What Popular Cable TV Myths Do Americans Still Believe In 2022?

If you’re not quite sure how cable, satellite, and streaming TV works, you’re not alone. Some terms are confusing and have more than one meaning, but we’ll help clear some things up.

We conducted a survey to uncover which cable and satellite TV myths Americans still believe and which tech myths are being Googled most around the country.

We’re all here to have some fun while clearing up some of the misconceptions, misnomers, and myths around cable, satellite, streaming, and “live” TV, so we’ll provide you with simple explanations and extra resources so you can become a TV guru too.

The Majority of Americans can’t explain how cable TV or satellite TV works

It’s not a myth per se, but we figured we’d see how many people know how they’re getting TV these days.

  • 87% of people can’t explain how cable TV work
  • 82% of people can’t explain how satellite TV works

It doesn’t matter how basic cable TV works for most people, so long as they’re getting the best deal for cable TV (or satellite TV).

It’s easy to get confused: Some folks still use “TV” and “cable” interchangeably—“I saw this cool new gangster show on cable.” Of course, now we might say, “I streamed this show,” even if we played it on cable TV (which would be accurate if it’s on demand, which we’ll talk more about later). Some folks even call cable TV “live TV” if it’s not streamed.

One more myth while we’re here: Satellite TV may be misperceived as an option only for rural areas, but it’s a great option for plenty of people around the country, regardless of whether they’re in the city, suburbs, or rural areas.

64% of people believe that cable TV will always be more expensive than streaming

When we compare cable vs. streaming TV costs, streaming usually comes out cheaper—but the price gap is closing as some services raise their prices and offer packages that include live TV.

Plus, as we noted in our State of Cable report, most people who have cable TV add other services on top of their cable package—which could add anywhere from  However, those who completely cut the cord say they saved an average of $30 a month.

You could find plenty of free or low-cost cable TV options without streaming or internet. However, most Americans are paying for streaming, cable TV, and internet packages in some combination.

1 in 5 think that streaming has more live channels than cable or satellite TV

As we saw in our cable vs. streaming report, some of the best live TV streaming services like YouTube TV have approached over 100 channels (over 85 of which are live). But cable and satellite TV still cover channels in the 200–300+ range.

As always, while these packages include more popular channels like Discovery, History, and Fox News, not all of the channels will be your favorites, and some are just radio channels and foreign languages you may not watch. Still, cable and satellite beat the sheer number of live channels streaming services offer.

1 in 5 Americans don’t know what HDTV stands for

We were a little surprised that one in five people didn’t know what HDTV stood for. High Definition Television may not exactly break out letter-for-letter in the acronym HDTV—but HD is a common term, and TV’s already abbreviated, baby.

When asked what HDTV stands for, the most popular wrong answer was “High Definition Telecommute Vision.”

Maybe our respondents are speaking to how we transport ourselves into another world through TV shows and movies. Maybe.

16% of Americans don’t know what “snowy” TV is

The static fuzz that comes with an unclear signal is starting to become less of an issue for people who are more used to the choppy video and audio, buffering issues, or dropped titles that come from live TV streaming and on-demand video.

When asked what they thought snowy TV was, the most popular wrong answers were the following:

  1. The weather outside is bad (7%)
  2. Your TV is old (5%)
  3. Your TV is too cold (3%)

These wrong answers might lead to “snowy” issues while watching cable television. But most snowy issues you can’t fix come from the TV provider’s network problems—which may or may not be weather-related.

Quick pro tips for fixing streaming or on-demand video issues: Try pausing or restarting your show or movie, checking if other programs or services work, troubleshooting your Wi-Fi or devices, and double-checking all the correct subscriptions and accounts paid for. If not, check if your provider has an outage affecting your service.

Nearly 40% of Americans think that these are bunny or rabbit ears

A TV antenna that looks like 'bunny ears'

When asked for the official name of the pictured device, 59% of our respondents knew they were called an antenna. But 39% said they were officially called bunny ears or rabbit ears. The nickname has stuck around, and most people will probably know what you’re talking about if that’s what you call them.

However, 2% of our respondents mistook this for an internet modem. Which leads to our next myth—

1 in 3 Americans think you need internet to make cable TV work

We thought we were old before, but now we realize one-third of Americans don’t know that cable TV works without needing an internet connection.

Some TV options rely on the internet, like streaming services or on-demand and DVR recording options from your cable company. But plenty of cable TV options are just that: a coaxial cable that feeds information from the provider’s network into your television.

While most providers offer cable TV and internet bundled together, you can get standalone TV packages, no internet required—which could be useful during specific service outages.

47% of Americans think that cable TV can buffer

Depending on your cable TV provider, you may have access to on-demand TV options that let you pause and reverse/fast forward. However, cable TV itself is a direct feed from each channel’s provider that doesn’t require buffering like an internet-based program would.

47% think that cable TV can buffer

It’s not worth trying to pause your cable TV program to “let it catch up.” However, if you’re streaming or watching on-demand programs, this technique might do the trick.

What myths do your friends and family believe?

Who knows how TV works in your family? Could they name the different cables and components required to stream their favorite shows?

Knowing everything about your TV service isn’t necessary to kick back and enjoy your shows, but it’s fun seeing what people do and don’t know about the technology we enjoy every day.

Methodology

We surveyed 775 Americans nationwide to test their cable TV and satellite TV knowledge. Participants were located in all 50 states with ages ranging from 18–54+. We then compiled the results into this online report.

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