To help you comb through your options, we’ve put together this overview of 2018’s best TV providers and based it on our individual, in-depth reviews of each company. We know that not everyone wants the same thing from their TV provider, so we broke it down by satellite, cable, fiber-optic, and streaming providers. We encourage you to use this as a quick comparison, and dive into our individual reviews for a more thorough rundown of the companies that catch your eye.
Our comparison tool programming allows you to easily find and compare deals and packages across the largest nationwide providers. Our team has already done the hard work and found all the necessary information for you; all you have to do is review and select. Our comparison tables allow you to see an overview of the deal on offer and what precisely it includes so you know exactly what you’ll be getting and what you’d be paying for. We also make the process much simpler by giving you the ability to sort through providers depending on their recommendation status, ratings, internet speed, and the price of the deals on offer.
Always take a moment on a new TV to switch off any special features that are meant to reduce motion-blurring. (These go by different names depending on the manufacturer, but the setting typically has the word “motion” in it, as in Sony’s “Motionflow” or LG’s “TruMotion.”) These settings tend to make movies and even most modern television shows look more flat and artificial, in what’s often called “the soap opera effect.”
The biggest plan to get is $11.99, dubbed the “Premium” plan, which gives you Ultra HD and the ability to watch on 4 screens. This particular plan could be advantageous for families who want to watch a lot of different things at once, but is the extra $4/month or $48/year worth it? It all depends on your situation, but something to consider. They do offer one month free, so there is the option to test out whatever plan you want as well before finally deciding.
When you start adding Paks ($10–$16 per Pak per month) on top of your base service charge, your monthly price starts to go up pretty quickly. It’s nice to start so low, but don’t expect to get out at the advertised price. Also, keep in mind, most Paks are limited to the Contour TV package, so if you’re looking for more options, you’ll be starting at a higher base price.
PlayStation Vue plans aren’t that much cheaper than traditional cable or satellite, so it’s probably not the best option if you‘re cutting the cord to save money. It does offer a 5-day free trial, so you can test it out (two days shorter than any other streaming service), but make sure to cancel by day five, or you‘ll be charged for the whole month.
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.
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.
The first thing you may want to consider is an HD antenna. This doesn't provide a way to watch streaming videos, but if you want to watch live TV, it's the cheapest and simplest solution. You may remember having rabbit ears on your hand-me-down TV as a kid — an HD antenna is basically the modern-day version of that. You hook the device into your TV, put it somewhere near a window and watch as the free channels roll in.
So question…. my tv has 2 inputs on the back that look like cable connections. One is an ATSC input, and the other is a QAM (cable) input. I want my PIP to work, but I cannot receive any DTV signal by connecting my DTV antenna to the QAM and ATSC inputs. I get the channels on the ATSC, but not the QAM input, so PIP will not work. How do I get my TV to now allow me to continue using PIP, now that I’ve cut cable and only have an ATSC digital antenna? Any ideas on equipment to buy or adjustments I need to make?
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.
I have a samsung FPT5084x/xaa. It has just an NTSC/ATSC input (antenna), and a Clear QAM (cable) input. My tv requires the PIP to only work PIP if it’s coming from 2 different sources. So PIP will not work by pulling 1st and 2nd from the same source. They have to be different sources. ? This means my tv’s PIP will not function unless you or someone else knows of some type of equip that you can hook up to the Clear QAM input to allow it to receive ATSC signals (decoder/transponder?)? I have no intent of having cable any longer. Thanks.
Cord cutting simply means canceling your pay-TV service. Cord cutting has been a growing trend since 2009, when over-the-air broadcast signals switched from analog to digital. People began to realize that they could now get the vast majority of their favorite TV shows in beautiful HD using a simple television antenna rather than paying monthly fees to a TV provider.
While we recognize that Hulu is evolving as a service, at this time we don't feel that it provides much added value to TV antenna users. For cord cutters who for some reason cannot use a TV antenna or don't have access to one, Hulu, at either $8 or $12 per month depending on whether you want a lot of TV commercials in your content or just a few (you can't skip them), Hulu would be a great service to have.
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This is pretty cool, especially if you are an AT&T member. If you’re an AT&T Mobility customer, DIRECTV will pick up the tab for data to help you achieve all your binge-worthy goals. Data Free TV means you won’t use your AT&T mobile data for watching DIRECTV NOW or FreeVIEW in the App. This means that you can watch Direct TV From ANYWHERE for free if you are an AT&T member. (Think long car trips mommas!)
One thing is for sure: A number of Tampa Bay residents have moved away from cable, and many are interested in exploring that option. The Tampa Bay Times asked readers to reach out about their experience with cutting the cord, and received around 100 responses. The most-cited reasons for making the leap were dissatisfaction with a cable provider and cost.
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).
I’ve been following this cord-cutting trend for a while and have read many articles. This is the best, clearest how-to I’ve read. Our DIRECTTV contract is up in April, and we will probably cut the cord. We’re tired of playing the promotion game with Cox, Dish, Direct TV. But the real issue is the internet promotion game with Cox and Centurylink here in Phoenix. The thing is, my 6 and 7 year old already find the shows they want on Hulu and Netflix (one paid and one trial account). So I figure we can get broadcast via OTR, record to Tivo OTR (my wife and I had Tivo years ago and loved it) and stream the popular services through it. I’ve also invested in AppleTV devices for a few years (this is an Apple ecosystem household) and that service is getting better and better (competes with Roku and Sling, to a lesser degree) at having channels available via Apps. Great article!
For supporters of teams outside your local area, some sport-specific streaming options might also be attractive. Each major sports league offers some sort of online viewing option for around $130 a year, with the caveat that local games are blacked out. (NFL fans can pay $70 to watch any team they like, but they can only tune in to an on-demand rebroadcast once the game is over.)
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.
Sports first is the goal at fuboTV, even if it's not sports exclusive. You get 82 channels of live TV with a intense focus on sports-related channels—even though the service doesn't include any ESPN networks (those are on Sling TV and Hulu with Live TV). But you do get stations like MSG, FS1, NBCSN, NBATV, BTN, Fox Sports, CBS Sports Network, and a lot more—including many entertainment networks like Fox, History Channel, HGTV, FX, E! and others. Add-ons include Showtime for $10.99 a month, plus even more sports channels from different countries for $8.99 a month. It comes with cloud-DVR capability and works on a PC, iOS, Android, Chromecast, Apple TV, and Roku devices; it's in beta on Amazon Fire TV. The first month is only $19.99 before it goes up to full price.
But cable providers didn't factor in that the internet they provide would become their worst enemy via access to streaming video. Services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Video are the most well-known names in what's become known as "cord cutting"—doing away with pay TV and using over-the-air (like the old days) or internet-based services to get all your "television" programming. That means no more paying a huge monthly fee for thousands of hours of TV you don't watch (in theory). Instead, you pay individual services for a la carte programming. It's a lot like paying for just what you watch. Almost.
To some executives, no company offers a more egregious example of how the value of sports has spiraled out of control than Time Warner Cable. In 2013 the cable company, now owned by Charter Communications Inc., agreed to pay an average $334 million a year to broadcast Los Angeles Dodgers games for the next 25 years on its cable channel, SportsNet LA. That’s roughly eight times what Fox reportedly paid in the previous Dodgers deal. To cover the cost, Time Warner Cable initially charged almost $5 per month per subscriber, making it one of the most expensive in the bundle.
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.