Is cable or satellite TV cheapest? It depends on the provider. You can find great deals on cable packages with certain providers, but satellite is ultimately the better value (at least in the first year).
Because of area availability and competition, pricing for standalone cable TV packages can vary wildly between providers. Expect to pay $59.99–$90.00 a month for the more popular plans—but watch out for price hikes in the second year.
In the US, DIRECTV and DISH have a duopoly on satellite TV service. Also, satellite television service has almost 100% availability nationwide—so pricing is more stable.
That said, DIRECTV’s prices ($59.99–$134.99 per month for the first year) balloon by 30–40% in the second year. DISH, on the other hand, has a two-year price guarantee on its packages, which cost $59.99–$94.99 monthly.
But a more helpful detail than package price is cost-per-channel (CPC). To know a TV plan’s value, calculate its CPC by dividing the price by the channel count.
For example, DISH’s America’s Top 250 package has 290+ channels for $94.99 a month.
$94.99 ÷ 290 = $0.33 per channel
That’s a solid CPC. In fact, DIRECTV and DISH have the best cost per channel numbers: $0.32–$0.41.
That’s not to say you can’t find great value with cable TV providers. After we drop the $1.09 cost per channel (reflecting a single Chicago-area plan from RCN), cable plans cost $0.21–$0.92 per channel.
As you can see, satellite TV packages usually have the best value.
We’ve all done a spit-take when we’ve received a bill for more than we expect to owe. Hidden fees—that’s how they (cable and satellite) getcha.
Thankfully, providers generally disclose these fees when you first order service. But here’s a list so you know what to expect before you call.