Satellite TV, Cable, & Internet TV: Whats the difference?

Satellite and Cable TV is what is considered “Traditional TV” and also known as Linear Television. Linear TV means your TV programs run in a straight line on a schedule. Meaning the viewer must watch a scheduled TV program at the actual time of broadcast.

Although satellite and cable subscriptions have been falling off due to other media alternatives such as Netflix, HULU and other choices, the video industry as a whole has only grown. This is because there are more ways than ever to check out your favorite shows than ever before in history.

Lets first look at the 4 different types of TV:

Cable TV – TV that comes through a cable wire into your home. Common cable providers are AT&T, Comcast, Charter and so on…..

Satellite TV – TV that is beamed down to a dish from a satellite. Providers like Dish and Direct TV are some of the most popular here in the USA.

Broadcast TV – TV that comes through your antenna

Internet TV AKA OTT – TV delivered through the internet to different platforms like the web, Roku, Apple TV and more.

There is basically two ways to get video content into your living room: You can tune in through a satellite, cable or antenna, or it can be streamed through the internet.

Broadcast TV includes Satellite, cable and Antenna reception. Broadcast networks essentially operate by broadcasting video content from a central location. For cable it is broadcast and delivered to your home through a coaxial cable. Satellite it comes from radio waves that you pick up with your satellite dish attached to your home.

Cable and satellite both work by allowing you to “tune in” to specific channels within that signal. The big difference is that cable comes into your home through a wire and satellite through the air.

Internet TV

Internet TV accomplishes the same goal (to put content on your TV) but is delivered through the internet either to your Smart TV (Via a smart TV app) or connect TV device (Roku, FireTV, Apple TV etc…). Internet TV can also be delivered to your mobile phone or desktop either through a app (like YouTube) or a browser.

Pros and Cons for Consumers

For most of us as long as we know how to turn the TV on and get what we want either via internet or Satellite/cable understanding the nuts and bolts isnt as important. Hoover if you are staring your own Online TV network then its great to have an understanding of the Pro’s and Cons.

Cable TV:


  • Quality: No buffering and a dedicated line for video. Video is always high quality.
  • Hundred of channels to choose from with a dedicated program guide.


  • Only available in areas in which cable has been run.
  • Cost is typically high
  • Requires a cable box and can be a mess of wires in the home.

Satellite TV


  • Programming is very similar to cable.
  • Its available nationwide
  • Video quality is generally good.


  • You must have a large box attached to your TV’s
  • You must have a dish attached to your home
  • storms can cause outages.
  • Its generally expensive.

Internet TV


  • Price can be quite a bit lower.
  • You only pay for what you want to watch and many channels are Free.
  • No need for installing anything (no dish or cable wires to run)
  • Many choices to pick from.
  • You can offer VOD (does not have to be Linear)
  • Is available globally


  • Video quality can suffer if connection speeds drop.
  • You may not have access to some of your favorite shows that only broadcast on cable/satellite.

So as a broadcaster the obvious choice today is starting your network via the internet. You can literally start your network for just a few hundred dollars on the internet vs millions it takes to acquire your own satellite or cable channel.

When I first started back in 2004 all we did was satellite channels. However as technology evolved we quickly adapted to helping our satellite customers get their network onto the internet. We had to “mimic” the same type of quality and system that our customers had on satellite and duplicate that onto the internet. This led us to develop our “Channel Manager” which was built from the ground up with TV distribution in mind for our satellite TV clients. Its now available to the general public and if you would like to try it you can check it out here. Our channel manager is the first step in starting your internet TV network.

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