Satellite TV: Are You Still Here?

Woman eating popcorn while watching tv on the couch

With the first month of 2020 behind us, life is getting back into a rhythm. With work back to normal and life settling down after the holiday season, it is no surprise that many of us are getting back into the habit of watching our favorite show each night or tuning in live to our favorite team’s game. So here is the question: How are you tuning in? 

There are a number of TV watching options for those seeking to keep up. You can choose from satellite TV, cable TV, internet streaming services, etc. The big question is which of these services is going to win out during the next decade. If you were to ask the majority of millennials which of these services will continue over the years to come, they would lean towards internet streaming services. If you were to ask baby boomers and generation x, they would likely say that both provide valuable services. 

Will Satellite TV survive the next decade? It is hard to say for sure. In this article, we will discuss some of the reasons that current users and industry experts believe that it will continue to be a successful industry and why others do not.  

Satellite TV holds on

To begin, it is important to recognize the names of the companies that are currently offering Satellite TV. The following graphic outlines the top three Satellite TV providers (according to customer reviews and overall value from data collected by Best Company) as well as the benefits and services that each provides. 

Infographic of the top 3 satellite TV providers and their services

If you decide to go with satellite TV, your three major choices are DISH, Comcast Xfinity, and DIRECTV (as seen in the graphic above). Each of these companies is unique, but they share a couple of things in common. They all have DVR capabilities and they all offer bundle pricing options to make them more affordable. 

Often, you can bundle your satellite TV services with phone or internet services. The following bundles are offered by our top three companies: 

  • Comcast Xfinity — Choice TV Double Play ($34.99 per month), X1 Saver Pro+ Double Play ($79.99 per month), X1 Starter Pro+ Double Play ($89.99 per month). These prices are only guaranteed for the first 12 months and are subject to a 1-year agreement.
  • DISH — America’s Top 120 ($59.99 for TV plus $19.99 for internet per month), America’s Top 120+ ($74.99 for TV plus $19.99 for internet per month), America’s Top 200 ($84.99 for TV plus $19.99 for internet per month), America’s Top 250 ($94.99 for TV plus $19.99 for internet per month). Internet prices may vary depending on location. Prices are dependent on a 2-year agreement.
  • DIRECTV — Select + Internet ($89.99 per month), Choice + Internet ($99.99 per month), Ultimate + Internet ($114.99 per month). The internet is provided by AT&T in these bundles. Prices are dependent on a 1-year agreement.

Pros of satellite TV 

To gain a better understanding of satellite TV’s success while it has been competing with streaming services, we will look into the service perks offered, minimal extra fees, high-end efficient download speeds, and the rural capabilities that its competition cannot provide to customers. 

Service perks

baseball field from a distance

“Satellite TV offers more live programming than any other form of entertainment. Satellite TV subscriptions generally allow customers to authenticate using provider apps. Often, for the cost of a satellite TV subscription, you also get dozens of streaming services for free. An additional perk is the superior parental controls available with most satellite TV providers. Kids watching satellite TV are much safer than those that are let loose on the internet.”

— Stuart Sweet, Product, Content, and Engineering teams from Signal Group

When in the market for a TV provider, you should know what specific services are offered to you in each company's package. Each package will be uniquely different, but you should look for the package that will provide you with the most services for the best price. You may be surprised by what you find. 

Here are some questions that you may want to ask yourself while doing your research: 

  • Are you able to watch live programming?
  • Are you given access to streaming services as an additional perk?
  • How are the parental controls? 

Minimal extra fees

Couple sitting on the couch watching tv

“With satellite and cable TV, you can watch as much as you want without penalty. If you’re someone who’s used to having the TV going on in the background all day, you’ll probably go over your internet provider’s data cap. That means you could get slapped with huge fines just because you filled your home with the comforting voices of the HGTV crew from your fancy, live TV streaming service.”

— Rachel Oaks, TV Service Expert with CableTV.com

Have you noticed that though you may be paying a low monthly fee for your streaming services, you often end up having to pay for other random service fees? Though not always the case, this is not an uncommon occurrence. As mentioned by Oaks, some internet providers will charge extra if you go over your data cap. As of February 2020, it was reported that over 190 internet service providers offer plans with data caps. 

Download speeds

Blurred image of train station, fast movement

“Not all internet providers offer fast enough download speeds to support streaming TV and some even restrict internet usage with data caps. While satellite TV isn't infallible, its high-end download speeds make it a strong option for many TV watchers in 2020.”

— Oaks

Have you ever found yourself watching a YouTube video or Netflix show when it suddenly stops leaving you watch the throbber (the icon that lets know that your page is loading and is not frozen) as the video loads? 

One of the advantages of using satellite TV is the highly efficient download capabilities that it has. Very few forms of internet are capable of downloading at the same speed that satellite can. If you are worried about missing a touchdown or having to watch your movie in segments while waiting for it to load, you may be better served by a satellite or cable TV plan. Though more expensive than streaming services, satellite TV and cable TV will provide you with clearer images in real time. 

Rural areas

Rural farm land with a house and barn

“Where you live might impact whether it's worth it to have satellite TV. If you live in a rural area and want live TV, satellite TV is going to be more accessible than internet streaming services.”

— Morgan Taylor, Finance Expert and CMO at LetMeBank

Have you ever considered that there are places that do not have easy access to internet services? Though it is 2020, there are still places even within the United States that do not have access to internet services. According to the 2019 Broadband Report from the Federal Communication Commission, there are over 19 million households that do not have access to fixed terrestrial advanced telecommunications. In rural communities, over 24 percent of the population lack access, and on tribal lands, 32 percent lack access to the internet. 

In these rural areas, the best option for consumers that would like to have access to television is satellite and cable TV. 

Cons of satellite TV 

Now that we have talked about some of the reasons that satellite TV has been successful during the introduction of streaming services in the United States, we will look at some reasons that current industry experts feel that may decline in the coming years. 

Streaming services for competition

Image of remote control with netflix logo on the tv screen

“When it comes to services that help you save money, satellite/cable TV is never on that list.”

— Grant Sabatier

When looking at the pricing for streaming services in comparison to satellite TV, it can be difficult to understand why people pay as much as they do. In many cases satellite TV costs a minimum of five times as much per month than basic streaming services such as Netflix, Disney Plus, and Hulu. Though basic packages from streaming services do not offer live streaming, some more expensive packages have started offering live TV. 

The real question is how much live TV and/or sports do you watch? And, is that reason enough for you to want to pay more for satellite TV, or would you still get by if you only had streaming services? There is no right or wrong answer to this question, but it is one to think about.

More than you need

Modern living room with tv

“One of the biggest downsides to satellite or cable packages is that you'll likely get more than you need. You'll inevitably pay for channels you never watch, and you'll probably end up feeling like you overpay since you don't use these channels.”

— Taylor

Though having lots of channels isn't necessarily a bad thing, when it comes to maintaining a budget, it can be hard to justify spending large amounts of money on a product that you only use a small portion of. It would be like buying a gallon of premium gelato and eating just one small bowl before throwing it out. 

So why keep your subscription? 

“This is really going to be different for most people. The number one reason is value. People confuse value with price. Satellite TV has a higher price, but a much much higher value.”

— Sweet

Yes, it is true, every person will have different reasons for keeping their satellite TV subscription in 2020. Stella Samuel, Team Manager at Brandnic.com suggests that you think about the following three things when making your decision: 

  • High-quality images — If you are someone that appreciates the clarity in the images that come with Satellite TV, you may be disappointed if you switch over to streaming services as they may not be quite as nice.
  • Versatility — There are so many channels available through Satellite TV subscriptions. You will never watch them all, but you shouldn’t be bored.
  • Reduced interruption — With signals coming directly from your satellite dish, whether you live in an urban or rural area, you will likely experience very few signal interruptions. 

When it comes down to it, your decision may not be as clear as you would like. Take some time to think about the pros and cons of satellite TV in your own life, so you can make the decision that is best for you.

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The Top Satellite TV Companies

DIRECTV Logo
#1 DIRECTV chevron_right
9.3 Overall Score
2.8
star star star star_border star_border
(1,413)
Comcast Xfinity TV Logo
#2 Comcast Xfinity TV chevron_right
9.0 Overall Score
2.3
star star star_half star_border star_border
(1,606)
DISH Logo
#3 DISH chevron_right
8.8 Overall Score
3.1
star star star star_border star_border
(831)

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