In the early days of Cable TV, many people would not have taken cable seriously given that many people doubted whether people would pay for something they could get for free. In its initial period cable was seen as only useful for people who lived in areas with limited access to free to air TV. Today Cable has become a big business as it now competes with satellite TV in the provision of television services. Since consumers always want the best there has been a great controversy on what is better; is it cable TV or Satellite. While Satellite has its advantages such as better reception quality, and better interactive controls, it has to be acknowledged that cable offers more in terms of pricing, equipment, and programming.
The equipment used for cable is relatively cheaper than satellite equipment. Cable is usually advantageous to users who feel that they do not need digital programming as only a television set is required to start receiving signals from cable as opposed to satellite. For subscribers who prefer digital programming they will have to purchase a TV converter box and a remote the same as satellite (Keating 273). Cable has the advantage over satellite in that it does not require set top boxes for each TV as satellite does. Cable is also less cumbersome than satellite since satellite TV usually requires the installation of dishes or a set of dishes in order to be connected. Satellite also comes with digital video recorders which the client has to pay for upfront as opposed to the equipment of Cable which belongs to the cable company and the client is not required to make payments towards it. Satellite dishes are cumbersome and present a degree of danger since they have to be installed on the roof or wall of the residence. Satellite dishes are also present challenges in some areas since they require unobstructed locations which may be hard for people who rent houses as they may live in houses in which an obstructed view is impossible leading to poor quality or no signal at all (Luckham and Wedell 35). Some landlords may also not take kindly to the installation of satellite dishes on their houses which makes cable more suitable.
Cable TV is more advantageous to clients whose TVs have cable slots since, they would only be required to subscribe for an access card from a service provider and start enjoying cable. Recent offerings of cable are however disposing of the mode of having a card in order to subscribe to cable. The most recent offerings of High Definition TV are made without the slot for the cable card meaning that cable is more convenient than satellite which is cumbersome. Satellite TV usually requires a digital telephone cable which is used in managing the pay per view services. Cable on the other hand employs the use of the same cable that is used to transmit signals as the line for communication between the client and the company; this makes communication between the cable companies easier than that of the satellite companies (Long 76).
Cable has an edge over satellite in programming since it can offer more than three hundred channels whose quality is digital. Satellite on the other hand has a capacity of over two hundred and fifty channels even as it may lack some local channels in some areas. Alternatively cable provides more variety and has most local channels in every locality and even provides a larger number of pay per view programs. In recent times it has become a common practice for cable companies to provide programs upon demand. Many cable companies have an in-house library from which subscribers demand and subscribe programs which can be watched at the client’s pleasure (Whitaker 39). High definition TV which used to be a preserve of satellite TV is also nowadays becoming available on cable making it more attractive. Cable is in the aspect of programming advantageous than satellite in that while satellite offers packages based on the whole of the channels offered with cable people get to pay only for the channels subscribed to or on demand.
When it comes to HD programming, both cable and satellite offer ever more variety of programs in high definition TV. A majority of both cable and satellite providers have no charges on the provision of high definition broadcast of the giant broadcasting corporations for instance CNN, Fox and ABC. It is the more specialty based networks such as MTV Base, ESPN and MOJO which usually attract high fees. While most satellite providers usually charge high for the broadcasters, cable is usually better in that it offers high definition versions of some of the major specialized broadcasters such as MyTV and PBS as part of their basic packages (Ciciora 137). Cable offers an advantage in programming in that high definition TV is usually better in terms of channel selection than satellite. Cable offers a possibility of getting local channels which may not be accessible from an off air broadcast TV satellite. Cable provides sports enthusiasts with the offering of regional sports networks in high definition while most satellite networks do not offer these channels.
Both satellite and cable TV have the capacity to provide picture that are of the same quality. In practice however this does not happen since different companies offer different levels of picture quality. Picture quality is usually a function of the intensity of compression that is applied by the provider during transmission of the signal to subscribers. Both satellite and cable make use of MPEG-2 and MPEG-4 technology in signal compression. These are technologies which result to data loss in the course of compression (Keating 98). The signal quality that is delivered by the service provider most of the time depends on the compression applied. More compression usually results to more degradation of the signal quality and vice versa. Since most cable companies rely on one digital platform to transmit the digital signal and at the same time for two way communication with the subscriber it would seem to be rational that they would have poor picture quality as compared to satellite.
In the past, cable companies inevitably had to offer poorer picture quality since they had to use more compression in order to transmit the large amounts of information in the small digital space available. Cable companies have had problems with increasing capacity since it was a costly affair. Since 2010, cable companies have started the migration to MPEG-4 AVC which is a platform that offers more bandwidth and doubles their transmission capacity (Long 87-93). A recent poll conducted by PR Newswire showed that cable was increasingly the choice for subscribers over cable in instances of clients who preferred high definition viewing. Satellite companies have been offering the highest quality high definition picture which was transmitted upon the Standard Definition platform. The survey between a cable provider and a satellite provider showed that a sixth f the respondents had a preference for cable as they deemed its high definition pictures to be of higher quality (Whitaker 198-203). Another aspect that in which cable has an advantage over satellite in picture quality is the effect of weather. Satellite picture, even if of better or same quality as the cable, is usually affected by weather conditions in the path of transmission and in the final destination.
A decision on whether to switch or not to switch is usually upon the individual subscriber. While satellite may have led the way in many aspects of pay TV, Cable TV is slowly but surely catching up and proving to be better in some aspects previously the domain of satellite TV. Technological innovation has made Cable to improve it picture quality through he adoption of the MPEV-4 technology hence making it a leader in the provision of high definition TV. Cable also offers more in programming through the provision of more of local content which satellite does not. Cable is also less cumbersome and expensive as it has less equipment which needs to be installed for a subscriber to star using the service. Additionally cable offers more convenience through its offering of programs on demand and on pay per view as opposed to satellite which charges for the whole range of its undifferentiated channels. It is thus evident that cable has much to offer compared to satellite in terms of equipment programming and picture quality.