You've seen the online and offline ads -- "Free satellite TV!" "Get a 4-room Satellite TV System Free!" and "Satellite TV Dish and Receivers Absolutely Free!"
But is satellite TV really free? The answer to that question is yes ... and no.
Yes, the equipment you get -- the satellite TV dish and satellite TV receiver -- is free. But no, the programming service will cost you money.
Let's examine the facts.
Due to the demise of Pegasus and Voom, there are only two major satellite TV providers in the USA -- Dish Network and DirecTV.
Dish Network Satellite TV Service
When you order a free satellite TV system from Dish Network, you will be asked to pay a $49.99 activation fee. This fee will be credited to your programming bill, so in essence, your satellite TV system is free. Installation of your satellite TV system is also free.
With Dish Network you have the option to upgrade to a DVR (digital video recording) receiver, or an HDTV (high definition TV) receiver at no charge.
Dish Network programming starts at $31.99 per month for 60 program channels, and goes up to $86.00 for 230 channels including Showtime, Starz!, HBO, Cinemax, and Sirius radio.
Dish Network offers more movies, shows, and HDTV than cable or DirecTV, and with one of their free DVR receivers you can record, pause, and fast forward live TV with a click of your remote. All Dish Network programs are broadcast in digital format for crystal-clear picture and sound.
DirecTV Satellite TV Service
Depending on your credit rating, when you order a free satellite TV system from DirecTV you may be required to pay a deposit or prepayment. Because the deposit is refunded to you and the prepayment goes toward your programming fees, the DirecTV satellite dish and receivers are free. Installation is also free.
If you want a DVR receiver you will be charged an additional $49.99. The charge for HDTV receivers is $299.99.
DirecTV programming packages start at $41.99 per month for 115 channels (including 31 music channels), and go up to $93.99 per month for 185 program channels, including Showtime, Starz!, HBO, Cinemax, and 31 music channels.
DirecTV offers more sports programs than you can get with cable or Dish Network, including the popular NFL Sunday Ticket, and is broadcast in all-digital format.
The Bottom Line
Both Dish Network and DirecTV's basic satellite TV dishes and receivers are free ... but the service will cost you anywhere from $32 to $94 a month.
So if you watch just a few television programs a week and have access to over-the-air TV, or if you have cable TV and are happy with your service, then satellite TV probably isn't for you.
If, on the other hand, TV is one of your primary forms of entertainment and you want the biggest variety of shows, movies, sports, and new -- or if your cable bill is beginning to equal your mortgage payment -- then satellite TV may be just the ticket.
By Brian Stevens