When it's time to shop around for your cable TV provider, you may not have a choice at all. The industry is made up of regional monopolies, which means the cable companies that service your specific address are often limited. But fear not: We’ve taken a close look at the nation's largest cable companies and each of their features, so you can evaluate the most common options — and find the best cable TV company for you.
This does not mean, however, that you can never watch ESPN again after you cancel cable. Nearly every major media brand is moving toward offering its own standalone subscription service. Until then, though, if it’s important to you to maintain some continuity with your current cable-viewing habits, proceed to the next section for your best options.
However, the notion that cord-cutting represents an ever-worsening existential crisis for media companies is simplistic at best. To be sure, consumers are plenty mad at their pay-TV providers, which have jacked up prices at three times the rate of inflation since 2013 and provided dismal customer service for years. Most people, though, haven't taken the leap to cancel their pay TV service, and those who do oftentimes haven't actually "cut the cord."
Not everything is free: Although over-the-air TV reception and many streaming channels are free, there are many streaming channels and services that require a monthly subscription or pay-per-view fee. If you only pay for one or two subscription-based or pay-per-view services, you can save money over cable/satellite. However, if you keep adding more pay services, those fees can add up, and you might again find yourself with a hefty monthly subscription or pay-per-view bill that could rival that old cable/satellite bill.
Netflix ($7.99/mo., $10.99/mo., $13.99/mo.): What HBO has been to premium cable, Netflix has been to subscription streaming services, offering buzzed-about programming that anyone who wants to be “in the know” regarding contemporary television needs to see. It got a head-start on its competitors by producing must-see original content, and it continues to expand its library every month with new series and movies that generate a lot of buzz. (Think “Orange Is the New Black,” “Stranger Things,” “BoJack Horseman” or “Jessica Jones”) The service has been licensing fewer older TV shows and films in recent years, but it still offers a lot of high-quality product from those realms, including great British television, recent CW and Fox series and a surprisingly healthy amount of contemporary foreign cinema.
◊ To qualify for the contract buyout program, a customer must order and install a qualifying Triple Play or limited Double Play promotion; offers not available in all areas. Offer available to qualifying customers only who have no outstanding obligations to Charter. Check amount will be determined by the early termination fee on the final bill from the previous provider, not to exceed $500. For contract buyout qualifications, go to Spectrum.com/buyout.
As cord-cutting has picked up steam, many cable companies are offering their own "skinny bundle" packages with internet and a few channels for less. It seems counterintuitive, but in 2018, "cutting the cord" can still mean sticking with your current cable company. The important thing when comparing these services is to look at the contract requirements and extra fees. Even if a service price looks the same as many all-streaming packages, if you need to tack on an extra TV box or two the monthly fees will add up quickly.