Time Warner Cable or Satellite TV – Which Should You Choose?

Time Warner Cable is the second largest cable company in the United States. Only Comcast has more cable TV subscribers. If you live in an area served by Time Warner Cable, you probably have wondered if you can get a better deal, as Time Warner Cable is known as a fairly expensive service. Generally the only other option is satellite TV, so here is a brief comparison.

Time Warner Cable vs. Satellite TV

As mentioned, Time Warner is an extremely large cable company, boasting over 14 million subscribers currently. Time Warner cable is available across the nation, in fact their cable systems are found in 27 different states. Unlike Charter cable, which struggles with many small and mid-sized markets, Time Warner is more like Comcast, with systems in some major markets.

Large population centers served by Time Warner Cable in the northeast include New York City, New Jersey, Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati. Other large Time Warner Cable systems include Dallas, Austin, San Diego and Los Angeles. Overall, Time Warner Cable has 56 different cable systems. Time Warner gained about 3 million subscribers a few years back by purchasing some of the old Adelphia Communications Cable systems that were sold during their bankruptcy.

Time Warner has faced increasing pressure from satellite TV companies DIRECTVand DISH Networkover the past decade. While in the past, cable companies like Time Warner and Comcast had a virtual monopoly on pay television service, satellite TV and in recent month’s telecom TV like Verizon FiOS and AT&T U-verse mean even more competition for subscribers.

Time Warner Cable has responded to these competitive pressures by branching out to provide video, data, and voice services. These services are available to mainly residential customers, though the business market has also been targeted. Time Warner cable also offers on-demand services, which are superior in most areas to satellite TV. Digital video recorders or DVR service as well as high-definition (HD) television programming is also available. Since DIRECTV and DISH Network only provide video services, we will mainly compare TV services.

So how does Time Warner stack up when comparing their Cable TV vs DIRECTV or DISH Network?

HDTV – This is one area where cable companies like Time Warner and satellite TV providers are battling for the customer’s attention. While the biggest battle continues to be DIRECTV against Comcast, Time Warner HD has its own battle plan against satellite TV. Time Warner Cable promotes their company as “the Home of Free HD”. Basically, Time Warner says they offer free HD, something that DIRECTV and DISH Network charge their customers extra to have. They have even set up a website called “Don’t Fall For Satellite” encouraging customers to start a relationship with someone they can trust.

Hmmmm… a cable TV company? While that may be a little hard to swallow, the site is fairly amusing as it lampoons satellite TV. While Time Warner may not technically “charge” for HD like DIRECTV and DISH Network, who each charge about $10 a month for HD, you can be sure Time Warner has the cost of providing HD included within their pricing structure. Sorry, the next time a cable TV company gives us something for free will be the first time.

More importantly, how much HD does Time Warner package offer compared with satellite TV? DIRECTV and DISH Network currently have over 100 HD channels each, with promises to expand that to about 150 channels in the near future. Time Warner HD has done better than other cable TV providers like Charter and Comcast, but HD quantity is still a hit or miss proposition with Time Warner Cable. If you live in one of the major markets served by Time Warner Cable, you are much more likely to get a lot of HD content, while if you live in a mid-sized or small market, you will likely be disappointed with your HD selection.

Cable networks upgrade areas individually to handle more HD, so check with Time Warner directly if you are wondering how many HD channels are available in your area.

Overall, satellite TV providers DIRECTV and DISH Network still provide more HD content than Time Warner, even if they give you high definition for “free.”
Another thing to consider if you are only interested in HD is that satellite TV provider DISH Network is the only company that currently offers 100% HD packages. Their Turbo HD lineup offers fewer, channels, but much lower pricing if you just want HD channels and nothing else.

Family Programming and Parental Controls – This shouldn’t be an issue with either Time Warner or your satellite TV company. Parental Control locks are easy to setup via your remote control with Time Warner cable, DIRECTV and DISH Network.

DVR – The digital video recorder has changed how we watch television, and given its popularity, it is an important consideration. DVR service from Time Warner is similar to that of satellite TV, in that it lets you record your favorite shows without the mess and trouble of using a VCR. Time Warner cable also offers HD DVR service, so you can record both HD and standard definition programming and play it back on your own schedule. DVR features include the choice of saving movies, record one show while watching another, pausing and rewinding live TV whenever you like, and so on.

While the Time Warner DVR and the DVR’s provided by satellite TV companies offer the same features, their reliability and friendliness to the subscriber differ. DISH Network currently has the best DVR, with their ViP722 often being compared to devices made by TiVo. DIRECTV’s HR20 DVR is adequate, though not as good as the device offered by DISH Network. Time Warner’s current DVR is on the same level as DIRECTV, though complaints continue to come in about the DVR freezing frequently and having to be rebooted.

On Demand – This is an area where cable TV companies like Time Warner have a definite advantage over satellite TV. Comcast and Time Warner Cable have invested millions in their on-demand entertainment delivery systems, and it has made their subscribers very happy. On-demand basically allows the subscriber to sit down and pick from a menu of shows at any time day or night. New shows are constantly added including movies, sports and special events. Satellite TV suffers in the on-demand market because of their one-way delivery system. DIRECTV and DISH Network have set up their own on-demand setups, but these often rely on the customer having their own high speed internet connection in order to download the content. While the setup is workable, it sometimes requires waiting for some the content to download before watching, so it’s not true video-on-demand. Advantage to Time Warner over satellite TV when it comes to on-demand.

Digital Sports Packages – This is an important area for guys (and gals) who are sports fans. One satellite TV company, DIRECTV wins out here, while the other comes in last place, that being DISH Network. Time Warner Cable comes out in the middle when comparing premiums sports packages. DIRECTV is the clear winner, as they basically offer all of the sports packages that are out there. DIRECTV offers the following sports packages:

Nascar Hotpass
MLB Extra Innings
NHL Center Ice
Cricket Ticket
NBA League Pass
ESPN Game Plan (College Football)
NCAA Mega March Madness
Setanta Sports (Foreign Soccer and Rugby programming)
ESPN Full Court (College Basketball)
MLS Direct Kick
DirecTV Sports Pack (Regional sports networks like Fox Sports)

Time Warner carries some of these same packages, however they do not have two of the most popular, the NFL Sunday Ticket and the NASCAR HotPass, which are DIRECTV exclusives. DISH Network only carries the NBA League Pass, MLS Direct Kick and the NHL Center Ice packages. If its sports you want, DirecTV is your top choice.

Pay Per View – This is another area that is equal when considering satellite TV versus Time Warner Cable. You can always find PPV movies and sporting events on DirecTV and DISH Network. Time Warner Cable offers boxing, UFC and movie pay-per-view options.

Premium Movie Channels – All of the popular movie channels are available through DIRECTV and Time Warner Cable. If you want all of the premiums, such as Showtime, Cinemax, HBO and Starz, you are better off choosing one of the satellite TV all inclusive packages such as the DIRECTV Premier package or the DISH Network America’s Everything package, as Time Warner Cable charges $50 per month for all of the premium networks. See Time Warner pricing below.

Now everyone these days is concerned about the bottom line, how much will either Time Warner or satellite TV cost per month. Pricing is always subject to change, and the prices below are for one area of Texas with TimeWarner cable. For the most accurate pricing, contact Time Warner cable directly.

Analog Cable Packages Cost Per Month

Basic Service $20.84

Standard Service (Basic and Expanded Basic Service) $47.99

Digital Cable Package $52.99

Digital Premium Services Monthly

Digital HBO Multiplex (15 screens) $12.95

Digital Cinemax Multiplex (12 screens) $12.95

Digital Showtime Multiplex (14 screens) $12.95

Digital TMC Multiplex (4 screens) $12.95

Digital Starz! Multiplex (10 screens) $12.95

Any 2 Premiums (with matching Premiums on Demand) $20.00

Any 3 Premiums (with matching Premiums on Demand) $30.00

Any 4 Premiums (with matching Premiums on Demand) $40.00

All 5 Premiums (with matching Premiums on Demand) $50.00

Time Warner Cable Spanish Programming

Canales Latinos Tier (includes Navigator) $8.95

Canales Latinos Dos Tier (includes Navigator) $14.95

Digital Sports Tier (includes Navigator) $8.95

Digital Video Recorder Service (DVR) $6.95

High Definition DVR Recorder Service (HD DVR) $6.95

Equipment Cost per Month

Addressable Receiver $7.64

Remote $.31

CableCard $2.95

High-Speed Online Services Monthly

High-Speed Online Service (non-cable customer) $54.95

High-Speed Online Service (cable customer) $44.95

Reviewing the prices listed for Time Warner Cable, it doesn’t seem to be out of line in comparison to satellite TV. Comparable packages with DISH Network are lower, in the area of $35-40 per month, and DIRECTV offers a discount on their packages for the first year. I think where many complaints about Time Warner’s cable pricing come in when several TV’s are used, and where the subscriber has premium movie channels. Adding extra cable boxes and HBO, Cinemax and the like can really hike up your cable bill.

To get an idea of how Time Warner Cable stacks up with satellite TV packages, review what DISH Network and DIRECTVcurrently offer as far as package pricing. One nice thing with satellite TV pricing is that it is uniform across the country, so no matter where you live you can easily find out what satellite TV costs.
Now Time Warner does offer a couple of things that satellite cannot. Because cable operators have wiring to the home in the areas they serve, they can offer so called triple play bundles. These packages include not only cable TV, but also high speed internet and home phone service. Time Warner, like other cable companies has deployed these bundles into the areas they serve in order to increase revenues.

Time Warner cable titles their triple play packages the “all the best” bundle. Generally, you can get a promotional price during the first year of service, which will cover all three services for somewhere between $89-$99 dollars per month. After the first year, though, the price goes up, so be sure to ask what “normal” bundle pricing will be. While DIRECTV and DISH Network do not have triple play bundles, they do team with local phone providers A&T, Verizon, and Qwest to offer packages in conjunction with your local phone company.

Time Warner Digital Phone provides dial tone and unlimited calling just like you would expect from the local phone company. For example, the Time Warner Digital Phone Unlimited starts at $44.99 per month, depending on where you live. It is an all-inclusive price for Unlimited Nationwide and Digital Phone Unlimited Local calling. Also included are all of the popular calling features most people want like caller ID, Voice Messaging, call waiting, call forwarding, plus additional calling features. Usually you can now keep your phone number even if you are transferring in from another phone company. Directory assistance and 911 accesses are also included.

TimeWarner Road Runner delivers high speed internet service over its cable network. Road Runner comes in several different flavors, allowing you to pick the speed level you need. The first option is Road Runner Lite, which offers speeds up to 1.5 Mbps on the download side. If you need something a little faster, Road Runner Basic doubles the speed, up to about 3 Megs per second. Next is the Road Runner High Speed Online package, offering speeds up to 7.0 Mbps, Road Runner Standard is more than 4 times faster than Road Runner Lite. Finally, if you do a lot of downloading or are running multiple computers the Road Runner Turbo with PowerBoost offers download speeds up to 10 Mbps, and PowerBoost can give you speeds approaching 16 Mbps when downloading large items.

So which is best when considering Time Warner vs Satellite TV?  Our recommendation is DIRECTV for their pricing, sports programming and DVR service. If on-demand is your top priority, Time Warner should be given consideration. Also Time Warner cable may be best for a triple-play bundle, at least for one year, just be aware of a probable price increase after that first year of service. For lower pricing without premium sports packages, or an HD only bundle, DISH Network should be your choice.


  1. TWC has to be the worst when it comes to customer service. Ive had so many issues that i’ve lost track. I dont know what their deal is, but time warner cable needs to pull their head out, realize thier customers are the reason they exist, and work with them not against them. if they dont, more and more people are going to dump them for direct tv or verizon fios like they are

  2. This has to be the best write up of the current (late 2008) TWC, DTV and DN I’ve read so far. Props to you!

    Some stuff I like to add:
    DTV and DN requires 2 yrs of service while TWC is month to month.

    I’ve had TWC for over 2 yrs and was pretty OK with it, but now that I have HDTV, I’m considering satellite over cable b/c of HD content. However, I’m reading a lot of horror stories with DTV and DN costumer service and billing problems.

    Good luck in your search for the right product!

    • Yes, billing problems. Ive been with direct TV for about 15 yrs and have 2 properties on one bill. To make a long story short, READ YOUR BILLS carefully. They have ripped me off by hundreds of dollars and once I straightened it all out , they would only credit me 6 months. What they do- box goes bad, advise Direct TV, they send new box, they send box to return bad box. Then they never disconnect the bad box bill portion . I kid you not that I had an on going saga for weeks. The latest interaction was about 3 weeks ago. This once again was exactly as described above. I removed an HD DVR from a room entirely. They said they disconnected but alas this is their trick . They DON’T and continue to bill for a box that has already been mailed back to them in the box the sent .

  3. I loved Direct TV But sadly since there is a small tree in the way i can’t have it where i live. Since i still have 19 months to go in my contract it will cost me $380 to cancel my contract. Luckily you can suspend your service 6 months at a time while you pay zero a month, The only catch is when ever you start the service again it starts off from 19 months. SO in short i am going to wait until i have the money to disconnect or that darn tree comes down by accident wink wink…

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