The Different Types of TV Services

When you want to watch TV nowadays, you’ve got more options than ever. Should you buy cable TV, or maybe stream? If you want to stream, should you go with a live TV streaming service or an on-demand one, or maybe even subscribe to multiple? Or, if you really love TV, you could opt for a cable TV plan and streaming services. Let’s go over every type of TV product available to consumers.

Table of Contents

  • Different Types of TV Services
  • What Is Satellite TV?
  • What Is Cable TV?
  • What Is Fiber TV?
  • What Is Live TV Streaming?
  • What Is On-Demand Streaming?
  • How to Watch Local TV for Cheap
  • Free TV Services
  • Which Type of TV Service Is Cheapest?
  • Which Type of TV Service Is Most Expensive?


Customers today have more options than ever when it comes to TV service. Entertainment aficionados can still opt for a premium cable TV plan while budgeters can squeeze by on a diet of on-demand streaming services and additional free content. Streamers can receive a live TV product that rivals any cable TV plan while households with fiber-optic capabilities can sign up for a fiber internet and TV bundle. And if your home is located near a major metropolitan area with TV stations, you can even buy an antenna that can pick up local channels for cheap. No matter where your home is located, you have plenty of TV options available.

Different Types of TV Services

When you sign up for a TV plan, you’re likely looking for the perfect blend of value and content quality. Your home may have just one or two TV service types available, meaning your options are limited. If your home is in a well-populated area, you will likely have many different types of TV services to choose from to build your ultimate entertainment experience. And for many households, you may want more than one TV service to satisfy everyone’s interests.

The main types of TV services available to consumers today include (remember, each service type comes with its own caveats, which will be explained further in their respective sections):

  • Satellite TV
  • Cable TV
  • Fiber TV
  • Live TV streaming
  • On-demand streaming
  • Local TV channels via antenna
  • Free TV services

What Is Satellite TV?

Satellite TV is available essentially throughout the entire United States, as the geostationary satellites orbiting overhead provide signals everywhere. Satellite TV providers are pricey, but they provide hundreds of channels, more than any other type of TV service, and usually have crisp, stunning HD resolution, often in 4K.

Satellite TV has seen its popularity dwindle in recent years, but the product is worth every penny if you truly love high-quality TV, and if your location is a bit too remote for cable or fiber infrastructure to reach.

Let’s go over a plan from a very popular satellite TV provider, DIRECTV. Featured in the table below is their DIRECTV ENTERTAINMENT via Satellite plan.

PlanChannel CountBest FeaturesStarting Price (/mo.)
DIRECTV ENTERTAINMENT via Satellite90+First 3 mos. of Max™, Cinemax, SHOWTIME, and STARZ included, 40,000+ titles On Demand, tons of sports$69.99
  • Lots of channels
  • Typically HD or 4K resolution
  • Tons of sports
  • Available everywhere
  • Expensive equipment
  • Spotty signals in inclement weather
  • Expensive

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What Is Cable TV?

Cable TV has long been the gold standard of TV watching. Cable infrastructure is extensive across most of the nation, giving millions of Americans access to both cable TV and high-speed cable internet. Since the advent of the internet, it has since seen its relevance decline.

In the late 1990s through the early 2010s, cable TV was in up to 90% of American households. That number continues to decline as more Americans have gone the cord cutting route.

Although cable TV has seen its heyday come and go, it remains a perfectly fine choice for family entertainment in 2023. Families will enjoy the variety of channels, live sports packages, premium networks, On Demand access, and opportunities to bundle with internet and save money.

As more and more streaming services appear, cable TV remains one of the only platforms where subscribers have access to essentially all content.

Spectrum is a very popular cable provider, located in over 40 states. Let’s quickly summarize their Spectrum TV Select Signature plan.

Spectrum TV Select Signature
PlanChannel CountBest FeaturesStarting Price (/mo.)
Spectrum TV Select Signature150+HD, On Demand, Spectrum TV App, no contracts, Spectrum TV Add-Ons customization$64.99
  • All content in one place
  • Not too pricey
  • Cable infrastructure is very widespread
  • Easy to bundle with internet
  • Contracts can be long (not the case with Spectrum)
  • Equipment fees can add up
  • Not as flexible as streaming services

What Is Fiber TV?

Fiber TV is delivered to your home via fiber-optic cables, which are the latest and most innovative data transmission technology yet for average consumers. When you sign up for a fiber internet provider, they may have a fiber TV plan available. Fiber-optic connectivity is incredibly reliable and fast, meaning a fiber internet and TV bundle is about as good as it gets for home entertainment.

The most well-known and popular fiber TV provider is Verizon Fios. Fiber TV has a very limited availability, as does fiber internet, so you would be lucking out if your address is serviceable for it.

Below is a summary of Verizon Fios’ base fiber TV plan.

Verizon Fios: Your Fios TV
PlanChannel CountBest FeaturesStarting Price (/mo.)
Your Fios TV125+One box included, bundle with fiber internet$70
  • Most advanced internet and TV technology yet
  • Not too pricey, essentially the same as cable
  • Incredibly reliable with crystal-clear picture quality
  • Easy to bundle with internet
  • Very limited availability

What Is Live TV Streaming?

Live TV streaming refers to watching live TV through your internet connection. This means that you can watch all the typical networks you love over your internet connection as long as you have a compatible streaming device.

For example, if you sign up for DIRECTV via Internet, you can rent a DIRECTV via Internet streaming device and stream your TV through that. You can watch on your TV and other compatible mobile devices, essentially giving you the cable TV experience without actually having to sign up for cable.

There are plenty of live TV streaming services to choose from, some excelling in sports, some are more budget-friendly while others are solid overall.

Let’s review a streaming plan from DIRECTV:

PlanChannel CountBest FeaturesStarting Price (/mo.)
DIRECTV ENTERTAINMENT via Internet907,000+ apps, 3 months of HBO Max, SHOWTIME and more$69.99

Other live TV streaming services include:

  • YouTube TV
  • fuboTV
  • Sling TV
  • Hulu + Live TV

You will need a streaming device to watch your service of choice on. This can be your mobile device, or a dedicated streaming device like a Roku or Amazon Firestick. These are a relatively inexpensive one-time payment and contribute a meaningful addition to your home’s entertainment technology.

  • Very flexible, no yearly contracts
  • Popular channels included
  • Choose from a variety of services to find your perfect plan
  • Requires high-speed internet
  • Pricing very similar to cable
  • Not as many channels as cable
On-Demand Streaming series

What Is On-Demand Streaming?

On-demand streaming is also done through an internet connection. On-demand streaming services are typically much cheaper than live TV streaming services and have a well-defined niche, along with a large, dynamic content library.

When people become cord cutters, on-demand streaming is usually what they have in mind. When you make this choice, you are saying that you are fine sacrificing live content if it means you can pay a lot less to watch whatever you want, when you want.

Many households might choose to pay for a few on-demand streaming services to equate a content library similar to a cable TV plan, and then supplement them with a few free content-watching options.

If you find yourself enjoying the streaming experience but are still missing live TV, you should probably upgrade to a live TV streaming service.

Here are a few popular on-demand streaming services, along with some details you will want to know.

Popular On-Demand Streaming Services
Streaming ServiceBest Known ForLowest Avail. Price (/mo.)
NetflixFirst mainstream streaming service, tons of original content, thousands of titles$6.99
MaxTMHome of WarnerMedia and HBO content, brings the movie theater to your home$9.99
Amazon Prime VideoIncluded with Amazon Prime membership, thousands of titles available to stream free or rent$8.99
Disney PlusHome of Disney content, including Marvel, Star Wars, Pixar and more, very family-friendly$7.99
HuluHulu original content and more, easily upgrade to Hulu + Live TV$6.99
Paramount PlusCBS-owned platform with live sports, original content, acclaimed series and more$4.99

Much like with live TV streaming services, you will need a streaming device to watch your services on.

How to Watch Local TV for Cheap

What If I told you that you don’t need to sign up for any TV plans at all, and you could still watch local channels? It’s true.

All you need to do is go to any store that sells electronics, examples being Walmart, Target, Best Buy, or shop online, and look for a TV antenna. These antennas aren’t the stereotypical “bunny ears” model. They are sleek, modern, and plug directly into your TV.

All you need to do is set it up (which takes about two minutes) and you’re good to watch TV from any local stations that broadcast nearby.

However, because TV antennas can only pick up TV stations near you, be sure to look on the box for the antenna’s pickup range. If you live farther than 35 or 40 miles from a major city, you may pick up very few channels at all.

If you do live in a moderately-sized or major market, you can expect to pick up 10-20 networks with decent signal strength (or more!).

This free tool from the FCC is incredibly useful in determining if buying a TV antenna is worth it for you.

Even if you can only watch a few channels, antennas are so inexpensive (anywhere between $20 up to $100 for higher quality models) that one might still be worth buying. They aren’t cumbersome whatsoever and are a fine addition to any electronics/device setup.

Free TV Services

If you want to spend no money at all in order to watch TV, this is great news! Completely free TV streaming services exist, and are actually quite popular.

Adding a few free TV services to your entertainment arsenal is something every household should be doing, no matter if you are paying for cable TV or satellite TV or streaming services. There are no downsides at all — aside from watching an onslaught of advertisements.

Admittedly, free TV services rarely offer anything revolutionary – they are free, after all – but there are some gems. The only stipulation about these services is that you will need a streaming device to watch them on, though many people will likely just use a mobile device or laptop if they are looking to really chop their budget.

Here are some great choices for watching free TV:

  • Peacock: Watch top content from NBC and other movies and TV series
  • Pluto TV: Owned by Viacom and displayed in a TV guide-like interface, watch tons of TV series and movies
  • Xumo: Houses both live and on-demand content, including sports
  • Tubi: Thousands of popular and classic TV series and movies
  • YouTube: Simply search what you are looking for and chances are you'll find what you were seeking
Which TV service is the best

Which Type of TV Service Is Cheapest?

If you are looking to save money each month, your best bet is to watch a few different free TV services and see if any of them click with you. If not, the next step would be to try out a few on-demand streaming services. If none of these satisfy your primal entertainment urges, it’s time to move on to a live TV streaming product, or even sign up for cable TV or satellite TV. If you do end up signing up for cable TV, it’s best to opt for the base plan and then add any extras later on to get a sense of your budget allowances.

Which Type of TV Service Is Most Expensive?

The most expensive type of TV service available to consumers is likely satellite TV. Because it’s the only TV option for many households, and because the equipment and technical service involved (installation, transportation to your home) can be arduous, prices for satellite TV can be quite high.

To be fair, you do get what you pay for in terms of hundreds of TV channels and other perks like live sports and 4K picture quality, but that doesn’t mean it’s not expensive. For many satellite TV customers, they might not even have high-speed internet availability at their address, meaning streaming isn’t a viable option.

And since many satellite TV customers live in rural areas, buying an antenna to capture local TV broadcasts isn’t feasible either.

If you do sign up for satellite TV, start with the lowest tier plan and if you are happy with the product, you can always upgrade your plan later.

Frequently asked questions

What is the cheapest cable TV plan?

Cable TV plans can be very affordable if you are not choosing any premium add-ons. Many popular cable TV plans start as low as $39.99 per month. Call National Broadband today to learn about the most affordable TV plans at your address.

What is the difference between cable TV and fiber TV?

The difference between cable TV and fiber TV comes down to the wire, literally. Cable TV uses coaxial cables while fiber TV uses fiber-optic cables. Fiber-optic cables are quite innovative and deliver a fast, reliable signal directly to your home. Cable TV is also a perfectly fine option as modern cable TV uses digital signals instead of analog, meaning your TV service is still a modern product.

Do you need fast internet to stream?

Yes, high-speed internet is critical when streaming. If your internet speed isn't fast enough, you will have buffering issues and low quality resolution. Streaming services don't require too much bandwidth, but when you have many devices simultaneously using the internet, you can encounter issues.

Is live TV streaming or on-demand streaming better?

This depends fully on how much your household values live TV. If you love catching live sports, news or other events, you'll likely want a live TV streaming service. If you don't mind missing out on live TV to save some money, go with a couple on-demand streaming services.

Can I buy a TV antenna to watch local TV?

Aboslutely. You can go to any local store that sells electronics to see if they carry modern TV antennas, or simply order one online. Keep in mind that since you will be attempting to capture local TV broadcasts, you need to live near powerful TV stations, namely ones in metro areas. However, if you do live near a metro area and you're sick of paying for expensive TV plans, an antenna is an option you should check out.

What are some free TV services?

Popular free TV services include the ads-included tier of Peacock, Pluto TV, Crackle, Tubi, Xumo and even YouTube. If you don't mind making an inexpensive one-time payment, you could also purchase a TV antenna and watch local TV broadcasts for free.

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