As American viewing habits evolve to a hybrid of pay TV and internet content, cheap cable TV is more in demand than ever.
Of course, as cable prices rise year after year the term "cheap" becomes a relative term.
Still, if you know where to look and how to get the best cable deals you can do a pretty effective job of keeping that monthly cable TV bill under control.
Considering the notorious lack of competition in the industry, you might feel the outlook is bleak when it comes to finding cheap TV service.
There are options, however, which we'll cover, along with the best TV providers and how to negotiate the best rate for your service.
Cheap Cable TV Service Providers
Best Cheap Provider: Verizon FiOS
Verizon FiOS offers affordability and the latest technology (fiber optics). Now that's hard to beat.
And that's not all they have to offer:
- Plans - Verizon FiOS offers no-contract plans that allow you to pay monthly for your service.
- Bundles - You can bundle your TV, home phone, and internet and save some extra moo-la.
- Deals - Verizon FiOS allows you to lock in your promotional price when you sign a contract so you're guaranteed that price for the duration of your contract.
There are, however, a couple of points to keep in mind before signing:
- Deals - That price lock guarantee is only good with bundles.
- Equipment - Your plan does not include equipment. So your monthly bill will be hired when you factor that in.
Verizon FiOS TV Packages
|Verizon FiOS Your FiOS TV||125||$50|
|Verizon FiOS More FIOS TV||300||$70|
|Verizon FiOS The Most FiOS TV||425||$90|
Best Channel Options: AT&T U-verse
Like other cheap cable offerings, AT&T U-verse TV features a bare-bones plan with local networks plus other low-tier channels.
If you already have U-Verse internet, it makes sense to go with the cheap cable TV they offer as well.
- Channel Packages - AT&T U-verse offers packages that range from 15-200+ channels.
- Equipment - AT&T U-verse's HD DVR is included when you sign up for their TV packages.
- Bundling - If you bundle your home phone, internet, and TV you can save some major money throughout the year.
However, before you switch, keep in mind:
- Price - Your promo price isn't locked in for the full length of your contract. So be sure to do your research and calculate that into your budget.
AT&T U-verse TV Packages
Best Cheap Provider: Comcast XFINITY
The draw with Comcast's Cable TV packages is their deeply discounted introductory rate. What else do they have to offer?
- Bundles - You can bundle TV, home phone, and internet with XFINITY and save money. You can even bundle a home security service.
- Contracts - XFINITY offers plans that range from no-contract to 24-month contracts.
With those benefits come these:
- Hidden Fees - XFINITY charges you a broadcast TV fee.
- Price - Your promo price doesn't lock in for the full term of your contract.
XFINITY TV Packages
|Xfinity Basic TV||10||$39.99|
|Xfinity Starter TV||140||$49.99|
|Xfinity Preferred TV||220||$59.99|
Availability by ZIP
There are a few useful facts to know before you even begin your comparison of cheap cable companies.
- The FCC requires that all cable companies offer a basic tier of service. This is the most inexpensive package and typically includes local broadcast networks like NBC, ABC, and CBS, along with the PEG access channels (public, educational, and governmental).
- While cable providers are required to offer the basic set of cable channels, they don't always list this option on the website. You may have to call to request the lowest tier plan in order to get truly cheap cable.
- Choosing cheap cable doesn't prevent you from accessing your favorite premium options. You will still have access to pay-per-view, as well as the option of adding on channels like HBO (for an additional monthly charge).
- Some cheap cable services require an agreement (generally one to two years in length) in order to lock in the promotional price. It's best to avoid this if possible, just in case you do decide to upgrade to more channels or add another service later on.
Cheap Cable Alternatives
With so many different packages out there, from 10 cable channels all the way up to 400 or more, the term "cheap cable" can definitely be subjective.
Your idea of affordable pay TV may be just the bare essentials like local networks, or it may be getting all of your favorite sports channels and other frills at a bargain rate.
No matter what you're looking for, the following advice can help you get the best deal on cable for your budget and preferences.
The cheapest cable TV option is usually called basic or limited.
This package typically includes 10 or more channels, including those such as:
- PEG access channels (public, educational, and governmental)
Other channels that come with cheap cable will vary depending on where you live. For example, I live near the Canadian border so the basic cable plan in my area comes with a couple of Canadian networks, like CBET.
Use our comparison engine to find TV providers by ZIP code, then you'll be able to see which stations are offered with basic cable in your area.
Cheap basic cable packages range in price between about $10 and $25, depending on which cable providers are available in your area.
Expanded Basic Cable
Expanded cable is a solid cheap TV service option for those who want a little more variety than basic cable without going overboard. Cable providers may market this package under different names.
For example, Comcast calls expanded basic cable "Digital Economy". Channels vary from provider to provider, however commonly networks with expanded basic cable include:
- Food Network
- Cartoon Network
- Animal Planet
What you won't get with expanded basic cable are networks like ESPN and HGTV. Still, as far as cheap cable services go, expanded is an affordable option with plenty of popular viewing choices.
In order to get the cheapest prices for your cable TV service, know what kind of programming you want, compare all available TV providers' rates, and work with your chosen provider to negotiate a package that works for you.
Whether you're working with a customer service representative on the phone or through live chat, be polite yet firm. Sticking to your needs and budget allows you to resist being talked into packages you're not interested in.
With a little time and legwork, you can find the services you want at a price you can afford.