TV

Best Satellite TV Providers of 2021

Paula Novo
Paula Novo September 16, 2021

What is Satellite TV?

Satellite TV is a wireless television service that delivers television programming to households using satellite dishes orbiting the Earth. Due to its space technology, satellite TV is available nearly everywhere in the United States – and the world. This type of TV service bounces signals off three separate satellite dishes with receiving antennas. One is located at a TV provider,  one is mounted to the roof of a resident, and the third satellite orbits space. We break down everything there is to know about satellite TV below to help you decide if it’s right for you.

Top Satellite TV Providers

DIRECTV

DIRECTV

  • 160+ channels starting at $64.99/mo.
  • Best Sports Channels
DISH

DISH

  • 190+ channels starting at $64.99/mo.
  • Best DVR features

How Satellite TV Providers Stack Up

ProviderMax Channel CountStarting PriceDVR Recordings
DIRECTV330$64.99/mo*5
DISH290$64.99/mo*16
ProviderDIRECTV
Max Channel Count330
Starting Price$64.99/mo*
DVR Recordings5
ProviderDISH
Max Channel Count290
Starting Price$64.99/mo*
DVR Recordings16

*TV service availability based on service address. All pricing varies by location and is subject to change at any time. Additional fees and terms may apply. As of 8/4/21

DIRECTV vs. DISH

Is DIRECTV or DISH better for you? Well, that depends on your preferences. If you value having a variety of channels and premium packages that include sports and live events, DIRECTV might be the best choice for you. However, if you prefer the flexibility of an advanced DVR system that lets you record more shows at once, DISH might be even better.

DIRECTV – More channels options

DIRECTV offers 40+ more channels and package options than DISH. It also boasts having the best premium and sports add-ons, including an exclusive right to air HBO and offer live NFL Sunday Ticket. If you’re a movie or sports fan, DIRECTV may be for you.

DISH – Better DVR

DISH offers the best DVR equipment on the market today: the Hopper 3 DVR. You can record up to 16 shows at once, skip commercials, save up to 500 hours of HD content, access built-in streaming apps, and more. If you want the best of both worlds – live TV and streaming content – DISH is the way to go.

Is Satellite TV Right for Me?

Selecting the right TV service all comes down to what you’re looking for. Available nearly anywhere in the U.S., satellite TV is the go-to choice for many households located in rural and suburban areas where a cable network has yet to be built. Satellite providers typically offer more channel options as well, making those that love sports or premium channels top customers. However, satellite TV is not for everyone. 

Due to its technology, the only way to receive service is through a satellite dish. While cable TV is protected by grounded cable lines, satellite TV relies on a dish exposed to the elements. Because of this, you may be subject to occasional service interruptions due to inclement weather. This can be a deterrent for anyone living along the coast or in areas where the weather changes quite frequently. We recommend checking what services are available near you and then narrowing down your options.

thumb_upPros

  • check_circleAvailable nearly everywhere in the U.S.
  • check_circleCosts less than cable TV

thumb_downCons

  • cancelSusceptible to interruptions due to bad weather
  • cancelContracts typically required

How Satellite TV Compares to Cable TV

With the advent of satellite and cable TV in the mid-1900s, households in rural and suburban areas were finally able to watch their favorite shows. The main difference between satellite and cable TV is how service is delivered. Satellite is a wireless service that uses a dish to transmit signals and is available virtually anywhere in the states, while cable TV uses grounded cable lines. Typically, cable costs more than satellite but is less likely to be affected by bad weather. Depending on where you live, there may be multiple providers available near you. To compare your options, enter your zip code here.

Satellite TV FAQs

What is a satellite dish?

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A satellite dish is a bowl-shaped antenna that’s used to transmit to and receive signals from a communication satellite orbiting space. One satellite dish is mounted on the premises of a provider and the other is mounted at a customer’s home either on the roof or equally high shed for optimal performance.

Can I get satellite TV without a dish?

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No. A satellite dish is required for you to successfully receive satellite TV service.

What’s the difference between satellite and cable TV?

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It all comes down to the method of transportation. Satellite TV providers use communication satellites and dish antennas to deliver TV service. Cable TV providers use either a coaxial or fiber-optic cable connection and a cable box to deliver TV service. Satellite TV is available to the contiguous U.S. including Alaska and Puerto Rico due to its satellite technology, while cable TV requires a cable network connection and has limited availability in rural areas.

How many satellite TV providers are there?

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While there are a few niche satellite companies (e.g. Glorystar), there are two main satellite TV providers to choose from – DIRECTV and DISH. Similar to cable TV, both satellite TV providers offer a wide range of packages, premium channels, DVR features, On Demand content, and more. To see what TV providers are available near you, enter your zip code here.

What are alternatives to satellite TV?

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While satellite TV has a lot to offer for entertainment, streaming internet services are growing in popularity for those with select preferences. Services like Netflix®, Hulu®, Prime Video®, and HBO Max® have transformed the way many Americans today enjoy their favorite shows. These internet TV streaming platforms cost between $5-20 a month for service.

To keep up with the competition, TV providers, program networks, and big brands are starting to offer similar streaming services. NBCUniversal recently released Peacock to compete with the likes of HBO Max, and household brands have invested billions into new platforms such as Apple TV+ and Disney+.