The three primary choices for television services are Satellite (such as Dish Network or DirecTV), Cable, or an over the air signal. More recently we have seen similar offerings for availability of television over fiber (such as Verizon's FIOS), and high speed networking lines (as in AT&T's U-verse offering). Most people that are interested in home entertainment choose either sattelite, cable, fios, or U-verse since the selection of channels for off the air reception is more limited. This article discusses your options and provides a table (near the end of the article) summarizing your choices.

If you have a digital TV receiver (including all HD TV receivers), you will find that there are additional sub-channels from over-the-air reception, providing some additional programming, without getting cable or Satellite, but there are still many channels that are available only through Cable or Satellite. If you have an older analog television, it is possible to get a Digital Television (DTV) Converter that will allow reception of digital television signals. Such a converter boxes are required for older televsions to receive over the air broadcasts (i.e. from an antenna) since most stations stoped broadcasting the analog signals on June 12, 2009.

Between satellite and cable, satellite is likely to be a little bit less expensive, often even when you pay the extra $5 or so to get local channels. The services provided are comparable, both in terms of selection of channels, programming packages, and the availability of pay per view movies and events. The two main satellite systems are the DirecTV system and the Dish Network system, which provide comparable channel lineups. If you have high speed internet form your cable company, however, they will often offer a discount to those with both cable and high speed Internet, and this could make the cable option less expensive.

If you choose to go with satellite TV, Fios or U-Vers, by committing to one or two years of service, most companies offer specials that provide you with free equipment (in some cases, it must be returned when you discontinue service), often for up to four rooms, as well as low cost recievers with built in digital video recorders. Such offers are available for Dish Network from several providers. It makes little sense not to take advantage of such an offer, but be sure to read the full terms of any offer to make sure that you will meet the terms, as the offers have penalties for early termination of service. Also, don't get more receivers than you need just because they are free, since you need to activate all of the receivers you get, and DirecTV and other satellite providers charge a fee (usually $5) per month for each additional receiver activated.

If you don't watch much television and want to view only a couple of shows without subscribing to cable or satellite TV, you might consider watching those shows online. Online content is becomming better integrated with traditional television through new products for Internet television.

Table of Television Service Choices

The table that follows lists several of your choices for obtaining television service. The typical monthy cost is the cost from a typical provider of the typical plan that includes the first tier of channels, including equipment rental fees. There may be less expensive (often called basic) plans that get very few channels beyond your local channels, and there are definitiely more expensive plans that get even more channels. For cable, prices will vary from cable company to cable company. The pricing does not include typical promotions, which are listed in the next column. The priced plan also does not include HD unless noted in the comments section (many cable providers have started to include HD for no additional charge). There is no column for start up cost, because even though most plans list a connection fee, most providers waive this fee as a promotion for switching. The number of channels column lists the number of channels in the typical plan (the one whose monthly cost is listed). More channels are always available for added cost. Note that you can not compare plans simply on the number of channels, since what is important is the channels that you actually want, and some providers may offer a channel you want in its lower cost plan, while another might not even include in the next plan up. So, if you want specific channels, you need to read the details from each provider to see what is included. This table was prepared in February 2009.

Provider Available
No of
Cable Time Warner
Cox, etc
$57 Free HD/DVR for 3 months $10 200 Included $15 discount when combined w/standard internet. $8.50 extra per month for 2nd and higher TVs.
Dish Dish Network $35 $25/mo off for 6 months $5 100 HD $10 more I pay $50 for this package with HD and a two room Receiver/DVR
DirecTV DirecTV $53 $23/mo off for 12 months $5 150/200 HD $15 more $15 gets you HD Channels, and increases your package to 200 channels
FiOS Verizon $54 One Month Free $16 295 14 for $4/mo equipment Fiber to the home
Limited avialability
U-verse AT&T $44 Up to $200 back $15 120 yes $14/mo off if you also get phone and high speed internet
Limited availability.
over the air - $0 - - 8-15 6 Up front costs of Antenna, Digital TV, or Converter Box

Other Inputs to your Television

There are many Audio Visual components that can be connected to your television. Some of them are discussed on other pages from this site: