We haven’t mentioned customer service with other cable TV providers, but we think we should emphasize that Xfinity customer service is known for being especially terrible. We understand if you’re not surprised—Xfinity has earned its reputation. However, many of us still use Xfinity because it’s the best of what’s available (most people have access to only one or two cable TV providers in their area).
Other levels of service are available. All services are not available in all areas. Receipt of HD programming requires subscription to the channel in standard definition. HD programming is viewable in HD only on HD displays. Some HD and other digital video services may require specialized equipment available for purchase from certain retail outlets and/or for lease from Cable ONE. Any scrambled video service requires a Cable Card available only from Cable ONE, which can be used with certain retail devices or comes with set-top boxes leased from us. Restrictions apply.
Apple TV and the Roku set top boxes also offer paid subscriptions for NBA, MLB and NHL channels. These aren't cheap, with single season access running close to $200 for some sports. And because home market games are prohibited, these are mostly relevant for fans rooting for their favorite teams from afar. But if you're say, a die-hard Red Sox fan living in L.A., packages like these may be a good fit.
The comments about Spectrum DVRs are not accurate based on our experience. We have Spectrum (previously Time Warner) and our DVR allows us to record 4 channels simultaneously (not 2) while watching a fifth channel. Also, our DVR can store substantially more than 21 hours of HD content as the review claims. I’m only guessing, but I’m sure we are able to store at least 100 hours of content. Overall, we’ve been satisfied with the Gold package. There are lots of channels including premium channels (HBO, Showtime, NFL Network, etc.) and there are decent mobile viewing capabilities. The Spectrum app allows you to watch all content and manage DVR settings when you’re connected to your home Wi-Fi. Substantially fewer channels are available on the Spectrum app when accessed via the internet; however, this is shortfall can largely be made up by downloading the apps for individual channels such as HBO Go, Show Anytime, Max Go, etc. On the negative side, Spectrum is expensive and the internet speeds never measure up to what they advertise. Instead of getting 100Mbps we get about 50 down/35 up. In fairness, most people I talk to all seem to have the same complaint about their service provider. And, of course, the customer service generally stinks.
Before you close your account for good, it may be worthwhile to reach out to your cable provider, who doesn’t want to lose your business. If you’re comfortable negotiating, you can often get a hefty discount for a year or longer. You can usually get a better price if you sign up for a service bundle with internet and phone. Use these tricks to get deals on just about anything.
Bear in mind that, if you’re on the ball, there’s also plenty you can watch for free — with no need to subscribe to anything. This may change in the future as major media companies put more of their products behind a paywall, but for now, some major channels (like ABC, Fox, the CW and PBS) make select episodes of their shows available online for nothing, for a limited time after their original broadcasts. You can watch them through a web browser or through an app on your set-top box.
Google Chromecast ($35 or $69): As part of the Google family of products and services, Chromecast devices (standard and Ultra) offer an impressive library of apps that treat the TV screen as a tool for more than just passive viewing, including games, music and viral videos. Chromecast also takes part of its name seriously, allowing users to start watching something on their phone or tablet and then “cast” it to a TV. The devices are often discounted at the Google Store, online.
NoCable, which acts as an information clearinghouse for non-cable solutions to TV, has slightly more specific information. It ranked Florida the No. 2 state for cutting the cord in 2017 behind California, though it did not have specific numbers of cord cutters. Florida also made some of the highest number of inquiries about what channels are available with an antenna.
We ran into a weird issue when we tried pausing a live stream. It let us pause our show (because when you gotta go, you gotta go), but when we tried to resume and pushed play, the app skipped us ahead to the live stream. We ran into this problem only with live streams and not with on-demand shows and movies, We’re hoping this issue goes away when the cloud DVR feature launches, We’ll see. Right now it makes for a somewhat buggy experience.
You may need to check with your internet provider before you decide to switch to streaming only options and see what kind of usage limits they enforce. A friend of mine just got burned when he suddenly found out his ISP didn’t appreciate the bandwidth usage and cut off his service for the month after he streamed 10 hours or so of video. He had to ride out the rest of month with no cable and no internet.
In an effort to entice cord cutters and cord nevers, some cable television providers have begun offering Internet-only streaming services. Cablevision began to offer "Cord Cutter" packages that include a free digital antenna and access to its Optimum WiFi network, as well as the option to add HBO Now to the service, making it the first ever cable provider to do so. In 2015, Comcast and Time Warner Cable (TWC) began to trial television services delivered via their managed internet infrastructures; Comcast's "Stream" service offered access to broadcast networks, HBO, Xfinity StreamPix, and their respective TV Everywhere services. Outside of TVE apps, the service can only be accessed via Comcast home internet on supported devices. In October 2015, TWC began to trial a service under which subscribers are given a Roku 3 digital media player to access their service via the supplied TWC app, rather than a traditional set-top box. A TWC spokesperson emphasized that this offering would provide "the same TV and same packages delivered to the home today", but delivered over TWC-managed internet rather than a cable line. This service has since been transferred to the current Spectrum service after Time Warner Cable's merger with Charter, with an equivalent Apple TV app forthcoming.
What you get: YouTube TV offers access to live TV from up to 50 providers, including all the major networks. It also has a cloud DVR with unlimited storage. The service is now available in more markets after launching in five cities in 2017. You also get the original programming on YouTube Red Originals. You can add Showtime for $11 per month, CuriosityStream for $3 more per month, or AMC Premiere for an additional $5 per month.
Once tuners that could receive select mid-band and super-band channels began to be incorporated into standard television sets, broadcasters were forced to either install scrambling circuitry or move these signals further out of the range of reception for early cable-ready TVs and VCRs. However, once all 181 allocated cable channels[which?] had been incorporated, premium broadcasters were left with no choice but to scramble.
The digital landscape is already fragmented, and it’s continually fragmenting further, as content creators choose to become content providers. In the process, it’s beginning to resemble cable television. Each new app or content library looks like a different channel to consider, and each one is essentially a premium cable offering that requires a separate subscription to view. Services that previously acted as content aggregators are losing outside content with the launch of each new service. Instead, they are creating their own content to maintain value in a crowded marketplace. Even YouTube is getting in on the act, creating more and more channels for viewers to choose from.
Cable TV is widely available to U.S. residents, so it's a very popular option. This connection transmits information via an electric current that travels through copper cables buried underground. If cable TV is available in your area, the installation process should be pretty painless, as the infrastructure is already in place. Cable television is a great option for those that don't want to commit to long-term contracts. Some providers like Spectrum offer “no contract” options, but when a contract is required, it's typically shorter than those required for satellite TV. Cable TV plans tend to be more expensive than satellite, and the HD quality isn't as good. However, many providers let you bundle TV with high-speed cable internet to save on your monthly bill!
Another issue is the availability of the local streams for networks like the Big 4: ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC. Several reasons prevent the services from just putting local streams out there. As a result, you will find situations like in Phoenix where YouTube TV streams all four, Sling TV streams just FOX and DirecTV Now can’t stream local channels at all. You can read our review of the best services for streaming local TV for more details.
If you don’t have or don’t like any of the options above, there are a few ways to turn your TV into a “Smart TV.” There are a number of ways to do this. In the next section, I’ll cover the subscription services available. Certain devices only work on certain equipment so I’ll cover a few of these combinations in the Streaming Devices section of the post.
In the most common system, multiple television channels (as many as 500, although this varies depending on the provider's available channel capacity) are distributed to subscriber residences through a coaxial cable, which comes from a trunkline supported on utility poles originating at the cable company's local distribution facility, called the "headend". Many channels can be transmitted through one coaxial cable by a technique called frequency division multiplexing. At the headend, each television channel is translated to a different frequency. By giving each channel a different frequency "slot" on the cable, the separate television signals do not interfere with each other. At an outdoor cable box on the subscriber's residence the company's service drop cable is connected to cables distributing the signal to different rooms in the building. At each television, the subscriber's television or a set-top box provided by the cable company translates the desired channel back to its original frequency (baseband), and it is displayed onscreen. Due to widespread cable theft in earlier analog systems, the signals are typically encrypted on modern digital cable systems, and the set-top box must be activated by an activation code sent by the cable company before it will function, which is only sent after the subscriber signs up. If the subscriber fails to pay their bill, the cable company can send a signal to deactivate the subscriber's box, preventing reception.
Roku ($29.99 - $99.99): One of the pioneers in the concept of cheaply and simply turning any TV into a streaming portal, Roku offers a wide range of products, from simple sticks to bigger (yet still compact) boxes. Because it’s been around so long, Roku has agreements with pretty much every major and minor streaming video service, and it is even integrated into some smart TV models. The company has also been giving its customers more power to control the sound of what they’re watching, with features like “night mode” (which mutes explosions and amplifies whispers) and “private listening” (which allows viewers to watch a show or movie on their TVs but listen to it through headphones).
These antennas are compatible with all televisions made since 2007 (when built-in digital tuners became a federal requirement) and they plug directly into the coaxial port in back of your TV. Once plugged in, you simply have your TV scan for available digital signals. Most TVs have a signal meter display that shows just how well each channel's signal is being received.
There are other TV providers, such as RCN, Mediacom, and Suddenlink, but we didn’t include them in the “Best Cable TV Providers” because either 1) they are not widely available or 2) they did not meet our criteria. We determined which cable TV providers are the best (or better than most) by comparing prices, contracts, fees, channels, DVRs, and availability.
Netflix molded itself into an alternative to cable early on. One way the company accomplished this was by frequently acquiring rights to popular TV shows. So you’ll find all past seasons of “The Walking Dead” and “Better Call Saul” from AMC there. You’ll notice that seven seasons of “Shameless”, a Showtime produced series is there as well. With a broad selection of genres, Netflix aims to be all things for most people. And currently it’s doing a better job at it than any other streaming service on the market. You can even try out Netflix free for a month. The most basic plan is $7.99 per month. A subscription with HD quality costs $10.99 per month. Ultra HD (4K) will cost you $13.99 per month. You can try out Netflix free for a month.
The early systems simply received weak (broadcast) channels, amplified them, and sent them over unshielded wires to the subscribers, limited to a community or to adjacent communities. The receiving antenna would be higher than any individual subscriber could afford, thus bringing in stronger signals; in hilly or mountainous terrain it would be placed at a high elevation.
Great article, thanks for all the food for thought! We originally got a great deal from Comcast, the triple play: $99/mo (plus taxes) for the first 2 years, for cable, land line and internet. But now the bill has crept up to around $175/mo. Getting ready to cut the cord, but we have two dilemmas: 1) we didn’t buy a Smart TV so because of some goofy issue with my laptop, I have to reboot it after connecting it to the TV in order to watch anything. A pain in the butt. Have searched extensively and not found a workaround. Are these fire sticks USB devices that would cut out the laptop connection entirely? And 2) we are middle agers with the same land line for 25 years, and it’s like a member of the family… lol. We’re afraid to let it go! It’s been part of our identity for so long, literally (for ID purposes with accounts and such) and figuratively speaking. But I think we’re going to rip the band aid off soon. About all we watch on our 700+ channel Comcast package consistently is Law and Order and Frasier reruns, and the occasional movie. Otherwise it’s just pointless channel flipping.
If you aren’t close enough to the TV towers to use an indoor antenna you may need an outdoor solution. Furthermore, today’s digital TV signals require a TV with a digital tuner. If your TV was made before 2007, it may not have one. For solutions to these issues, check out my post How To Get Local Channels Without Cable. I also expand on this a bit in the TV Antenna section later in this guide.
Pricing & Other Info Offer ends 11/27/18. Restrictions apply. Not available in all areas. New residential customers only. Limited to X1 Saver Double Play with Digital Starter, Streampix, and Performance Pro Internet service. 1-year minimum term agreement required. Early termination fee applies if all Xfinity services (other than Xfinity Mobile) are cancelled during the agreement term. Equipment, installation, taxes and fees, Broadcast TV Fee (up to $10.00/mo.), Regional Sports Fee (up to $8.00/mo.) and other applicable charges extra, and subject to change during and after the term agreement. Additional outlet service fee applies for multi-room viewing. After term agreement, or if any service is cancelled or downgraded, regular rates apply. Comcast's monthly service charge for X1 Saver Double Play is $100.00, AnyRoom DVR is $9.95, and HD Technology Fee is $10.00 (subject to change). Service limited to a single outlet. May not be combined with other offers. TV: Limited Basic service subscription required to receive other levels of service. On Demand selections subject to charge indicated at time of purchase. Not all programming available in all areas. Internet: Actual speeds vary and are not guaranteed. Xfinity hotspots included with Xfinity Internet Performance (and above). Limited hotspot access included for Performance Starter and below. Available in select areas. 30-Day Money-Back Guarantee applies to one month’s recurring service and standard installation charges up to $500. Cards issued by MetaBank®, Member FDIC, pursuant to a license from Visa® U.S.A. Inc. Cards will not have cash access and can be used everywhere Visa debit cards are accepted. Prepaid Card mailed to Comcast account holder within 18 weeks of activation of all required services and expires in 180 days. Call for restrictions and complete details. ©2018 Comcast. All rights reserved.
Hulu and CBS All Access are the best places to start here, with Netflix as a potential add-on. You also may want to invest in an antenna to see if you can pick up a local channel that carries MeTV or a similar retro television service. Also, since the Philo live TV service has Nickelodeon and TV Land (and is super-cheap, starting at a bare-bones package for $16 a month), it might be worth subscribing to that as well.
Picking the right cable TV provider can be a challenge, but we've done our best to make the process as easy as possible for you. Some factors to consider when choosing a provider are your monthly budget, which channels and programs you want in your package, length of contract, and availability of TV and internet bundles or discounts. Let's say you're a movie fanatic and you want to have access to all the best movie channels without breaking the bank. Spectrum may be your best option for cable TV. If you're a die hard sports fan, you'll want channels like ESPN, the Big Ten Network, and the NFL Network. DIRECTV has the largest variety of these sports networks, along with NFL Sunday Ticket, so this provider's satellite TV packages are a great option.
We also considered each company’s assortment of channel packages, their prices, and the variety of bundling plans. We took the 136 most watched channels and tallied each provider’s channel plan to compare the price it took to get the best value. We found that you can usually get the best value just by sticking to the simplest channel package. Our favorite providers also offer discounts when you bundle your internet service, and they limit fees for first-time customers.
To augment your free supply of live network TV, the next step is to choose your hardware for on-demand programming delivered via your Internet connection. You may already have this capability in an existing device if you own a gaming console like an Xbox 360, Sony Playstation 3 or Nintendo Wii. Or perhaps you've bought a smart TV or Blu-ray player with built-in Wi-Fi.
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Free yourself of some common misconceptions and all the bad advice you’ve read. Read the findings of the 2016 Congressional investigation by Senator Claire McCaskill (D-Mo), a top ranking chairman on the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. Her committee delved into pricing and customer service practices for the major cable providers across the U.S.
If you stream, you should abandon the notion of channels. Many channels do have apps, but not all, and some require a cable log in. Streaming services are more like hubs, or video stores, where you can find thousands of titles, including some popular shows. But if you’re thinking about a cheaper way to maintain your present viewing habits, forget about it. What you’re getting is far superior, ad free content for a fraction of the price.
The first thing to do is think about your TV watching habits. Do you have any specific “must see” shows? Write down the name of the show, and the network it is on. Do you watch a lot of sports. If so, see if there is a season pass you can buy for the Internet (you can stream these on many newer TV sets). Write down your TV watching habits – are you a channel surfer, do you TIVO or record everything, etc. Your responses will give you a good idea of whether or not you can drop your cable TV subscription.
This option is for you if you like to follow the latest network and non-premium cable shows, like The New Girl, The Voice, The Flash, or Modern Family. Hulu Plus ($7.99 per month) offers current programs from FOX, NBC, ABC, the CW, as well as delayed or archived content from cable channels like Comedy Central and FX. You can add CBS shows, like Big Bang Theory, for another monthly fee of $5.99.
By making use of industry-wide data and the latest proprietary technology, we’ve been able to gather a large amount of information that will allow you to determine the best available local internet and television service providers in your zip code area. In the age of technology, you want to know that you have steady access to internet and television—but you don’t want to be spending a fortune on your service either.
Once I was given this new price of $45 per month, I knocked off an additional $10 per month by buying a router and cable modem instead of renting them. They planned on renting me a cable modem at $5 per month, and charging me another $5 per month for a router. Instead, I was able to add to my savings just by asking the question about rental fees, a point you will get sick of hearing about if you keep reading my guides.
My take is that they are focused on the areas that get NO cable service because they know it’s a slam dunk so they charge rates that are more expensive for what they offer because they can. It’s like this, if they want my business, they have to have have the same TV channels for less and they are so far from it. And if they do undercut any pricing, it’s marginal because they are trying to maximize their profits exponentially. Take a look at the free trials they all offer. They’re almost all the same 1 week or maybe 5 days and then the monthly rate kicks in. What a joke. They’re a bunch of greedy bastards.
If you watch a lot of shows on your local stations—think ABC, NBC, CBS and FOX—you can tune into them for free. These channels are publicly broadcast and the signals are easy to pick up in most metropolitan areas. All you need is a good HD antenna, which you can score for under $40 on Amazon. Depending on the terrain in your area and your proximity to TV towers, one type of antenna might be better for you than another. But once you’re set up, you’ll be able to enjoy the latest episode of Modern Family with the same crisp picture you were getting through your cable company, minus the monthly bill.
Google Chromecast. The Chromecast device differs in that you plug the dongle into the HDMI port of your TV and "cast" the screen on your phone or tablet to your TV. This means that your phone acts as the remote for the Chromecast, which makes it a little more difficult to use that other dongles. Still, the overall idea of using internet television content and placing it on your television to watch on a large screen is at play.