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TV Provider Comparison

by Jack Berkins on April 12, 2012

For over a couple decades now, there have effectively been three primary TV providers to choose from: cable, DIRECTV and DISH. In this article, we’ll delve a bit deeper and compare the relative merits (and downsides) of each:

Cable: First on the scene

When it burst on the scene in the 50s and 60s and revolutionized the way families watched TV, cable was all the rage. It radically broadened the number of channels available and delivered out of market programs nationwide for the very first time. For a while, cable was THE only game in town and, really, there were very few complaints. Compared to the bunny ear antennas, crisp and clear programming was only a coax cable away. Fast forward a decade or so, cable has evolved and for the most part improved its offerings, but at a price…

The single biggest complaint we get regarding cable is cost. Everyone expects the price of TV programming to increase with inflation but for a lot of customers, they feel cable companies increase their fees more often and by a larger amount than any other provider out there (no arguments here). Its biggest saving grace is convenience and availability. If you live in an area that doesn’t have a clear line of sight to specific areas in the sky, cable may be your only option. For a more thorough breakdown, check out our cable vs satellite TV page.

DIRECTV: the Worldwide Leader

In the mid 90s, DIRECTV changed the entire landscape of home entertainment. All of a sudden, you didn’t need to run a ton of cable from the street and the price to access hundreds of channels dropped overnight. Sure, the first dishes were clunky and a pain to install, but they worked and customers flocked to them. Since their early days, DIRECTV has had a clear strategy on how they’d enter the marketplace…and stay on top. Their flagships have always been competitive pricing and exclusive programming and not much has waivered over the years: they’re still >30% cheaper than cable and are the only home for various exclusive channels, such as NFL Sunday Ticket, NASCAR HOTPASS and more.

With their clever marketing and cutting edge technology (recently geared towards mobile and online), they’ve eclipsed the 19 million subscriber mark and show few signs of letting up. Satisfaction rate remains high and we don’t expect that to change anytime soon.

DISH: the price-breaking upstart

Every healthy industry needs competition and in the late 90s, DISH brought it in spades. Targeting the folks who couldn’t quite afford DIRECTV or cable, DISH forced the prices down a good 20% over the course of a few years. In addition, it opened the doors to free equipment at signup (previously, you either had to buy or lease receivers). Customers had more options than ever and it’s been a positive evolution, for DIRECTV and DISH alike.

Without question, cost is DISH’s #1 selling point — they’re generally $10/mo cheaper than DIRECTV and there’s not much you’re missing in the way of programming or features. Every year, they also seem to add more value to their services. The latest buzz is the launch of a free (or very inexpensive) online streaming option for movies and TV programs. They’ve already purchased Blockbuster to lay the groundwork, so all you NETFLIX junkies can expect even more coverage soon.

Conclusion

Successful TV providers need to excel in two very important areas: customer satisfaction and cost. Cable has slipped in both while DIRECTV and DISH have driven the industry with innovation and value/cost. Based on our experience and the feedback we’ve received, satellite TV flat out beats cable in every category out there, so we’re really down to two options… Compare DIRECTV vs DISH to get a gauge on which might be best for you or if you’re ready to signup, check out the offers below to maximize your savings. We hope you found this article helpful – enjoy your new TV service!

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