The most crucial choice of all, however, in what receiver you want to buy, is what kind of channels you want to look at: Do you want to pay for your TV entertainment by a subscription, or will you be satisfied with those - very many - channels that transmit their programs for free, without any encoding? You must answer that before even thinking about what kind of receiver to look for. If you buy a receiver, however good, that is intended only for free ('free-to-air' or FTA in the jargon) channels, and then later decide you want to subscribe to something, you will have to scrap your receiver and get a new one. You cannot 'add' a subscription decoder to an FTA (free-channel) receiver unless it is prepared for this from the outset. And for some subscription packages, you may be restricted to a small number of 'approved' receivers or even have to buy one directly from the subscription channel.

We will, however, before we go into the dark depths of subscription TV, the hardware and the channels, look at what kind of free channel fare is out there, on the various satellites.