How Are Broadcast TV and Cable TV Different

Broadcast TV
Broadcast TV

It is safe to say that cable TV and broadcast TV are two different mind-sets in the industry. They differ in terms of how we perceive entertainment through TV. There are many cases when the FCC restricts one of them while the other operates to do the same thing. A generalization cable TV has more to offer, is more diverse, and costs more are true. 

The major difference lies in how we get both these services. As we all know that Broadcast TV is primitive and the signals are transferred by radio waves. You get the basic channels such as FOX, ABC, CBS, and CW. These channels can be accessed using a simple antenna. However, the trend is changing as these channels are mainly transmitted through satellite and cable. 

Cable TV providers use a complex network of coaxial cables to transmit the signals. The users have to pay a fixed monthly fee based on the channel line-up they sign up for. For example, Spectrum cable plans cost $60 to $120 per month on average. 

Broadcast TV is an outdated technology. It started in the 1940s and made way to a bigger audience with the passage of time. It allowed companies to market their products and this stream of the revenue made it more and more prominent. 

Nature of Shows 

Cable TV has better shows. You can watch TV shows from all genres. The storylines are great and keep you glued to the screen. Broadcast TV has shorter stories and the plots are quite similar every time.  The narrative is always thought-provoking and aims to stimulate our minds to think differently. 

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There is a big difference in the advertisement when it comes to broadcast TV and cable. Both have their unique target audience. If you are an average user, you might think that these ads are similar. In reality, they differ a lot. The ads we see on broadcast TV are meant for a larger chunk of the population. For example, Presidential candidates use broadcast TV to reach an audience far beyond geographical boundaries. Some broadcast channels are commercial in nature and their revenue stems from advertisements. There are non-commercial channels as well. They get donations mostly as a source of revenue. 


Cable TV providers are slowly getting extensive coverage. Spectrum is one of the biggest residential cable service providers in America. It is accessible in more than 42 states. This makes cable coverage quite extensive. However, there are many areas where cable TV cannot reach. The reason being its mode of transmission. You have to reach remote areas with the help of coaxial cables. In such areas, sometimes it is difficult to lay the network due to the infrastructure cost associated. 

Premium Channels

Cable TV is advanced because it has everything related to box office entertainment. The premium channels are available on cable TV as add-ons. You can get these channels only if you wish to. There are additional charges on top of your bill. These premium channels air the best shows on cable TV just like a streaming service. There are no air commercials. 

Extra Content 

Cable TV now faces a bigger threat than broadcast known as streaming. The broadcast was never the threat as cable has unlimited features. The cable boxes are advanced in functionality and let you record any show you like. The on-demand libraries let you stream your favorite movies and TV shows without any extra charge. Broadcast TV cannot provide you with all these perks and features.  

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Final Verdict 

The purpose of innovation is to get us a better technology that can make our lives easier. Broadcast TV has done its job throughout the years. In the past, when radio was the source of information, Broadcast TV was the pioneer of TV-based information and entertainment. Now, it is just used as a tool to reach a wider audience. It is accessible everywhere in the United States where the signal transmission can reach. Cable TV is much more advanced and is slowly becoming the primary source of TV-based entertainment. The channel line-ups are diverse and the entertainment is endless. Most importantly, it gets you everything you wish for.