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Starting from Scratch with Satellite TV


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#1 jperry29

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Posted 30 January 2013 - 12:11 PM

I am in my first year as a fulltimer and still getting my rig outfitted to living the lifestyle. For the last couple of months I have been tackling how to reconfigure my systems to get the television entertainment I want. For the past seven months we have experimented with over-the-air reception and a minimalist fixed-base cable connection. We know from this experiment that once we start moving frequently that this will not be a practical method nor will it satisfy what we want in our television entertainment.

What we want:
  • "Cable" programming - packages that cable companies call their "Most Popular" or "Premium" that include TCM, Encore, NatGeo, Science, etc.
  • High Definition
  • Ability to watch two TVs simultaniously (each TV on a different channel)
  • DVR - At a minimum capable of watching one channel or recording while recording another channel. Being able to record more than one while watching another would be a bonus.
  • I would prefer to own all my own equipment.
  • We will spend significant amounts of time camped where a clear shot to the sky is impossible from the rig. Antenna will need to be portable.

What I think I know:
  • The Winegard GM-1518 looks like a good choice for an antenna.
  • Dish Network appears to be the defacto choice for HD and being an RV'er
What I am having trouble sorting out:
  • Can I buy my own receiver from a receiver store? Or do I have to take one from the service provider, Dish?
  • If I can buy my own, what receiver is a good mate to the GM-1518 and Dish Network?
  • Is the DVR integral to the receiver or a seperate box? I am very familiar with it being integral to my receiver when I was on XFinity in the sticks and bricks, but is there another way to do it?
  • I've read so many posts that my head is spinning on the subject about whether you can get CBS, NBC, ABC, Fox channels while jumping around the country and changing "local" stations every few weeks. Do I need to get comfortable with using the over-the-air antenna for prime time shows on the aforementioned channels or is there a way to get them via the Dish service?
I have not bought anything yet so I am not locked into any one particular method at the moment. Any insight on my thinking/choices/questions would be greatly appreciated.

Edited by jperry29, 30 January 2013 - 12:13 PM.

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#2 LindaH

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Posted 30 January 2013 - 12:56 PM

What we want:

  • "Cable" programming - packages that cable companies call their "Most Popular" or "Premium" that include TCM, Encore, NatGeo, Science, etc.
  • High Definition
  • Ability to watch two TVs simultaniously (each TV on a different channel)
  • DVR - At a minimum capable of watching one channel or recording while recording another channel. Being able to record more than one while watching another would be a bonus.
  • I would prefer to own all my own equipment.
  • We will spend significant amounts of time camped where a clear shot to the sky is impossible from the rig. Antenna will need to be portable.

What I think I know:
  • The Winegard GM-1518 looks like a good choice for an antenna.

The Winegard GM-1518 is a dome. You will not get HD programming with a dome and DirecTV. While you can get HD programming with a dome and DISH, you will not be able to watch two different programs on two different TVs *IF* those two programs are are two different satellites.

To do what you want to do -- whether you go with DISH or DirecTV -- you'll want an open-face, multiple-LNB dish such as the Winegard Trav'ler or equivalent tripod-mounted dish.

Go to both DirecTV's and DISH's websites and look at their programming packages and see which ones have the channels you want.

Can I buy my own receiver from a receiver store? Or do I have to take one from the service provider, Dish?


As a new customer, both DirecTV and DISH should give you a free receiver.

If I can buy my own, what receiver is a good mate to the GM-1518 and Dish Network?


See my comment above about a dome and DISH...it's not a good choice for what you want to do.

I've read so many posts that my head is spinning on the subject about whether you can get CBS, NBC, ABC, Fox channels while jumping around the country and changing "local" stations every few weeks. Do I need to get comfortable with using the over-the-air antenna for prime time shows on the aforementioned channels or is there a way to get them via the Dish service?


DISH does not offer DNS (Distant Network Service; i.e., network programming from both the east coast and the west coast). However, you can get DNS through a 3rd-party company, All American Direct: www.mydistantnetworks.com

Or, if you'll be in areas with OTA programming, you can always raise your batwing antenna and pull in the local channels that way. However, that pretty much falls apart if, like us, you stay in out-of-the-way places far from metropolitan area where you can get OTA signals.


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#3 jperry29

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Posted 30 January 2013 - 01:29 PM

Linda, You said:

"DISH does not offer DNS (Distant Network Service; i.e., network programming from both the east coast and the west coast). However, you can get DNS through a 3rd-party company, All American Direct: www.mydistantnetworks.com"

So that means I buy two services? Do they somehow work through the same receiver or is there a receiver for each?
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#4 docj

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Posted 30 January 2013 - 02:22 PM

Linda, You said:

"DISH does not offer DNS (Distant Network Service; i.e., network programming from both the east coast and the west coast). However, you can get DNS through a 3rd-party company, All American Direct: www.mydistantnetworks.com"

So that means I buy two services? Do they somehow work through the same receiver or is there a receiver for each?


The answer to your question is "yes" you would be contracting for two different services working through the the same receiver and dish antenna. It is, however, important to note that All American does not off network services in HD; there service is strictly SD.

In comparison, DirecTV's DNS service is in HD for NBC, ABC, CBS and FOX; it is SD for PBS.

However, I have no idea how you have come to the conclusion that Dish is the "defacto choice" for receiving HD in an RV. Many of us use the Winegard Trav'ler system to receive DirecTV HD. Now that Dish no longer offers HD DNS services, IMHO DirecTV is the only satellite provider I would consider. What's the point of having an HD system and not being able to receive the major broadcast networks in HD.

Having had a dome system on a previous RV I would never again have one, anyway, regardless of provider. The smaller size dish needed for use in the dome, plus transmission losses at the dome surface, result in them being far lower gain systems than the large, open-face dishes used in the Winegard Trav'ler. We have far more success in locking onto the satellites now than we ever did with the dome. Furthermore, dome systems are essentially useless with DVRs if you want to be able to record one channel and watch another or to be able to record two or more channels at the same time.

IMHO if you are starting from scratch the "top-of-the-line" system would be a Winegard Trav'ler SWM for DirecTV mated to a DirecTV Genie DVR capable of recording up to five HD programs at one time. Personally, I don't see how anything even comes close.

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#5 MidMi

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Posted 30 January 2013 - 04:06 PM

The answer to your question is "yes" you would be contracting for two different services working through the the same receiver and dish antenna. It is, however, important to note that All American does not off network services in HD; there service is strictly SD.

In comparison, DirecTV's DNS service is in HD for NBC, ABC, CBS and FOX; it is SD for PBS.

However, I have no idea how you have come to the conclusion that Dish is the "defacto choice" for receiving HD in an RV. Many of us use the Winegard Trav'ler system to receive DirecTV HD. Now that Dish no longer offers HD DNS services, IMHO DirecTV is the only satellite provider I would consider. What's the point of having an HD system and not being able to receive the major broadcast networks in HD.

Having had a dome system on a previous RV I would never again have one, anyway, regardless of provider. The smaller size dish needed for use in the dome, plus transmission losses at the dome surface, result in them being far lower gain systems than the large, open-face dishes used in the Winegard Trav'ler. We have far more success in locking onto the satellites now than we ever did with the dome. Furthermore, dome systems are essentially useless with DVRs if you want to be able to record one channel and watch another or to be able to record two or more channels at the same time.

IMHO if you are starting from scratch the "top-of-the-line" system would be a Winegard Trav'ler SWM for DirecTV mated to a DirecTV Genie DVR capable of recording up to five HD programs at one time. Personally, I don't see how anything even comes close.


If there are obstacles in the way, the OP would need a portable dish to receive a signal. For HD it would have to be a multiple LNB open dish mounted on a tripod or other device.

If she went with Dish she can call and have her HD locals changed at any time.

Edited by MidMi, 30 January 2013 - 04:11 PM.

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#6 jperry29

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Posted 30 January 2013 - 05:08 PM

docj, Thanks. My comment about being the defacto choice was that I was under the impression that the GM-1518 antenna was not compatible with DirectTV's HD satellites and therefore if I wanted HD I would have to go with Dish. All the ads I see say that only the one, SD for DirectTV satellite can be used. Is that wrong?
You have sold me on the Trav'ler being the top of the line choice but as far as I can tell, it cannot be used with a tripod. Is there an option out there that is as capable as a Trav'ler but portable?

Edited by jperry29, 30 January 2013 - 05:41 PM.

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#7 Bill Adams

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Posted 30 January 2013 - 06:04 PM

You are correct that if you choose a dome as your antenna then only Dish can provide HD. What you need to decide is whether you actually want a dome.
The problem with a dome and Dish Network is that Dish provides all of their programming from 3 different satellites (6 if you want to get technical) @ 110, 119 and 129. The other 3 are for the East Coast homeowners @ 61.5, 72 and 77. The problem as it pertains to you is that one of your requirements is to be able to watch 2 different channels on 2 different TV's. This will work with a dome but only on a limited basis. The first (main) receiver will be able to watch whatever channel they choose, but the second receiver becomes a slave to the first and can only watch a channel that happens to be broadcast from the one satellite that has been selected by they main receiver. Using a DVR is even worse since most of the recording take place on tuner 2 and only tuner 1 can move the antenna so there's no way to know if the recording will take place or whether you will have an hour long recording of "complete signal loss".
Both DirecTV and Dish offer excellent service so you just have to compare your needs and desires with the realities that each service can provide based upon your antenna choice.

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#8 Biker56

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Posted 30 January 2013 - 06:55 PM

Trav'ler doesn't come in a portable. But you can buy a tripod and put a Slimline SWM3 DirecTV Dish on it. It will only require 1 cable to feed a Genie DVR
DirecTV new customer deals may give you a free receiver. The new Genie is the one that can record 5 programs at once. It also has a split screen to use.
But the receiver will still belong to them, not you. Plus you will have a 2 year contract.

DirecTV DNS has CBS, NBC, ABC & Fox in HD PBS and CW in SD that you will only get one coast depending on your billing address which one you get.

I have the Genie and the only con so far. Is it can record more programs then I have time to watch. :)

Edited by Biker56, 30 January 2013 - 06:59 PM.

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#9 Zulu

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Posted 30 January 2013 - 07:24 PM

You have sold me on the Trav'ler being the top of the line choice but as far as I can tell, it cannot be used with a tripod. Is there an option out there that is as capable as a Trav'ler but portable?

My solution was a Trav'ler + a portable tripod (for when I'm parked under trees). BTW, acquiring HD sats with a tripod is problematic with either DISH or DirecTV.

I have a DirecTV whole-house DVR in my stick house & DISH Hopper whole-house (or whole-RV) DVR in my motorhome. I'm going to keep the DISH setup so that should tell you my inclinations.

Anyway, you might want to consider a media center approach like myself and others are doing. That is, we want more than just DISH (or DirecTV) . . . I want great sound + the ability to play back video and music from other sources (over-the-air, AppleTV, streaming), so I built my system around an AV receiver like a conventional stick house set up.

Lots of choices . . . that's the problem.

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#10 Al Florida

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Posted 30 January 2013 - 07:33 PM

I've read so many posts that my head is spinning on the subject about whether you can get CBS, NBC, ABC, Fox channels while jumping around the country and changing "local" stations every few weeks. Do I need to get comfortable with using the over-the-air antenna for prime time shows on the aforementioned channels or is there a way to get them via the Dish service?[/list]

I'm not sure what you mean about "changing local stations every few weeks". If your travel style takes you "far distances" (hundreds of miles) in the western US every few weeks then yes you need to change local channels. If you are only moving a 100 miles or so, you probably don't need to change locals. For example, you can get the Denver local channels all the way to the Utah border and maybe beyond. In Texas you can get the Dallas locals for over 200 air miles from Dallas, while still in Texas. I don't know how far into OK the Dallas locals go. In the eastern US the spot beams are tighter, but the Baltimore locals cover the Maryland coastal areas, southern NJ, Philadelphia, and more. Bottom line is you don't have to change just because you move. You only need to change locals if you move out of the spot beam.

Edited by Al Florida, 30 January 2013 - 07:36 PM.

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#11 Stanley P. Miller

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Posted 30 January 2013 - 09:34 PM

You can probably Google up a map for the spot beams used for Dish and Direct and see just how far you would have to move to need to change.

https://www.google.c...am coverage map

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#12 jperry29

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Posted 31 January 2013 - 10:19 PM

1359595494[/url]' post='598440']
My solution was a Trav'ler + a portable tripod (for when I'm parked under trees). BTW, acquiring HD sats with a tripod is problematic with either DISH or DirecTV.


I was wandering if anyone had done this and from your comment it sounds like it may take more tinkering with it than I am prepared to do.
As far as moving around goes, I'll cycle from the Deep South to the Pacific Northwest down into the RGV and then back to the South. Probably lots of zig-zagging into and out of the central part of the country.

Edited by jperry29, 31 January 2013 - 10:27 PM.

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#13 DaveM

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Posted 01 February 2013 - 06:32 AM

My soloution and happy with it. I own a Winegaurd Crarryout that has the automatic locating of the signal. This can be put out anywhere there is a clear sight to the sky (not under trees etc) and works great. After we bought that 4 yrs later we decided that we would be traveling a lot and didn't want the hassle of putting it out all the time and setting it up so we went with the Winegaurd traveler for Dish as thats the service we already had. Again one of my better buys when it comes to fulltime living. So now we use the traveler 90% of the time and once in awhile end up under trees and need the carryout.

With the Traveler you need to always tell the campground your checking into that you have sattelite tv and it's located on the front or rear of your unit so they can properly place you out of the trees. They are usually more than accomodating.

Good luck on your choice!


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#14 Mark & Dale Bruss

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Posted 01 February 2013 - 06:51 AM

We have a Trav'ler on the roof that we use most of the time. We also carry a tripod and a DPP 1000 triple headed dish for those four or five times a year that we find ourselves in the trees. We have a large rig and pretty have to take a site that we fit it over one that has better satellite view.

If you have a good tripod that allows the mast to be vertical, then aiming a triple headed dish is no harder that aiming a single. A good meter makes the job easier.

The only time we have found getting HD problematic was in Maryland (far East Coast) as satellite 129 is very low on the horizon and the trees do not have to be very high to get in the way.

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#15 Mark & Dale Bruss

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Posted 01 February 2013 - 07:00 AM

I would prefer to own all my own equipment.


You will own a lot of your equipment because a automatic dish won't come from the service.

However in these days of tech turns, owning receivers doesn't make much sense. Not sure of DirecTV but with Dish there is no economic advantage to receiver ownership. The fees are the same.

As for the belief that with ownership, you are not committed to a subscription, unlike a house where you can call up and change services on a whim, with an RV you are going to make some investment in the equipment that the service doesn't supply, like a automatic dish. Those investments often are not transferable to another service. You are making a committment to the service anyways..

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#16 Mark & Dale Bruss

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Posted 01 February 2013 - 07:07 AM

Different strokes for different folks. We DVR everything we watch so we have flexibility of when we watch the TV programs. The only time we use "Locals" is when we winter in Mission, Texas. The rest of the year we use DNS from All American Direct so we have consistent channel numbers for the DVR timers. Yes we don't have HD for the broadcast channels that way but again, different strokes.

We don't use the OTA antenna.

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#17 LindaH

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Posted 01 February 2013 - 09:46 AM

We're pretty much the same as Mark & Dale (except we don't have a DVR): We have DNS through All American Direct and "locals" when we're in Arizona for the winter and Washington State for the summer. While we could call DISH when we move out of a particular spot beam, we don't bother when traveling between the two places. About the only thing that we use the "locals" for is so that DH can watch sports in HD. I don't care that the DNS channels are not in HD...while it might be nice, it's not a deal-breaker for me.

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