Cable TV vs. Satellite TV

Cable and satellite TV differ from each other in many ways far beyond just television programming. Cable TV is generally more expensive than satellite TV but delivers consistent service regardless of the weather conditions. If you live on rent or are looking for a short-term solution, then Cable may be a better option for you. Alternatively, Satellite TV is available at relatively cheaper rates, but its signals suffer greatly during extreme weather.

In terms of availability, users can only access Cable TV where its providers are available. At times, this excludes suburban communities and rural areas. Whereas satellite TV is accessible from any place where a south-faced dish can be mounted on the rooftop.

If you are confused between cable and satellite TV, remember there is no qualified winner here. You only need to know how to tell both of these apart. Here is a complete guide covering major differences between cable and satellite TV. So, let’s get started!

Table of Contents

  • Cable TV vs. Satellite TV
  • Cable & Satellite Television: Definition and Details
  • Equipment & Installation
  • Availability
  • Contracts
  • Comparison Table
  • Cable vs. Satellite TV Services
  • Quick Summary
  • Bottom Line

Cable & Satellite Television: Definition and Details

Cable television transmits television programs to customers through radio frequency signals delivered via coaxial cables or optical pulses through fiber cables.

Satellite television transmits programming through communications satellites and delivers it to an outdoor antenna, typically a parabolic reflector known as a satellite dish.

Equipment & Installation

With cable service providers, you only need to install a few pieces of equipment like coax cable, set-top box, and a single outlet. They also offer more flexibility and convenience. If you reside in a multi-story house or apartment, you can get a cable installed without facing any problems.

Whereas satellite providers need to fit a dish on the roof-top of your house. They also have to ensure that the dish is positioned in the correct direction and must be free of dirt or debris. All in all, we can conclude that it is not just easy to set up cable TV, but it also involves fewer technical issues in the long run.


You can only access cable service if respective providers offer coverage in your area. Often, people living in rural and remote areas complain about unavailability of cable service.

Satellite TV is available at any place that has a dish installed. The problem may arise if there is a big tree, wall, building or any other hindrance on the south side that may block signals.


With cable companies, you mostly get monthly contracts. In case you are not satisfied with the service, you can call and cancel anytime. Similarly, you can upgrade as well.

Satellite companies mostly offer contracts that are at least a year long. So, feel lucky if you find rarely available pay-as-you-go option in your area.

Comparison Table

Here is a quick rundown of the basic details included in both services:

Cable TV Satellite TV
Equipment Cable box and remote Cable box and dish
Installation A technician comes to the subscriber’s house to install the junction box A technician comes to the subscriber’s house to install a dish on the roof
Availability Areas near cable TV providers Everywhere in the United States
Contract Monthly basis Yearly basis
Best provider Spectrum cable DirecTV
Bundle Services Easily available Rarely available
Estimated Cost $65 per month (Non-HD)

$70 per month (HD)

$45 per month (Non-HD)

$65 per month (HD)

Cable vs. Satellite TV Services

Are you wondering what else would you get besides live TV service after you subscribe to a cable or satellite TV? We have summarized some of the most common services that providers offer to their customers. Let’s have a look:

Cable TV Satellite TV
DVR Available Available
Bundling Available Available (Limited)
Multi-room viewing Available Available
Mobile Application Available Available
Premium add-ons Available Available
Purchases / Rentals / Pay-per-view Available Available
On-demand library Available Available

Quick Summary

Cable TV Satellite TV
High channel counts High channel counts
Available in many bundle deals Good per channel cost
Monthly contracts Great availability
Wide variety of packages Yearly contracts
Limited bundling choices
Poor performance in bad weather

Bottom Line

If you are a national sports fan or tech junkies, then Satellite may be a perfect option for you. However, satellite is vulnerable to weather changes and usually demands a longer commitment.

With cable, you get a plethora of packages, plus installation process is super easy too.  You do not even need to sign a long-term contract, which means you can always switch if the service fails to satisfy you. People who reside in rural areas might not be able to access cable TV, so satellite is a preferred option there, as long as you have a dish installed outside facing the southern sky direction. Good luck!

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