The truth is, DBS is pretty danm good. DBS is cheaper than cable. The high costs the cable companies warn you about are not true. The other problems that cable warns you about is rain/snow fade. Yes this does happen, generally only during thick cloud cover an heavy heavy rainfall as long as your wiring is contained in short runs. The longer the cable run, the weaker signal you'll have. Satellite doesnt have 'outages' on a provider basis, cable seems to have outages from time to time, whereas all you see is snow. Satellite doesnt have this problem, the only outages you'll see are from rain fade, mainly during a thunderstorm and usually only lasting 10-15 minutes. Snow fade? well thats rare and only occurs if snow builds up on the dish itself. Trees a problem? Yea, trees can grow into the satellites line of sight and sometiems leaves as well, rather than cutting tree limbs or trees, why not just move the dish. But they dont mention that in the comericials.
The major SATV provider is directv, w/ Dish network a close 2nd. Dish network offers its new customers a FREE dish and up to 4 FREE recievers and install it FREE in return for your commitment to pay for programming totalling aroun 25-35$ a month for 1 year. So Directv gives you a similar offer.
Satellite will likely always be cheaper than cable so they can compete for your business, and Dish Network will ALWAYS be cheaper than Directv. Cable companies have been switching to digital cable to compete. Digital cable, for the most part, offers the same thing as DBS. Digital cable will vary depending on your cable company. For the most part, all the basic channels are the same. The major difference with digital cable is the premium channels. From what i've seen, most digital cable providers offer a lot more premium channels, east an west coast feeds of virtually every one along w/ channels the satv providers havent made aggreements to broadcast yet such as: HBO-zone, thrillermax. However, i've yet to see a digital cable company offer ALL of the Regional sports networks accross the nation. For us sports freaks, we can't live without those an only satelite provides them. Secondly, digital cable is still more expensive then satv, but their cable internet will certainly save you money over the direct 2-way satelite internet. In the future, satv providers hope to have a cheaper 2-way satv internet to compete w/ cable modems. This production has been slowed by the denial of the merger of Dish network an directv.
The one sticking point for DBS has been Local channels. Well since the FCC relaxed the rules, DBS providers can offer locals now and currently offer more and more cities nationwide every month. But, there are still a lot of markets in the country not covered yet and although expansion continues, its a slow process. ALL major networks an certain idependant stations have now been added so its not just ABC/NBC/CBS/FOX, but also upn/wb/pbs/and independants covered in the local tv packages. And yes you do have to pay for locals. Around $6 But if you live in a rural area, this can be to your advantage, especially if your rural location qualifies you for distant broadcast networks (IE: you live in nowheresville Oregon & can get New york or Denver broadcast stations). Where else can you subscribe to non local broadcast station but satellite? the answer, no where. Although the legislator of Miami florida are STILL trying to take this right away from us (read up on this issue at dishnetwork.com). Currently Directv will ONLY provide the New york an Los Angeles stations (ABC/NBC/CBS/FOX). Dish network offers 5 different cities: New york, Los Angeles, Denver, Atlanta & Chicago; although you can only subscribe to 2 cities at a time. The Solution: get directv an subscribe to newyork/LA, and on Dish network, subscribe to 2 of the other 3 :)
You defintly get more channels via DBS. Imagine all the basic cable channels you have now with cable and add to that: Soapnet, Fox Sports World, Fox Movie channel, Tech TV, BBC America, Mtv2, Discovery (channel) Wings/home/science/health/ and Civilizations, Toon Disney, Boomerang, nogin, speedvision, outdoor life network, outdoor channel, CNNSI, A&E's Biography channel, History channel International, Do it yourself network, food network, Game show network, Nickelodeon Games & Sport, & your local Fox Sports net/regional sports network at no additional cost. Plus you get west coast feeds of channels like Disney, Nickelodeon, & of the premium movie packages. And you can add all of the regional sports networks for an additional charge. The regional sports networks are in a word, awesome. Over 24 local regional sports channels each with their own programming. For the most part, they cover Fox Sports net events, but what if your local sports network, lets say Comcast sportsnet mid-atlantic is covering the Orioles? and thus your missing the Nebraska game on Fox Sports net? Simple, just switch to one of the other Fox Sports Net affiliates. Although the majority of Profesional sports programming is BLACKED out on the RSN's (Regional Sports networks) on the out-of-market channels, most of the college events are not blacked out. That means lots of college football from teams you probably never even heard of. (High School football, Arena Football, College baseball, softball, IHL Hockey, College hockey, LaCrosse, etc. etc.). The reason the pro events are blacked out is, so the say, to "protect the rights of local broadcaster". Which sounds like a load of BS. The real reason is they want you to PAY for the out of market games w/ the Sports subscriptions like NFL Sunday ticket, NBA LEague pass, NHL Center ice, and MLB extra innings. All of which are available on Directv for a substantial additional cost, Dish Network currently offers all but the NFL. Theres still a few RSNs NOT available yet, only 2 come to mind, Comcast sports southeast and ComCast sportsnet Philiadelphia. Also, Fox Sports net west-2 on Dish Network is only available to southern california subscribers. Can Cable compete w/ this? YES! Theres a new service out there called Fox Sports Digital nets, exculisve for digital cable providers. Its a 3 channel subscrition service, Fox sports digital pacific, atlantic, central. Its a compilation of all the sports programming pulled from all the RSNs and marketed into a 3 channel subscription with no duplicative programming. So conceivable, you could be watching up to 4 different college football games from around the country: 1 on your local RSN, and 3 different games on the 3 Digital nets channels. However only a few digital cable companies even have this service, so get out there an raise some hell, tell your cable company you want Fox Sports Digital Nets! And give them the website while your at it: http://www.foxsports.com/named/FS/FSDN/Front OR Call 1-866-FSDN-NOW
What does cable have that DBS doesnt? The local government channels and public access channels (that no-one really watches anyway:). The TV guide channel (DBS's use a menu driven guide controlled via your remote). Your local forecast on the weather channel. DBS provides a national feed to the weather channel but merely shows regional forecasts & forecasts for major cities, no local radar. DBS does provide a national feed of PBS, and a national feed of PAXnet. Public school channels & any other locally originating programming won't be there.
Something new that has recently exploded is the TiVo like applications. Directv came out w/ Tivo a few years ago, pause rewind and record live tv w/o a VCR. Dish network now has this service an many digital cable companies are folllowing suit. Their called "DVR"s or Digital Video Recorders. Which are basically receivers that you rent, from your cable company, or buy from or for your satellite company. But aint nothin for free. Digital cable will charge you a fee not only for renting this box, but for using this 'service' as they say. Its not really a service, its all in the receiver itself. whatever channel the receiver is tuned into, its constantly recording that channel, so you can rewind it an view it again up to usually about 2 hours. So its not really a service from the companies, its the computer in the reciever. It can't rewind a channel that you JUST tuned into except back to the point where you tuned into it. Yet Cable And especially TiVo will charge you a service fee for this feature, Tivo i think is $10 a month. Dish network to the rescue, this 'service' is FREE! All you have to do is purchase the receiver. Although Dish network has a new thing where they'll give you a substantial discount on the reciever, like $200 off, and then charge you a monthly fee of i think $6. But if you pay the full fee of the reciever, the 'service' is free. I purchased the Dishnetwork DVR-721 model, which was $500 from Sears when it 1st hit the market back in early 2003. Its awesome! It has picture in a picture, even thought my tv does not, and has 2 satellite inputs, so i can record one channel and watch a different one, or have 2 channels tuned into at the same time using the PIP. Plus 80 hours of record time without a tape. If you have the means, i recommend getting a DVR.
And what about HDTV? ITs here! The satellite providers both have HD programming including ESPN HD. I'm not sure which provider is better, however i suspect Dish network has a more channels in HD than directv now that they have aquired the old 'voom' provider. This technology is constantly changing. DBS and cable are regularly enhancing their hdtv lineups. Directv seems to have jump ahead in providing local networks in HD, as they have introduced a 5 lnb dish that sees 5 satelites so they can add more an more channels. Is it just me or has satelite gotten away from what it was originally intended for? The Mini-dish providers were sopposed to be just that 'mini-dish'. Now it seems the dishes keep getting bigger an bigger. Pretty soon there wont be anything distinguishing the mini-dish w/ the big dish (C-band).
The Major difference is sports subscription packages. Directv is the monopoly on this market, the ma-bell of sattelite. Directv has exclusive rights to show out-of-market games by subscription for NFL. MLB, NBA league pass/NHL Center ice is now availble on many digital cable systems and on Dish network as well. The NFL unfortuntly is LOCKED on directv ONLY for many more years. 2008? is when the rights for that will be availble again, I 'think'.
The Differences between the 2 Satv providers? Directv is attractive looking with lots of Bells an whistles, nice menu system, lots of intereactive channels from ESPN an the weather channel, CNN. Dish network has a simpler menu system, but you can play games using your remote throught the satellite. Dish network prices are cheaper than directv by a few dollars. Dish also has more Premium channels. These are the additional premium channels you can see with dish network from Directvs choices: HBO comedy, HBO Latino, Action-max 5-star max (Both cinemax channels), Starz Family, The movie channel Xtra east & west, Showtime beyond, Starz theatre west, Starz Cinema east & west. The Only premium channel that directv has that dish does not is HBO Family West. But dish gives you HBO Family east, so. Couple other channels that directv provides that dish does not: Yes network, Fox Sports net west-2 (on a national basis), trio, Newsworld international, The health network, daystar. Additionally, Dish network provides UNivision west. Dish network provides A LOT, and i mean A WHOLE lot of international channels and packages. Directv is strongly lacking in this department, only providing some spanish channels and a few Japaneses channels. Dish provides, korean, Asian, Russian, Polish, Arabian, Spanish, Italian, and a few others. Another difference is each providers respective 'magazine'. By magazine I mean monthly subscription program guide. Dish magazine and Directv the guide. I prefer Directv TheGuide, simply because they list all the regional sports networks in their grids, Dish magazine stopped doing this about 3 years ago although still list sporting events in the index, but only the live ones. Meanwhile directv theguide does the same but ALSO lists the non live/tape delayed sports events in their index. Im a sports freak so thats why i subscribe to directv the guide, but theres not much else thats different between the 2 magazines.
There is also C-band DBS, for the "Big Dish" owners. Anotherwords, not the mini-dish. From what I can see, they are somewhat comparable. Some sports subscriptions are available this way and signal quality is greatly improved, an there are numerous competitors, however, it may or may not survive as some networks decide to shut off their c-band transmisions.
Bottom line: DBS will give you more for your money but may wind up costing just as much as cable w/ all the sports subscriptions. If you feel your missing out having cable, then DBS is the way to go.