As they say, “Anything that is free is worth saving up for.” The implication is, of course, that you get what you pay for! Is this the case with free-to-air satellite television? It is free of monthly bills and equipment rentals, but after you purchase your equipment, do you see a “return on investment” in terms of entertainment? Some potential FTA users are skeptical that they will be able to find programming that meets their needs, or that fills the void left by commercial satellite or cable packages. If you do tune in to FTA, what will you be seeing?
First, what is off-limits to FTA viewers? You cannot watch premium or subscription-based satellite channels. These are encrypted by broadcasters, who then sell the rights to companies like Dish Network or DirecTV. Certain satellites are used exclusively by these companies, and as an FTA viewer, you cannot access the signals that they are transmitting.
What you can access are the hundreds of unencrypted channels that are available. You’ll need some equipment to start with; for a trustworthy supplier, visit Ocean Satellite for FTA receivers and dishes. Programming choices are varied but include:
Foreign programming. Viewers can access broadcasts in Russian, Arabic, Spanish, and other languages. In many countries around the world, FTA is a primary method of watching television, so many options are available unencrypted. This allows viewers in the United States, for instance, to watch news updates in Arabic or Spanish. This is a benefit for those originally from those regions, but also for those who want to learn a new language or study a different culture.
Educational options. PBS is available to FTA viewers, and their programming is varied. From children’s shows, like Curious George, to nature documentaries to news shows, there is a lot on just these channels. You can also find channels broadcasting NASA TV.
News/current events. In addition to PBS, you can find various news programs, reporting from all over the world. This is a major benefit of FTA, and many people originally from foreign countries take advantage of this option to watch news from their native region or country.
Entertainment. You can find English and foreign language radio, which feature talk shows, music, and more. You may also be able to pick up local network broadcasts. Local networks are actually free-to-air, even though they are included in cable and commercial satellite packages. With FTA satellite, you can access these for news, sports coverage, and sitcom and drama programs. Movies are available, as is a variety of Christian-themed broadcasts.
Sports. You don’t necessarily need ESPN to see your favorite sports. You can’t access commercialized games, such as those played by the NFL, but you can watch soccer from around the world, many college games, and sports like gymnastics and volleyball.
One drawback is that you are not guaranteed a channel that has been unencrypted will remain that way. Sometimes, a broadcaster may decide to scramble the signal and require you to pay for it through a commercial satellite company. Most FTA customers find, though, that this disadvantage is negated because of the wide variety of programming that is available. There is literally always something on.
Many free-to-air satellite customers use FTA in conjunction with their cable or satellite packages from companies like Dish Network. That is, they want more options and different types of programming than are typically available commercially.
Whether you use FTA satellite as a complement to paid programming or as your sole source of television, you will find that there is variety, and that you get much more than you pay for.