couple on couch using tv remote control

Compare Cable vs. Satellite TV

Both offer broadcast TV packages and live mobile streaming, but satellite television serves more homes—and when it comes to DISH vs. cable, you may get a better deal.

illustration of living room with cable tv

What Is Cable TV?

How does cable TV work?

People often use the term “cable TV” as a blanket term for traditional pay-TV providers that air shows from major networks. But technically speaking, it actually refers to the way a cable company gets your favorite channels onto your TV.

Cable TV operates on a network of primarily copper coaxial cables that run underground from the corporate hub to local nodes, and from local nodes to customer homes. Because you have to live near a node to get service, cable television programming isn’t available everywhere.

  • Available only in areas with higher population density

  • Hundreds of channels including national favorites and local networks

  • Usually offered with internet bundles

illustration of living room with satellite tv

What Is Satellite TV?

How does satellite TV work?

Satellite TV service offers the same content as cable TV, but instead of running on an underground wired network, it sends its signal directly to your personal satellite dish via satellites in Earth’s orbit. That makes it available virtually anywhere. Some argue that cable trumps satellite service for reliability—but DISH’s track record for quality service proves that’s an outdated view.

  • Available in all areas of all 50 states

  • 99.9% signal reliability for superior image quality+

  • Hundreds of channels including national favorites and local networks

  • Internet available from partner companies

+99% signal reliability based on data from set-top boxes. Not a guarantee of signal in all weather conditions.

Key Differences between Cable and Satellite TV from DISH

Pit cable vs. satellite TV, and DISH stands out from the crowd.

Convenient Installation

Unless the previous resident of your house had cable, providers charge a pretty penny to connect your home to the nearest node. Satellite TV installation always requires a professional eye, but DISH makes it quick and painless with next-day visits and FREE installs in up to 6 rooms.

Transparent Pricing

Satellite and cable TV prices fall in similar ranges, but DISH offers better value over time than its competitors in both cable and satellite TV. This is mostly due to DISH’s 2-year TV price guarantee and included fees. When deciding on cable or satellite, make sure you look beyond the sticker price.

Powerful Equipment

All broadcast TV providers use satellite receivers, but cable providers resend the signal over wired networks, while satellite TV redirects it to dishes at individual homes. Both types of television require an in-home receiver—and DISH has the best one on the market, hands-down.

Nationwide Availability

Because cable relies on underground wiring, companies tend to build only in highly populated areas where it’s cost-effective to invest in a network. Satellite TV service, on the other hand, reaches homes in highly populated areas and areas outside the convenient reach of cable.

family on couch watching tv and eating popcorn

Compare DISH vs. Cable Providers, Point by Point

If you’re eligible for cable at your address or just want a deeper dive on the differences between cable and satellite, check out our side-by-side analyses of DISH TV vs. cable television providers. Topics include pricing, technology, service, and internet options. Plus, compare DISH against its fellow satellite TV provider, DIRECTV.