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Satellite vs Streaming: Which is Best for Sports Fans?

Flexibility vs. channel count

MLB: Miami Marlins at Philadelphia Phillies
Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

This post was written in partnership with DISH.

Both satellite and streaming offer a way to access your favorite channels. While satellite has a long history of providing TV service, streaming platforms have fast caught up and have their own benefits. Still, the right service for you may depend on everything from where you live to what you want to spend. Rural customers will likely find satellite TV more reliable. Meanwhile, there are more live TV streaming platforms to choose from, and there are a few very budget-friendly options.

As you weigh whether satellite or live TV streaming is right for you, it’s worth considering your preferences and needs in a few key categories. These include content, pricing, and DVR. 

Satellite vs streaming price

Live TV streaming tends to be a bit cheaper, but the pricing is in the same ballpark as DISH and DIRECTV plans. That being said, there is a greater diversity in pricing among streaming plans. Satellite and streaming pricing can differ on several points, including the following. 

Free trials and deals: Streaming platforms are more likely to offer free trials, while satellite plans have deals. For instance, Fubo has a seven-day free trial, while DIRECTV will sometimes offer the Sports Pack for free for three months. 

Base plan pricing: The base plans for DISH and DIRECTV are similar to those of streaming providers like Hulu + Live TV and YouTube TV. However, a few live TV streaming companies have a much cheaper price point (with fewer channels). This includes Sling TV and Philo

Equipment fees: Satellite companies will usually give you free installation for your satellite but still require monthly fees for renting equipment like receivers. Streaming plans don’t require any equipment, so you can eliminate these fees altogether.

Price guarantee: Satellite plans often offer a price guarantee if you sign a two-year contract. You can’t get this kind of deal with a month-to-month streaming plan. However, you also have the flexibility to cancel a streaming plan with no penalty if you’re willing to risk a sudden price hike. 

Satellite vs streaming content

You can find channel essentials like local networks, ESPN, CNN, Bravo, and History Channel on both live TV streaming and satellite service. Likewise, you can add premium networks with both types of TV. Some high-tier plans may include premium networks as a part of your regular content lineup.

Amount of content: Satellite TV plans from DISH and DIRECTV tend to have a longer channel list, up to nearly 300 channels in some cases, including a wide variety of sports channels. While streamers may not have the content volume, they still have a lot of the channels you love about cable. You’ll also find local sports on both. DIRECTV has Bally Sports regional sports networks (RSNs) on its satellite plans and its DIRECTV STREAM streaming option. Streaming platform Fubo also has a lot of RSNs.  

Add-ons and extras: Each satellite or live TV streaming platform has its own extras. For instance, streaming options like Fubo and Hulu + Live TV have sports add-ons with NFL RedZone and other popular networks. DIRECTV and DISH also have sports add-ons as well as entertainment packages.

Video-on-demand: On-demand libraries allow you to watch previously aired content from your favorite networks any time of day. Satellite carriers usually have a bigger library. For instance, DIRECTV’s top plan promises 90,000+ titles. However, streamer Hulu creates original content for its on-demand catalog. You get fan favorites like “The Bear” and “Only Murders in the Building” with your Hulu + Live TV channels. Other streaming services also have thousands of on-demand titles, even if the list is not as massive as DIRECTV’s. 

Satellite vs streaming DVR

Satellite services typically offer a physical DVR, while streaming DVR is a cloud service. If you want to keep recordings indefinitely, satellite DVR is the more appealing choice. Streaming cloud DVR typically auto-deletes content after nine months.

In terms of how much you can record, many streaming services offer no limit for how many shows or games you can record at one time or how many titles you can have in your storage. Your cloud storage will never be too full. On the other hand, physical DVRs have finite recording space which could cause an issue for content hoarders. 

Satellite vs streaming personalization and user experience

You can augment both live TV streaming plans and satellite TV packages, but streaming services offer more personalization overall. 

Profiles: Many livestreaming platforms let you create as many as six unique user profiles. With Hulu + Live TV, you get the original profile plus six more, for a total of seven profiles. This means every person in your home can create an individual experience. Every profile can typically have its own favorite channels, DVR recordings, and on-demand favorites. Satellite service doesn’t offer this feature. 

Channel guides: Channel guides across all platforms are pretty familiar. Some services, including YouTube TV, let you rearrange your channel guide to put your most used channels at the top of the guide. You may also be able to create a favorite list with both satellite and streaming by choosing the star or heart next to a channel you want on a short list.  

Satellite vs streaming for sports fans

When it comes to sports content, satellite and streaming providers both offer big-name channels like NBA TV, NFL Network, MLB Network, NHL Network, and ACC Network, just to name a few. Bally Sports Networks are also available on Fubo, DIRECTV, and DIRECTV STREAM, but not with DISH or other streamers. 

One streaming service with a unique sports offering is Hulu + Live TV, which gives every subscriber ESPN Plus for free. Satellite services can also offer special sports offerings. DIRECTV has the NHL Center Ice add-on for out-of-market NHL games, and DISH shows major sports events in 4K and 4K HDR.

If you get the NFL Sunday Ticket during football season, YouTube is the only place to get it. You don’t have to sign up for a full YouTube TV subscription to access the NFL Sunday Ticket, but you can keep all your channels in one place if you do. You’ll definitely need Amazon Prime Video to get Thursday Night Football, and there is no satellite workaround. 


Is there any reason to keep cable?

Cable can offer more reliable service who don’t have a strong internet connection, which all livestreaming TV services require. You may also prefer cable or satellite if you want a physical DVR to keep recordings indefinitely.  

What are the disadvantages of streaming TV?

Live TV streaming requires a reliable internet connection, which may not work for rural customers. And while the flexibility of these plans are appealing, it also means you could see your monthly price surge with little warning. 

Is cable worth it in 2024?

For many customers, the commitment of a cable contract and equipment fees no longer makes sense when streaming is so widely available. But cable can still be good for people who want price stability and don’t like to connect to TV via the internet.

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