Satellite TV Guide | Pros & Cons of Satellite Dish Service

Satellite TV dishSatellite TV dishBy: Dave Mathews
TV ServiceFind Out MoreAbout
Internet TV Streaming TV directly over the Internet
Satellite TV Watch TV anywhere via dish on roof
Cable TV TV via Fiber optics or cable to your home

Advantages to Satellite TV

  • More HD channels than cable or internet TV
  • Available nationwide
  • Good for those living in rural areas where cable isn't offered
  • Best DVR recording ability on the market
  • Best sports packages, including NFL Sunday Ticket (DirecTV)

Leader in HD, Nationwide Availability

Satellite television has taken many leaps in technology over the years and has become even better than cable TV in a few keys ways. A primary advantage is satellite TV offers more high definition (HD) channels than any cable TV or cord-cutting option on the market. And satellite TV leads the way in 4k programming. So if you're interested in the best available picture quality for news, sports and movies, satellite TV is the first place to look.

While other smaller satellite TV companies exist locally and regionally, DirecTV and DISH are the only two national options. This does come with a few advantages -- you have two large companies trying to one up each other with channel selection, price and features every year, and consumers get the benefit of that competition. Both companies also offer nationwide coverage so you get TV service basically everywhere in the US, as long as you have a view of the sky. This makes moving and worrying about getting a new service plan a non-issue; your TV service moves with you. For those living in rural areas where cable TV options are sparse (or non-existent) satellite is the perfect alternative.

DISH vs DirecTV

Both DISH and DirecTV offer a variety of plans, from the entry level that mirrors what you would expect from basic cable all the way up to premium packages, complete with dozens of regional sports networks and premium movie channels galore.

DISH sets itself apart from DirecTV, and the rest of the market really, with its DVR technology. You do have to pay extra for it, but if you're interested in being able to record the most TV, look no further than DISH's Hopper setup. They allow you to record up to 16 shows at the same time, and the ability to watch any of their live TV channels (or your recordings) from anywhere on their mobile app or website. You also get a ton of recording storage and DISH seems to be the leader in useful TV watching tech - including built-in Netflix, voice activated remote controls, bluetooth audio features, and even a remote control locator feature. Features, features, features.

DirecTV is the #1 TV provider for sports fans. That's mainly because they exclusively offer NFL Sunday Ticket, the service that allows you to watch any out-of-market NFL game, or all of them at the same time with split screen features. New customers routinely get pretty stellar introductory offers that either include Sunday Ticket at no additional cost or offer it at a heavy discount for the first season. DirecTV also carries all the regional sports networks for FOX and NBC, something DISH cannot always say. FOX regional networks and DISH are in and out of broadcasting disputes, while AT&T owned DirecTV has yet to lapse in coverage for regional sports.

Satellite TV Plans (Last verified 08/27/20)

Disadvantages to Satellite TV

  • Long term contracts
  • Satellite dish installation
  • Weather is more likely to effect service
  • Price increases after introductory periods
  • Limited options, just DISH or DirecTV

Long Term Commitment

For all the versatility and cutting-edge tech that comes with satellite TV, some might be instantly turned away by their long term contracts. Signing up for a 1-2 year plan feels like a thing of the past, and it's a wonder these kind of forced commitments still exist. What's worse, both DirecTV and DISH only offer plans with long term contracts, so there is no going month-to-month.

The reason for long term contracts is logical enough - you're leasing out an expensive satellite dish from a company, the installation and cost of which requires up front expenses they wish to recoup back from you over time. But they can't do that unless you agree to be their customer for the long haul. At least one year. Which leads to the next annoying thing about satellite TV: the installation and needed equipment.

Hassle and Eyesore of the Dish

You'll have to install a satellite dish on your property, or have someone install it for you and pay for that convenience. This can also be a real pain for homeowners as satellite dishes are eyesores; can be a struggle getting creative with placement that's both out of the way and in good line of sight for proper signal. And if you're renting or trying to get a dish installed at an apartment, that can come with extra installation or deposit costs, or might not even be possible. Some apartment complexes, condos or rent houses forbid installation of dishes. So be sure and check with landlords first before you get too excited about getting satellite service.

Bad Weather Issues, Price Hikes & Limited Options

Weather is another con of satellite TV. Cable and Internet TV are both getting their broadcast signals largely from wires under the ground, to simply things. While satellite TV signals are from, you guessed it, satellites in the sky. So storms can more easily effect or knock out live TV coverage.

Finally considerations against satellite service is the limited competition and price hikes. You only have two options, so no third upstart exists nationwide that's coming in to force DISH or DirecTV to offer month-to-month plans or more competitive prices. These two providers only have to distinguish themselves against one another. Watch out for rather large price hikes from both companies as well, after your initial 1-2 year contract expires. DirecTV in particular is really bad at raising your rates dramatically after the first year, without reminding you in advance, leaving you the annoying task of calling in and trying to renegotiate a better deal and having to sign yet another long term contract.