Best Satellite TV & Cable Companies
Finding the best satellite TV or the best cable provider can be a serious undertaking. You will want to find the ideal package with a company that won't charge you more than your budget affords. There are a lot of things to consider-the location, reception, contract terms, as well as many other factors.
As of 2013, there are around 54 million cable subscribers in the US. However, I would be wary of signing up with a TV provider who is unable to provide you with all the features that interest you. A bundle may be your best bet in most cases because of the lower price and multitude of options. Not all areas offer the same services, and not all services offer the packages you might want. These five companies, however, scored pretty high on my list. I have reviewed the top TV providers below.
Best Satellite TV & Cable Providers: What to Consider
Here are the different factors you should consider:
Location - Some areas offer exclusive local services to the people of a particular city while other regions don't get services that might be typical of most places. Furthermore, there are individual channels that don't broadcast in specific locations. Before making any decisions find out which providers are in your city.
Reception - Cable and satellite have very different reception issues. Satellite is affected by weather conditions and physical obstructions. If you can set up your dish somewhere that will have a clear path to the sky, then you will get the best reception. If your satellite does go out, it is probably only temporary. Cable is typically safe from storms and the wind but when it does go out it might mean a serious issue has occurred and may take a long while to fix.
Bundles - Many TV providers offer packages that include other services like internet. So if you are in the market for both at once, I would keep that in mind.
Contracts - Even the best satellite TV service can often come with a contract, and it can be a hassle if you want to cancel before your term is up. It may even result in fees. Most cable options do not need any contractual agreements unless you sign up for certain special deals or packages.
After you've taken these into consideration, take a look at the pros and cons of the top 5 television providers. For more information, visit the articles on TV providers.
How to Find Cheap Cable TV Service
If you are troubled by your satellite or cable bill each month, there are ways you can alleviate the burden. Here are some methods you can use to save money on your TV bill:
Our homes today are a cornucopia of communication. With internet, TV and cell phones we are constantly communicating with our friends, family and the rest of the world. However, if you are paying for all of these services separately, you may be spending more than you have to. When you bundle services with one provider you may be able to spend a lot less each month. For instance, DIRECTV partners with satellite internet providers like HughesNet and phone services like AT&T. According to their website you can save $180 a month if you bundle specific services that you were already paying for separately.
Keep What You Use
In a culture where success is often expressed in excess, we often pay for a lot more than we use. Many TV service providers offer over 100 channels but how many of them do you actually watch? Take a good look at your bill and look for the little extras that add up. If you can, choose a package with fewer channels and less expense. If you don't need HD or DVR services, cancel them to save money in a pinch.
Don't buy into the misconception that the price which shows up on your TV bill each month is set in stone. You can negotiate your cable bill just like you would negotiate for a lower price on a car. Most of the time, the provider is more interested in your continued business than getting a specific price every month. There are several tactics that you can use when haggling with your television provider:
- Mention their competitor. Tell them you've been thinking about switching to cable or satellite. This works best if you can actually quote a real price. Do some research; call up their competitors. This will give you ammo to use against them, and can possibly get you a better price.
- Mention your attraction to switching to online streaming only. Talk about the low prices of services like Netflix. Just leave out how you would miss out on live programming.
- Talk about your loyalty over the years. If you've used a service for a while, your loyalty might be more valuable than the company is willing to let on.
- Has the provider added services or promotions since you signed up? Ask if those services can be added for no extra cost.
- If they won't budge on the price, demand that they add services for free. They may be more willing to add services than to cut the cost.
Don't grumble every time your cable bill comes in the mail and then resign yourself to paying over and over. If you don't like your deal then switch. Customer loyalty is important to TV providers but they sure don't show it. In fact, some companies are so focused on gaining new customers that the best promotions and deals are given to people who are just signing on.
Long term customers experience inflated price hikes for no added service. If this is that case you don't have to put up with it. Shop around for a better service every 6 months to a year. If the best deals are for new customers, take advantage and update your service. Before you switch, tell your current provider about the better deals you found. They may give you an even better package to keep you around.
Meet the Best Satellite TV & Cable Providers
- Over 280 channels
- Exclusive sports packages
- A variety of HD channels
- Excellent customer service
- Good signal for satellite
- On the expensive side with prices from $30 to $92
DIRECTV offers a wide range of features, channels and packages, DIRECTV is among the best and most popular cable services around. Particularly among sports fans because of their exclusive rights to the NFL Sunday Ticket package. DIRECTV makes setting up service as easy and inexpensive as possible. First, there is typically no equipment to buy as most fees are waived once you order service. This is a welcome perk because there are some providers who charge you monthly to buy or lease your equipment. In addition, DIRECTV doesn't charge you for HD service and if you don't have an HD receiver in your home, your technician will provide you with one free of charge.
Furthermore, there is never any charge for the technician to come out to your home to install service. This is another welcome perk that is in direct contrast to a number of the company's competitors. However, one thing to be aware of is that DIRECTV requires a two-year contract, so you're committing to them for a bit of time when you do sign up.
While DIRECTV is a bit more expensive than much of its competition, it certainly offers the quality service to justify it through its array of packages and bundles. The company's cable packages range from $29.99 to $89.99, and that includes NFL Sunday Ticket free of charge and three months of premium movie channels. While DIRECTV does not offer internet service, if you do want to bundle services, it offers a variety of options via third party agreements with Verizon, Comcast, AT&T, CenturyLink, Exede Internet, HughesNet, Windstream, Mediacom, and Time Warner Cable.
Dish Network Review
- Over 300 channels
- Good value pricing
- Bundle TV, phone, and internet for savings
- Helpful customer service
- Reliable DVR service
- Customer service can take a while to reach
- Not available in Puerto Rico and parts of Alaska
DISH typically waives all of your initiation fees when you begin service. And there is no additional installation fee for a technician to come out to your home. This gives DISH a bit of an edge over many cable providers who charge installation fees. However, one thing DISH does require you to buy your equipment from them, so expect to see a monthly charge on your bill for that.
Though, one point in DISH Network's favor is that they do provide custom installation of TVs (such as wall mountings) and home theaters and wireless networks. In addition, DISH does charge $10 per month for high-definition service. But if you enroll in Auto Pay with paperless billing, DISH will waive any charges for HD service, which essentially makes it free.
In addition, DISH also recently introduced The Genie. The Genie provides full HD service in every room in which service installed. Secondly, once you have had The Genie for enough time it begins to predict your viewing habits and records shows it expects you will enjoy.
Like DIRECTV, DISH requires a two-year commitment once you begin service. So if you like to jump around between providers you will have to keep that in mind. But you will have some quality service at competitive prices to look forward to for those two years. Dish Network's cable services range from $19.99 to $39.99 per month, which is fairly cheap. Though, their channel offerings and sports packages don't quite measure up to DIRECTV. If you want to bundle, Dish has you covered as their satellite internet and cable service bundles range from $39.99 to $69.99 per month.
AT&T U-verse Review
- Competitively priced
- Combine TV, Internet and phone for savings
- Free and reliable DVR capabilities
- Great digital service
- Free installation
- Limited streaming capabilities
- Limited U-verse availability
AT&T U-verse setup is straight-forward and a technician will arrive at your home days after placing your order. As is common with most companies, AT&T waives all of your installation fees. However, be prepared to pay a monthly charge for your equipment as the company requires you to buy it. The charge is only about $8 per month but that does add up after some time. The one benefit of paying for these boxes is that you get to keep them even when you finally terminate your service. Also, another perk is that AT&T won't charge you for re-installation if you move. Just give them a call and they will set up your service at your new residence.
Another little bonus is that, depending on which services you order, AT&T will send you a Visa prepaid debit card with $50 to $300 loaded onto it. The amount of money you get as a rebate depends on which of their array of packages you order. So, for example, if you order cable and internet service, you should get a rebate in the range of $150.
AT&T's DVR service comes standard, which is a nice bonus. And you can record four shows simultaneously using their boxes which is rather convenient.
One of AT&T U-verse's biggest weaknesses is that it is only available in 20 states. One last thing to note is that AT&T requires a one-year contract. So expect to commit to U-verse for at least a year when you sign up.
AT&T's packages are among the best around as well. Ranging from $29.99 to $91.99, they have something for everyone. And if you're bundling telephone and internet service, the value gets even better.
Time Warner Cable Review
- Dependable display is rarely interrupted
- High- quality audio and visual display
- Bundle TV, phone, and internet for savings
- Unavailable in many areas of the U.S.
- Negative consumer reviews
- Poor customer service
Setting up service with Time Warner Cable is simple. Once you select your preferred services, a technician will arrive at your residence within a week's time. And if you have less than stellar credit, there is a way around the credit check. By default, Time Warner does check your credit, but if you set up automatic, recurring payments, the company will bypass a credit check.
One thing to be aware of is that you will incur a setup charge once you begin service with Time Warner Cable. The set-up fee is $14.95 which is smaller than other companies who charge installation fees, but there are still a number of providers who don't charge an installation fee at all. Also, note that this fee is not for installation. If you wish, Time Warner Cable will send you the equipment you need as well as instructions and allow you to set up your own service. But if you do need a technician to come out, that will come at an additional fee. However, we should note that if you order Time Warner Cable's highest-tiered package, these introductory fees are automatically waived.
Moreover, Time Warner Cable also charges you for equipment, so expect to pay about $8 per month for your cable box and your modem if you require one. And if you want HD service, there is an additional fee for that as well.
But there are some areas where Time Warner Cable is strong. First of all, they offer a wide variety of channels and every order includes 5 GB of email storage. And if you order their highest tiered package, you'll get 30 GB of storage.
Also, if you get a DVR, Time Warner Cable offers on-demand as well as DVR in up to four rooms which can record simultaneously.
In addition, Time Warner Cable offers free access to a number of the company's free hotspots around your city. The places in which you can take advantage of this are numerous but varied. But again, it is a nice perk to have.
Ranging from $44.99 to $89.99, Time Warner Cable offers a wide variety of packages that should satisfy most people's needs. But one of the biggest drawbacks is that their service is not available in most of the country, so if you live in the southeast, you will not have access to their service.
- Bundle TV, phone, and internet for savings
- Rare disruptions in picture or audio
- High-quality video and audio
- Decent availability
- Prices are less competitive than other top services
- No free DVR
- Installation fees
XFINITY brands itself as a High-Speed internet, cable and telephone company, so their services are offered under the expectation that you'll order one of their many packages and bundles. And when it comes to bundling, few, if any, companies can offer the variety Comcast can.
Setting up your service with Comcast is a simple process and a technician will arrive at your home in days. However, be aware that Comcast does charge about $50 for installation. You can choose to pay this fee up front or when you receive your first bill. Secondly, Comcast also charges you to rent their equipment. So expect about an $8 charge for each device you require. In addition, since you are only renting the equipment, you have to return each device when you suspend your service. And if you don't return anything, expect to be charged for it on your final bill.
Also, if you want HD and DVR services, you have to upgrade to the DVR-ready box. And if you want HD and a DVR in any additional rooms, you'll have to pay to upgrade those boxes as well. While Comcast does offer pretty good HD and DVR service, it is a bit of a negative that it ends up being costly.
Comcast does have some perks, though. They offer a wide variety of channels and their On Demand service is excellent. Furthermore, Comcast includes McAfee Security Suite free of charge. Which is a nice bonus if you don't have anti-virus protection on any of your PCs. And there is no minimum term when beginning service.
And, like we mentioned earlier, Comcast offers a wide variety of bundles. Ranging $89.99 to $129.99 per month, you won't find a better value if you need cable, internet, phone, and in the case of their highest tiered service, home security.
Best Satellite TV & Cable Provider Review Recap
There are a lot of quality services to consider within my list of the top 5 television providers. The top concerns when looking for your new cable or satellite provider is customer care, availability and price. You should also explore bundling options to see if you can save by combining services. Before you opt for one of the big brands out there, make sure you explore any exclusive local options you might have in your area.
I hope that the information in this review helps you on your way to saving money. You might also be interested in our reviews for the best internet service providers. If you are looking at satellite options, try our reviews of the best satellite internet providers.