Is satellite TV already obsolete?

Don’t be silly. I know that everyone talks about streaming, but there are literally hundreds of millions of people who get their TV from cable or satellite, watching billions of hours. If you assume an average household of 3 people, that means about 125 million people in the United States alone are watching satellite TV every day. That doesn’t even start to account for the people who subscribe in Latin America, which could be another 200 million actual people. Folks, satellite TV isn’t going anywhere.

Oh, it’s going to change. Movies changed when TV came along, and TV changed when cable came along, and cable changed when the internet came along. I suspect in the future there will probably be fewer “low value” channels (like the west coast feeds of things, or shopping channels) but there will still be plenty of things to watch live.

And let’s not forget that broadcasting, real broadcasting where a provider puts a live product out there and millions of people watch it at the same time, is much more efficient than internet streaming. When everyone is streaming, even if there is a livestream solution to keep the impact on the network low, there is still the matter of every single person using bandwidth at the last mile. That’s not going to change. If 5,000,000 people watch satellite TV, the satellite doesn’t care, but if 5,000,000 people stream Netflix, the local switch gets overloaded and everyone’s quality goes down.

Both AT&T and DISH are still actively developing new products, and their satellite fleets aren’t going anywhere. If you assume a lifespan of 15 years for an average communications satellite, you’ll see that both DIRECTV and DISH have enough capacity to last them for a decade, even if 4K starts to take over. It’s just not going to be a problem.

Sure, you’ll hear the bleeding-edge types talk about how traditional TV is dying a slow death, and sure that may be true for small TV providers that can’t keep up. However, the largest companies in the world provide television service, and they’re not going to sit still and watch their investment go down the drain. Simple as that. They’re going to evolve, keep finding new ways to provide a mix of internet and traditional television services, and keep customers happy. It’s really fun to think of telecommunications companies like Comcast and AT&T as these slow, dim, sleeping giants but in reality (at least from what I can see on the AT&T side) nothing could be further from the truth. There are plans in place to keep traditional television interesting for as far out as anyone can plan.

And you know, bleeding-edge types are great but they can get a little myopic. As an old friend of mine once said, they can’t see the forest because their nose is touching a single tree. I remember thinking in 2007, why do they still make “non-DVR” receivers, especially SD ones? Why? Because at that time about 85% of DIRECTV’s customer base used them. Just because I personally didn’t, I wasn’t focusing on everyone else. My point? Everyone “you know” may be doing more streaming than live TV but there are still millions and millions of people who turn on the TV when they get home and sit down and watch what’s on. That’s a huge revenue stream and while it may be shrinking, it’s not going anywhere soon.

So don’t panic if you’re thinking on investing in a 2-year contract for satellite TV. You won’t be left out in the cold… just the opposite. In the next two years satellite TV is going to blossom in ways you couldn’t even imagine (and I can’t disclose.) All I can tell you is the future looks bright.

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.