When looking to expand their television options beyond what is broadcast over the air, most people have three choices. The two biggest providers of satellite TV, DirecTV and Dish Network, openly compete with cable TV. While both satellite providers offer service on a national and worldwide basis, there is usually one cable company for each city, although many of them are owned by national conglomerates. There are numerous other differences in the three main competitors that one must sort through when determining the best option.
DirecTV's lowest package offers more than 150 channels that include local channels at no extra charge. Dish Network's lowest package offers more than 100 channels. Both providers' most prominent packages offer more than 200 television channels and 50 satellite radio channels. The number of cable TV channels will always vary depending on the regional provider, but a basic package is often around 75 to 80 channels with HD upgrades that can increase it to near the same amount as the satellite providers.
DirecTV is known mostly for catering to the sports crowd, offering nine sports packages to Dish Network's seven. By contrast, Dish Network offers more movies, showing an average of 75 pay-per-view movies per month compared to DirecTV's 60. For a long time, cable companies countered this by selling the fact that they offer local channels that satellite services did not. In more recent years, however, the satellite providers have offered local channels (though Dish Network charges extra). Cable companies changed their focus by offering "broadband services," where customers can get television, phone and Internet service from the same provider, using the simplicity of one bill as the key selling point.
The price of satellite TV services can fluctuate over time. However, DirecTV's lowest plan usually starts at 35 dollars for the first year and then increases to 56; Dish Network offers a start-up rate of 10 dollars a month that increases to 35 after six months, and they charge an extra five for local channels. Cable TV rates can fluctuate even more since there are several localized providers. However, those owned by Time Warner usually offer a 50 dollar start-up rate while Comcast offers 30 dollars a month. These rates can increase to 45 to 70 dollars after the first year. Also, most cable companies offer their premium channels at a rate of 13 to 15 dollars per network, while satellite providers charge 10 to 20 dollars for a package of all premium networks.
Both satellite providers require similar equipment to be installed, with a dish antenna mounted outside the subscriber's residence and connected to a receiver box for the TV. Both DirecTV and Dish Network offer free installation of their equipment. Cable companies like to promote how they only require the receiver boxes to be connected to the cable and wiring within many people's homes. They also like to point out how the dish can affect signal dependability, such as in the rain or when it can't get a clear view of the southern sky. However, residences not yet wired for cable TV must be wired by a technician, and this can lead to more charges. All three can offer extra peripherals like HD receivers and digital video recorders.
Cable companies have had a bad reputation for their customer service for many years, mainly due to their practice of only being available during regular business hours on weekdays only. In contrast, both DirecTV and Dish Network offer 24-hour customer service, primarily by contacting them through their service phone lines. On the other hand, cable companies will have an office in the city they serve, which might make it easier for customers to talk with someone in person by traveling to the office.
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