Can you have satellite service without a satellite dish? Should you?

There are a lot of ways to get the entertainment you need. In fact there are more than ever before. You can get cable, satellite, stick with an antenna, or go 100% streaming. Or hey, you can just stick with books and newspapers. It’s your option, I’m not judging.

One of the most interesting questions lately is whether or not you can have satellite TV service without a satellite dish. The answer is a lot more complex than you would think.

The satellite companies won’t “exactly” let you, but…

If you sign up for satellite TV service you’re going to need equipment. Neither DIRECTV nor DISH will activate an account without any equipment associated with it. However that doesn’t mean you need to get it installed. You can actually start using the DIRECTV and DISH apps the day you sign up for service, whether or not you have equipment installed.

In order to keep your account open, you do need at least one receiver on the account. With many account types you don’t pay extra for the first receiver. In other account types you get a lower price but you do have a line item on the bill for every receiver. Honestly it works out about the same no matter what you do. The point is that you can’t have an account with zero receivers on it.

However, this technically doesn’t mean you ever need to get anything installed. If you were willing to start an account and get everything activated by Solid Signal, you’d never need to really have anything set up if all you wanted was the streaming apps.

Why would you want to do this?

Ah, that’s the question. With streaming services like Sling and DIRECTV NOW, it seems like getting satellite TV and only using the app would be sort of a waste. There is actually a very good reason.

Streaming is better if you have a satellite subscription

Although Sling and DIRECTV Now are still growing, neither of them has the same expanded channel selection as DIRECTV or DISH. It’s true that not every channel on satellite can be streamed through the provider’s apps, but more and more of them can. What’s more important is that you can authenticate to other apps. That’s the real goal here.

ABC, NBC, CBS, and FOX all let you sign in with your provider credentials and get live TV in many markets. While DIRECTV NOW and Sling do offer local channels in some markets, it’s not anywhere near as many as their satellite counterparts. With a satellite subscription, you get pretty much all the content that’s available on Hulu, plus live TV in many markets, all through your phone or streaming box.

You can also authenticate to pretty much any other provider out there. I expect within the next 12 months DIRECTV NOW and Sling will let you do this, but right now they are lagging behind satellite in the number of things you can get to. For example, if you want Starz or Cinemax content, you can’t get to those apps through a streaming service. You’ll have to pay extra for them as standalone subscriptions or through Amazon Prime Video.

Satellite is still the best option for you if you want one bill that gives you all your entertainment. The cord-cutting landscape is very confusing right now and if you want to get local TV programming and the major channels you’ll end up subscribing to a live TV streaming service (DIRECTV NOW, Sling, or one of the competitors) plus Hulu, CBS All Access, and any premium apps you want. Those bills can add up and even with autopay it’s a pain to know what you have and how much you’re paying.

Get satellite TV from Solid Signal

If you go straight to DIRECTV or DISH they won’t understand what you’re trying to do. They’ll try to slot you into a one-size-fits-all model where you’ll get more hardware than you want and pay for more than you need. The experts at Solid Signal will work with you to get the exact package you want. You may find it’s worth having satellite TV installed just to enjoy it from time to time, but if you don’t we’re still ok with that. Start by calling 888-233-7563 and we’ll get you started!

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.