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Proof That Broadcast TV Picture Quality is Better Than Satellite

By Brian
Published 04/17/2018
 | Updated 04/17/2021

I was at my parents' home with the TV on in the background when I noticed something interesting: their "HD" picture quality was terrible compared to my own TV with a broadcast TV antenna. They had satellite TV from DISH Network.

I have always said on my site that cable and satellite dish providers compress their TV signals, resulting in WORSE picture quality than you can get with free broadcast (Over-The-Air) TV. But I thought this picture quality was ridiculously bad!

I snapped a photo of the local ABC station's logo, then went home and did the same on my own TV (of similar size and type, and in the same city) using an indoor TV antenna.

Here are the results.

Direct Comparison

First, check out the satellite TV image:

Image from satellite dish TV service
Image from satellite dish TV service (click to see larger version)

Notice how jagged the curves and letters are. The "abc7.com" text is especially crappy. The signal is coming from the satellite box's HDMI output to the TV.

Next, check out the same logo on my TV using an indoor Cable Cutter Metro antenna, which is one of many OTA (Over-The-Air) TV antennas available now:

Image from broadcast TV
Image from broadcast OTA TV (click to see larger version)

Not only are the edges and curves smoother, but there is also less "halo" effect in the broadcast TV image. The halos are a result of video compression.

Zooming In

It might be hard to see the difference if you're looking at this on your phone, so let's zoom in.  Check out the "abc" logo:

ABC logo comparison with satellite dish picture on left, broadcast TV on right
ABC logo comparison with satellite dish picture on left, broadcast TV on right

Noticed the jagged edges of the round logo and letters in the satellite dish image. Notice the blotchy appearance of the round logo highlights on the top and bottom.

Next, let's take a look at the "abc7.com" text, which is especially egregious on satellite:

abc7.com text with satellite dish image on top, broadcast TV image on bottom
abc7.com text with satellite dish image on top, broadcast TV image on bottom

Which one would you rather watch?  Can you believe the top one costs over $75 per month and the bottom on is free?

The satellite dish image shows lots of artifacts here, all the result of compression:

Problems with satellite dish image
Problems with satellite dish image

It looks like the satellite image has worse than half of the resolution of the broadcast TV image. So, if you have a fancy 4K TV, you're pretty much not getting any additional benefit out of it over a regular HD TV if you're watching TV from a satellite dish.

Note that all of the images are unretouched; I've not altered them in any way other than zooming in.

Conclusion

Now, I'm not saying satellite TV is bad in every situation. And, reader Richard points out that DirecTV has better picture quality than DISH, which I corroborated online with another article.

However, I still find it amusing that the picture quality for a FREE TV service is better than one that you pay thousands for every few years. Granted, satellite TV offers a ton of channels, but, you might be able to get the channels you need for less money by using an antenna along with cheaper services like Sling TV.

Let me know your thoughts below! I hope you found this comparison helpful. - Brian

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Brian Shim, DisableMyCable.com
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Check out my other site, thefrugalnoodle.com, with ideas on saving money and living simply.

Ask a Question or Tell Me Your Story

If you have a question about this article, leave a comment below. I personally read and answer each one. If you want advice on TV reception, leave your zip code. I'd also love to hear how you're saving money on TV. Tell me your story! Note, I cannot answer individual email sent to me; please leave your questions here instead. - Brian

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