How Do Cable, Satellite, and IPTV Services Compare?

TV Inputs and Media Sources
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If you are fortunate enough to live in an area with several television providers, you may want to do some shopping before you sign on the dotted line. Whether a cable, satellite or Internet Protocol Television (IPTV) provider works best for you depends on your location, needs, and budget. Most providers offer several package levels. If you are willing to bundle internet services—or phone, with some services—you can get a break on the price.

Before choosing a provider, think about your needs, as far as the number of cable boxes, and digital video recording (DVRs) go. Most services require a 24-month commitment, and some require autopay. If you are already tied into a contract, some providers offer to buy out your old contract to get your business.


DirecTV offers a dizzying selection of options to choose from when considering digital television and high-definition programming. Most of them include the NFL Sunday Ticket program for the first season after you join DirecTV although, in following years, you are charged for it unless you cancel. This makes DirecTV a popular choice for football fans. All the packages come with an HD DVR included and the DirecTV app for mobile viewing.

Depending on the package you choose, you can access between 155 and 330 channels.


If you have a 3D TV, Spectrum (formerly Time Warner Cable) may be the best service for you, and it is willing to pay your current provider to get out of a contract and sign up with Spectrum. It offers an affordable 200+ HD channel Spectrum TV package that can be personalized with premium channels. If you are willing to bundle TV with internet and phone service, you can get some impressive deals.

The Spectrum TV app carries over 170 live channels for your portable devices.

DISH Satellite TV

DISH Network’s America’s Top 200 package is its most popular although it offers several other package configurations. It includes more than 240 channels. The service also includes 70 Sirius digital music channels and 8,000 free on-demand titles.

Local channels are included with DISH TV America's top packages, and free professional installation is offered in up to six rooms. The DISH Anywhere mobile app lets you watch TV wherever you go.


FiOS TV is Verizon’s fiber-optic alternative to cable and satellite. It currently offers custom digital programming packages in a variety of types of plans including Action & Entertainment, Sports & News, Lifestyle and Reality, Home & Family, and several others. This way you can customize your plan by picking the types of shows you like to watch.

FiOS TV offers a revolving selection of enticements to new customers. If you order online, installation and setup are free. Bundling TV with internet and your home phone yields the best prices. If you are already a Verizon phone customer, you can get a discount.

Xfinity TV

Xfinity TV from Comcast offers three internet and TV packages with access to 125 to 219 channels. Depending on the package you choose, you get some premium services. HD is included, and Xfinity promises its high-speed delivery is suitable for six to eight devices in simultaneous use, so if you have a big family with lots of mobile devices, this might be the best service for you. If you are willing to bundle your phone as well, you receive higher download speeds.

Cox Communications

Cox offers a wide mix-and-match selection of packages that come with 75 to more than 250 channels, with lots of customization options available. Its Contour TV offers on-demand and pay-per-view shows, and the Contour app makes watching while on the go simple. Cox is the only one of the major television providers that offer bundles that include security packages, in addition to internet and phone services, so if you are into the Internet of Things, this may be the way to go.