Since I was a kid I have been fascinated by the idea of pulling in TV and radio stations from around the world. The only thing was, at that time the best that could be done on the east coast of Northern Ireland was to receive stations from Scotland and the Republic of Ireland. Yes, satellites existed then (I'm not that old you know), but the equipment to receive them was way beyond the reach of normal people, and huge dishes were required since the signals were much weaker than today's high-powered satellites. Unfortunately, to receive even Scottish or Irish TV, a large antenna mounted as high as possible with an amplifier would be required, and so I wasn't able to do this until I moved into my own house in 1993.
Having done what I could with "ordinary" aerials, I bought my first satellite system, an Amstrad SRD400. This system was intended to receive Sky TV , but could also receive foreign channels (mostly German) from the Astra satellites at 19.2° east. At that time I did not have to subscribe to Sky as Sky One, UK Gold, MTV, Bravo, Discovery Channel etc were all FREE!! (remember those days?)
Also at that time I began to read magazines like What Satellite TV and I soon found out that there was far more up there than the channels on Astra. In December 1994 I bought a multi-satellite system consisting of a Channel Master 1.2m dish and Echostar receiver/positioner and actuator. Even in those analog-only days this was sufficient to pull in about 250 channels, more than half of which were free to air. Now I have added a digital receiver to the system and can receive several thousand TV and radio channels, and still about half of them are FREE!!
Some examples of what can be received:
General entertainment, movies and even sport.
An amazing assortment of foreign channels
News feeds from around the world as they are fed back to broadcasters
Tons of radio stations
Most of this can be received without subscription. Live sports can often be found on satellite feeds totally in the clear.
I'm not going to try to give details of where to find all this - there are plenty of websites that do this far better than I could and I have provided links to as many of them as possible.
What I'm trying to do here is make it known that satellite TV is about much more than the channels available from the local pay-TV operator and to try to encourage those who are interested to go beyond this and to see what else is out there.
Sure, Sky TV is fine (apart from the endless ads and repeats :-). For most people this will provide all the channels they want, and far more than terrestrial digital. Both however (in my opinion) are far superior to cable (the problem with cable is that you have to pay a subscription before they loan you the box or anything comes down the wire, whilst with satellite you just get the equipment and then receive all the free stuff before deciding which if any channels you want to subscribe to).
However, if you want a bit more from satellite TV, there's nothing to beat a motorised system. And by the way, you don't need a big dish any more. Newer, more powerful satellites mean that it is well worth motorising an old 80cm (Sky analogue) dish (or a 60cm if you live in the south of the UK or in Central Europe). With one of the inexpensive motorised upgrades now available you could be motorised for not too much dosh. And installation doesn't necessarily have to be left to the professionals - I installed a motorised dish myself (it was a full day's work but not beyond the capability of a fairly knowledgeable and DIY-competent individual).
I have provided links to satellite operators, suppliers, frequency lists, technical information (including installation), etc, with my comments included where appropriate.
My other satellite - related pages: