with the picture-in-picture feature. The Hopper 3 supports seven TVs and 16 simultaneous recordings. It also provides multi-view mode, allowing you to watch four shows at once on the same screen. Note that you will need to add DISH Joeys or small receivers that connect to your DVR in each room with a TV. Wireless and 4K Joeys are available.
All DIRECTV packages now include a Genie DVR. The Genie lets you record five shows at once and restart live programs if you come in late. Watch two shows at once with picture-in-picture, or up to eight games at once on dedicated sports mix channels. You can pair the Genie with Genie Minis connected to your other TVs for a full, whole-home experience.
Contracts and Fees
DISH requires a two-year contract. If you cancel service before the end of your contract period, you will be charged an early termination fee of $20/mo. remaining in the contract.
DIRECTV’s contract may be either 12 or 24 months. The early termination fee varies according to your exact agreement with the company.
DIRECTV includes one Genie DVR in your monthly package price, but you will need to pay separately for any Genie Minis. DISH includes a Hopper DVR, but you will need to pay extra to upgrade to a Hopper Duo or Hopper 3, as well as for any Joeys you need.
Both companies charge separately for regional broadcasting fees, taxes and other surcharges. These costs will be roughly the same no matter which provider you select.
Both DISH and DIRECTV are major players in the satellite TV space, and both have a lot to offer. Which to choose really comes down to your preferences regarding what to watch and how to watch it.
DISH offers a variety of discounts for first responders, military members and those over age 55. If you are a member of any of those groups, DISH may be your preferred option. DISH also offers more simultaneous recordings than DIRECTV with an upgrade to the Hopper 3.
DIRECTV is the exclusive home of the NFL SUNDAY TICKET. If you’re a sports fan, this may swing your decision over to DIRECTV. Those who want to make sure they never miss a thing will love the more than 300 channels available in the DIRECTV Premier package.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Can I get satellite TV for free? No. You will need a satellite dish and a subscription for service.
- Can I get satellite TV without a satellite dish? No. Satellite dishes are much smaller than they used to be, but receiving a signal requires a dish.
- Are there any satellite TV companies besides DISH and DIRECTV? There are a handful of small local providers with limited options.
- Is satellite TV cheaper than cable? Satellite TV is competitively priced with cable. Depending on the exact package you choose, you might pay a few dollars more or less per month than you would for cable.