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Your Guide to Satellite TV

When TV first went live back in yesteryear, it would have been hard to foreseen plasma or HDTV -- and even more unfathomable that you would get your TV from a cable or from a satellite.

Some still depend on their antennas for TV, but nowadays, cable and satellite dominate the TV-delivery market.

The Choice: Satellite or Cable?

This is an incredibly competitive market. For some people the decision is forced by geography and availability, but this is less of a factor as time marches on. Other incentives really dominate the choice. "Special teaser price for the first six months!" "Special price when you bundle additional services!" And don't forget the seasonal NBA and NFL packages.

Both delivery systems have their respective pros and cons. A satellite dish needs a clear view in the direction of the satellite but may lose the signal during storms. With cable, the company must physically connect the cable to the home.

But for most people, both options are available, and in today's economic situation, bang for the buck is probably the deciding factor. So how do the various providers fare?  Let's take a look at what some of these companies offer their prospective customers.

DirectTV – Satellite

DirectTV (http://www.directv.com/DTVAPP/index.jsp) is one of the monsters of the industry. They boast of over 265 channels of 100% digital picture and sound. Sports packages? They offer the NFL Sunday Ticket and MLB Extra Innings.

In addition to the typical programming commonly offered across the provider spectrum, DirectTV produces some of its own content. This includes Hometown Heroes, Supreme Court of Comedy, Passions, and the Championship Gaming Series. Always trying to stay up front with market share, the were the first provider offering pay per view movie ordering via remote control and an interactive on-screen program guide.

These are some of their programming packages, as of October 2008:

  • The Choice Package comprises 150 channels for $29.99 for the first year. This includes local channels and a DVR upgrade.
  • The Choice XTRA Package boosts it up to 200 channels for $34.99 for the first year. Also included are HBO, Starz, and Showtime free for the first three months.
  • The Premier Package is just the thing for folks that don't get out much. It's a whopping 265 channels for $81.99 for the first year.

DISH Network – Satellite

Dish Network has been on the scene for 28 years -- they've got 10 satellites flying for maximum signal strength. Some of their "firsts" include the UHF remote control, Integrated Receiver Descrambler (IRD) for C-band satellite TV, local channels in all of the 50 states, and a satellite receiver with built-in digital video recording.

Some of their programming packages:

  • The TurboHD Bronze package is made up of 26 channels for $24.99 per month.
  • The TurboHD Silver package is the same a Bronze but adds 5 more channels and boosts the price to $32.99.
  • The TurboHD Gold is a duplicate of the Silver, adding 7 additional channels and $7.00 to the price tag.
  • The add-on: Local channels for $10.00 per month.

Comcast – Cable

According to the National Cable & Telecommunication  Association, this is the largest player in the cable game. Comcast has focused its expansion efforts on broadband cable, content, commerce.

They offer E! Entertainment which is something interesting for viewers that enjoy their regular celebrity gossip fix. Another offering is The Style Network. TSN is aimed at women aged 18 to 49 with a hankering for "relatable and inspiring lifestyle programming." G4 is their channel for serious gamers. It keeps them up to date on all the breaking stories and emerging technology in the video game world. They don't leave the little ones out either. PBS KIDS Sprout is designed for kids aged 2 to 5. Popular? This on-demand channel boasts 400 million orders to date.

Here's what you might expect to pay:

  • Basic cable is about the slimmest viewing experience you can buy. It'll buy you local broadcasts and weather for $17.51. (Why not keep the money in your pocket and use the rabbit ears?)
  • The Digital Starter package weighs in at $51.98 and includes channels like MTV, Discovery Channel, Nickelodeon, ESPN, and CNN (local included) and a variety of pay per view offerings.
  • The Digital Classic deal offers over 100 channels, parental controls, and the movies on demand feature. Most of these are free with this package. The price is $60.99.
  • The Digital Preferred Plus offers HBO, Starz, over 45 digital music channels, more than 100 digital cable channels, parental controls, and the on demand feature. It will set you back $82.99.
  • Finally, Digital Premier provides everything Preferred Plus does but more of it, all for $95.99. It also gives you the opportunity to add international and sports packages at an additional fee.

Cox Communication – Cable

Package content and pricing depends on where the subscriber lives. Basically though, their line-up is 240 channels, on demand services, parental controls, high definition options, and DVR options.

For more cable provider options, see this article.

Kelly Smith is a former software engineer at NASA and a professional handyman who is now a full-time writer.


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