Best TV Service
Finding 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. Where you live and which types of programs you prefer to watch are important factors to consider when deciding between cable providers.
In my review, I made sure reliability, cost, customer service, and channel selection were at the top of my list. Television preferences are unique to each one of us, so there may be other factors you should consider. Because a cable TV subscription is a hefty investment, I've reviewed the best cable providers to help you find which company best suits your needs.
Best Cable Providers: What to Consider
When I was researching cable providers in my area, I narrowed my search to reception, bundles, and contracts. Simply put, the best cable providers should be reliable in poor weather, user-friendly when you're finding shows to watch, and hassle-free when you're doing anything else. If you're in the market for cable TV, reflect on these areas when you do your own research.
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.
2. Cable TV and Internet Bundles
Many TV providers offer packages that bundle other services like phone and Internet together. So if you are in the market for any of those services at once, I would keep that in mind.
The majority of cable and satellite TV providers offer customers packaged deal pricing on a contract basis. Before you lock in on one particular company, be sure to review the terms of the contract. Some service providers don't make customers sign a contract, but service pricing is subject to change when the company decides to alter prices. Most TV contracts run for about a year, although there are some multi-year contracts with special pricing guarantees.
4. Additional Services
Many cable and satellite TV providers also offer extra services. For example, they may offer television, music, and radio channels unique to their company. If you're looking for cheap cable TV, you may have to sacrifice these additional packages.
- Sports packages. For the common sports fan, the major networks broadcast the most popular games. They might not, however, broadcast college sports, international sports, or women's leagues unless you pay for a premium sports package.
- Foreign language packages. Slightly different from international programming, but if you're interested in foreign language programming, you can expect most cable and satellite tv companies to broadcast content in a variety of languages.
- Live-recording. Some premium TV packages may offer additional equipment that allows customers to record shows for later viewing. Be aware that some companies may charge extra for equipment installation, and you may have a limit on how many shows can be recorded at once.
The best cable providers should be reliable in poor weather, user-friendly when you're finding shows to watch, and hassle-free when you're doing anything else.
Best Cable Packages: What are my Options?
The cable providers reviewed in this article offer a variety of entertainment and channel packages befitting a variety of interests and budgets. They can generally be divided into four categories:
- Basic. This package offers the standard network channels with a few add-ons not available on analog antennas. Basic cable is a good choice for customers on a budget because the price is minimal. The trade-off, however, is that this package offers the smallest selection of channels than many other services. Expect only the essentials to be offered.
- Basic Plus. A step above the basic cable package. Customers receive a selection of channels in addition to the basic network stations. Basic Plus includes some of the most popular cable networks such as USA, Bravo, Lifetime, Discovery, Nickelodeon, Disney, and more. Expect to pay a little more in return for a wider selection of channels. I would recommend this package to small families with young children looking to save some money.
- Premium. This package includes everything from Basic Plus with dozens (if not hundreds) of added extras. Expect HD programming, On-Demand movies, and exclusive channels like HBO. Of course, you can expect to pay a much higher price for premium cable or satellite television services.
- Internet-based. Some companies may allow users to buy TV service through the Internet. These providers may offer a la carte options or packages similar to traditional cable or satellite television. There are alternatives for watching television over the Internet that may be better, though.
How to Find the Best Cable Providers
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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:
Bundle Internet, TV and Phone Services
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.
Select the Plan Based on the Channels You Watch
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.
Negotiate the Monthly Price
It's not a new story. You open the monthly cable bill only to discover the price has gone up! According to the NPD group, a market research organization, monthly TV bills are expected to increase by 6% every year and could top out at $200 a month by 2020.
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 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:
Don't buy into the misconception that the price which shows up on your TV bill each month is set in stone.
- 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.
The Best TV Providers
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Dish Network Packages
- Good value pricing
- Bundle TV, phone, and internet for savings
- Free professional installation
- No fee for HD service
- Customer support among the industry's best
- Customer service can take a while to reach
- Two-year service agreement required
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.
- Over 280 channels
- Exclusive sports packages
- A variety of HD channels
- Excellent customer service
- Good signal for satellite
- Requires two-year contract
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.
AT&T U-Verse Packages
- Competitively priced
- Combine TV, Internet and phone for savings
- Great digital service
- Free installation
- Good customer service
- Limited streaming capabilities
- Limited U-verse availability
- Activation fees might apply
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 Packages
- High- quality audio and visual display
- Bundle TV, phone, and internet for savings
- No contract TV plans
- Free self-installation options
- Among the industry's worst in customer support
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.
Comcast Cable Packages
- Bundle TV, phone, and internet for savings
- Rare disruptions in picture or audio
- High-quality video and audio
- Extensive on-demand library
- Customer support improving
- Prices are less competitive than other top services
- No free DVR
- High 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.
Switch to the Best Cable Company
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. Cable companies are infamous for having poor customer satisfaction. According to the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI), customer satisfaction of cable companies is the lowest of any industry. The data predicts these numbers to only get worse as time goes on. Knowing that, it's no surprise that recent cable TV marketing has shifted to gaining new customers. Some of the best promotions and deals are given to people who are just signing on.
Long term customers may 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. For tips and advice on how to secure the best cable deals, check out our guide.
Best Cable Companies in my Area
Not all cable TV providers offer service where you live. Where streaming services and satellite dishes beam your favorite shows directly to your television, cable and fiber optic companies have to run a physical line down your neighborhood. For decades, cable TV has claimed territories across the United States where only they rule. They used to be the only television provider in town. Not satisfied with your service? Tough luck. Thanks to government legislation, however, there has been a dramatic shift in cable TV providers located across the country. Slowly, more and more competitors are staking flags on previously conquered land.
How do you find cable TV providers near you? The first thing you should do is check in your area. There are many websites to tell you which TV providers are located in your area. Use these to navigate the map and view every available option. You can also use our convenient tool to search for cable providers by ZIP code.
Be aware, though, that cable companies may offer different services or packages in different regions. Some areas are offered 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.
Best Cable TV Provider: Is It Right For Me?
Cable providers are a generally simple industry to understand. More or less, they offer the same features. You'll find sports channels, child programming, on-demand movies, pay-per-view, specialty shows, and some of your favorite prime-time shows no matter what cable provider you choose. Unfortunately, almost all cable providers suffer from the same flaws. Inevitable rate hikes, long installation appointments, confusing bills, and infamously poor customer service to name a few.
Even though cable television gets a bad rap, they still offer services that the alternatives and competitors can't match. Cable customers have the opportunity to watch hundreds of channels On Demand, thousands of channels in HD, have DVR functionality, and a low first-year rate. Online streaming services might be king for watching quality programming on the go, but they offer a severely limited plethora of channels than cable television. Recently, some cable providers even provide some streaming options for popular shows if you log into your account through an app.
When you start shopping around for the best cable deals, I suggest you keep customer support at the top of your list. Focus on value after. Dealing with cable companies can be a pain sometimes, but it's often worth it if you are happily paying less for it.
Customer service, legitimacy, and company reputation are three important factors to consider when doing business with any of the companies reviewed in this article. Head over to the American Customer Satisfaction Index for a numerical analysis of customer satisfaction within the cable TV industry.
Alternatives to the Best Cable Companies
According to the Internet & Television Association, there are 53 million cable subscribers in the U.S. With an industry so large it's hard not to see the merits of the product, especially when, for some, cable television is the only option.
If you think that the best cable providers can't meet your entertainment needs, don't worry. There are other options that serve a number of niche interests and offer special content. In some cases, you can watch the same content you love for a much lower price.
- Satellite TV: Satellite TV has actually been around since the 1990s and offers a viable alternative to traditional cable viewing. If you're in an area where cable providers don't service, you'll never have that problem with satellite. After a technician comes to your home to install and calibrate your satellite dish, programming from around the world can be beamed directly to you. You can learn more about the best satellite TV here. For an in-depth look at the most popular satellite providers, check out our comparison of Dish Network vs. DIRECTV.
- Streaming Services: Stand-alone streaming services offer customers the option to "cherry pick" their channels and therefore pay for what they are going to watch. They've become so popular as of late, that the New York Times reported that an estimated 40% of Americans now subscribe to at least one. Streaming services typically offer entire seasons of shows, films, and international programming for a monthly fee. As they've grown in popularity recently, these streaming services even offer original content you won't find anywhere else. In addition, you won't have to watch any commercials. All you need is a working Internet connection. No installation needed.
Best Cable Provider Recap
There are a lot of quality services to consider within my list of the top cable 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 providers. If you are looking at satellite options, try our reviews of the best satellite internet providers.
Best Cable TV Providers FAQs
How much is it for cable?
According to Fortune.com, the average cable bill has hit a new high of $103.10 per month. This is about double the price offered in ads and for cable promotional packages. The most stripped down, basic cable packages come as low as $23 per month for the service, a cable box and a remote.
What is Xfinity TV?
Comcast launched Xfinity TV to deliver a huge online library of video content to their cable customers. The service also allows remote programming of DVRs. Subscribers can watch top rated movies and TV series live and on demand with Xfinity.
Do I need certain equipment to watch local and basic cable channels?
With many TV providers, you do not need a special kind of equipment to watch most local and basic cable channels. If you plan to watch premium channels included in your cable subscription, your provider will provide you with a digital receiver. There may be extra costs involving installation or programming, depending on the company which installs it and the location of your home. In relation to digital cable channels, analog cable channels don't have as great of a picture so it is worth spending a little extra if you value picture quality. For more specific answers consult the provider directly.
What are the different types of satellite television dishes I can choose from?
To begin with, a satellite dish is a type of antenna used to receive television service at one particular location. There are two main types of satellite dishes used for television viewing -direct broadcast satellite (DBS) or direct-to-home satellite (DTH). The majority of satellite television companies, i.e., DirecTV and DISH Network, provide service through DBS. Systems like these allow the viewer to watch hundreds, sometimes even thousands of channels. Direct-to-home satellite dishes were introduced prior to DBS and utilize lower powered satellites with larger dishes (1.7 meter in diameter) so they're not usually installed by satellite television companies.
Is Directv a satellite or cable?
Directv delivers television programming packages via satellite, with the service available in all 50 states. Successful satellite dish installation requires a clear view of the sky to the south in order to work properly. In some regions, Directv is also available via internet in some regions, depending on internet provider speed.
Is DIRECTV Satellite?
Directv is a broadcast service provider via satellite, and in some regions, internet. Directv has enjoyed higher rankings than every cable company 15 years running. There is no equipment to buy and no up front fee, making Directv a popular choice with consumers.
Where is the satellite dish installed?
A technician will pay a visit to your home after your subscribe to satellite service and install a dish either on an exterior wall or the roof. In certain instances if the wall space or roof cannot accommodate the equipment, the technician can insert a pole in your yard and mount the dish onto that. If you live in an apartment the regulations regarding satellite dishes may differ. It's best to check with your units specific policies and receive association approval prior to purchasing a service. According to FCC regulations, you are permitted by law to install a dish 1 meter in diameter or less on any property that you own or have exclusive use to.
What is the difference between HDTV and digital cable?
High definition (HD) refers to stations which are broadcast in 1080i-1080 lines per frame which translates to a sleek and crisp image. Digital cable presents a nicer picture than regular cable but do not always display in high quality. Sometimes, the quality may come in as low as 480i. In order to see every cable channel in high definition, you must purchase an HD package from your cable provider. If you're unsure which offerings are included in your contract, contact your provider directly. One tip to keep in mind is that if you only have an analog TV, you'll need to purchase an HD conversion box to watch in high quality.
Is It Possible to Buy a TV Package That Is Customized?
Most TV providers will sell various packages in terms of the number of channels you will receive. Some providers will let you pick and choose packages by topic, such as Family, Sports, Movies, etc. after you have selected their base package. By choosing just the packages you prefer, you can get the channels you are most interested in, and you will save money because you are not paying for channels you are not going to use. Special packages, such as sports, will often be sold as optional packages that can be purchased seasonally.
How Do I Know Which DVR to Buy for Best Results?
When you buy a TV package from a company, it will come with a DVR. The DVR that the company supplies is specially made to go along with their system. If you use another device, you may not be able to get all the features that were promised in the package. Besides that, some companies will not charge for the DVR. When looking at the various number of TV channels a package provides, it is also important to see what the DVR can do. This is especially true if you intend to watch and record a lot of TV movies and programs. Some DVRs, for instance, have very limited capabilities. It may only let you watch one or two movies (on different devices) and record one at the same time. The best DVRs will enable you to record at least four movies at a time (some can let you record as many as 12), and watch that many simultaneously. Storage space on the DVR is another important issue to watch for. Some of them have very limited storage, but others can enable you to store many HD movies and programs.
What About On Demand Movies?
Some TV providers will offer many On Demand movies. These are movies and shows that are in their library and they can be viewed whenever you want. A couple of TV companies have 10,000 or more of these programs available. One thing that it is important to look for is how many of these shows or movies can be viewed for free.
Can TV Shows and Movies Be Viewed on Other Devices?
When looking for TV company options, be sure that you will be able to see programs and movies on multiple devices – if you want this capability. It can be very handy, and most likely, all you will need to do is to download an app (usually free) for your smartphone or tablet.
Is It Possible to Get TV Programming Without a Contract?
Fortunately, the answer to this question is Yes! However, it will depend on where you live. Some TV companies do offer excellent packages for TV, as well as Internet and phone, on a no-commitment basis. Also, most of the companies that provide TV will also give you a 30-day (or more) guarantee to give you your money back if you are not satisfied with their services.
When Buying a TV Package, What Else Should I Look for?
There really are a lot of options that you might want to get in addition to TV programming. You can also get Internet and phone service with it, which could save you money when you bundle the services. You may also want to get home security systems that will let you control your thermostat, lights, alarm, and will also send you alerts when there is a problem. You can also actually see into your home, or outside, through the video cameras.