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Cable TV, Satellite and DVR

When it comes time to expand your television service, you have two main choices; Cable TV or Satellite. Once you've made this decision, take time to check out the world of Digital Video Recording. It's amazing.

While Cable TV and Satellite have many things in common, there are some significant differences between the two. Cost is one area to research thoroughly. There are two things to consider when determining the cost of Cable TV and Satellite. First there is the cost of the service itself, which is typically billed on a monthly basis. You can contact your local Cable TV and Satellite companies and simply ask for a price list. Note that each likely will offer different programming packages, the difference being the number and type of channels that are included in each package. The price will range anywhere from a low of $20 per month up to and sometimes even exceeding $100 per month. Survey your family members to see which combination of news, sports, movie, and educational channels best meet everybody's needs and then choose a package.

Note that local television channels are not always included with Satellite service. If you like to watch soap operas or the nightly local news, you could be out of luck with Satellite. Also, if you have a HDTV, you'll need to know whether the Cable TV or the Satellite service supports HDTV programming and at what cost.

There usually are additional costs for equipment that you'll need to properly operate each system. Satellite systems will require the purchase of a satellite dish. Cable TV requires the purchase or rental of a cable box and possibly even a remote control. Taxes, installation fees and whether or not there is a charge for additional televisions are also costs inquire about.

Satellite service will require that the satellite dish be mounted somewhere that has an unobstructed view towards the south. If tall buildings or trees are in the path, Satellite service might not be a wise choice. Also, if you rent an apartment or house, you'll need to get permission from the landlord before installing the Satellite dish on the home or other part of the property. If the home or apartment you live in is not already cable-ready, you'll need to seek permission to have Cable installed as well.

Both cable TV and Satellite should be readily available in all areas. However, if for some reason cable is not available in a particular area, then you'll have to go with Satellite. Satellite depends only on space and a clear southward view.

Weather, including rain, snow and even clouds can sometimes cause a problem with Satellite transmission so be aware of this. However, absent bad weather, Satellite TV will likely provide you with clearer and a better quality of broadcasting.

Finally, ask whether the Cable TV or the Satellite service company is currently offering any special packaging deals. Cable TV companies will often offer cable modem service at a reduced monthly bundled fee. Satellite companies have in the past offered special deals with digital video recorder companies. It never hurts to ask. It's your money and if you're like most people you want to get the most for your money.

Once you decide which TV programming source is best for you, Cable TV or Satellite, your next step is to take a look at the latest digital recording and playback options.

Digital video recording (DVR) simply means the process or recording television shows onto a hard disk through the use of a little black box. We've all set up our VCRs and recorded our favorite shows for later viewing. In fact, generic DVRs work just like VCRs; find a program, record it and view it later.

A digital video recorder that includes a subscription- based programming guide offers so much more than the ability to program and play back one television show. The subscriber selects one or more TV shows for recording from an easy-to-use, on-screen programming guide and the shows are later recorded onto the hard disk. Once recorded, a person has complete control over viewing them. TiVo, UltimateTV, and Sony Digital Network Recorder are just a few of the big players in the Digital Video Recording (DVR) market. There are more, too. Subscription-based DVRs offer you the ability to custom-create your own television programming. You can select all shows by a particular genre, all shows starring your favorite television or movie star, and more.

If you know someone who has a DVR, ask to try out the program guide. Some are tricky to operate and you won't get the most mileage out of your subscription unless you know how to use it properly including such tricks as pausing during a live show and creating an instant reply.

Subscription services themselves can be tricky. First find out the cost. You have to pay for the black box itself (remember, TiVo, Sony DVR, etc.). The price will range based on the storage capacity of the hard disk. Then you find a subscription to a programming guide. Subscriptions can be paid monthly or you can pay a one-time fee, which is nice because it generally will be less expensive and if necessary, it can be transferable to a new owner. Check out bundled prices from Satellite or Cable TV companies.

In this day of Internet-mania, it was only a matter of time before DVRs became internet-enabled. This is another area to research. Connecting your DVR to the Internet means that you can use the Internet to share recorded videos and to go online to set up/adjust your programming selections. Plus, with an internet-enabled DVR, your DVR subscription service can easily connect to the ISP to update software and to download upgrades. If you do not get an Internet-enabled DVR, you will need a phone line to access this information.

So there you have it - the lowdown on Cable TV vs. Satellite television programming, and a brief introduction to the world of Digital Video Records. With so much TV to watch and so little time available to watch it, a subscription-based DVR might just be the answer. Remember, cable and satellite companies are happily bundling both technologies making them even more affordable than ever.