The best cable TV company will make it easy to find your favorites for a fair price. We took 2017’s 50 most-watched channels and tallied them against providers packages to see which were offering the best plans for the best value. Popular channels like the Food Network hold more value and relevance for most viewers than channels that tally up in your package count, like the Gem Shopping Network or C-SPAN 4. But if you know your TV habits are a little more niche, keep track of the channels you frequent most and then compare the provider packages to see which offers the best price for minimal excess.
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.
Let's not fool ourselves, the media companies go where the money is, and right now that's still the cable/satellite/telco providers by a wide margin. But according to Steve Shannon, Roku's General Manager of Content and Services, the tide is turning in negotiations between content providers and cable distributors with more rights becoming available for streaming services. "As each contract comes up for renewal, digital rights are becoming more valuable," he says. "Content creators recognize that there's value there and as cable companies are looking to reduce programming costs, some are giving up the digital rights."
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.
Chromecast and Apple TV are streaming media players that also provide access to streaming services but are not as robust or easy to use as the two devices recommended above. Chromecast requires that the user "cast" the streaming service from their mobile device to the TV, which means that you need to open an app and use a phone or tablet to use the device, rather than a simple remote control. Many first-time cord cutters will likely find this to be an inconvenience.
If you have unpredictable tastes, but only focus on one show at a time, it might be most cost efficient to just buy all your television a la carte. For the price of a year of cable, the average viewer can buy 26 seasons of TV. Assuming these are all 45 minute shows with 14 episodes, that’s almost 300 hours of content. If you can’t ever imagine yourself watching more than that, then this plan is for you. Don’t forget to grab a TV antenna for major live events like the Oscars or the Super Bowl, or if you just want the option of kicking back and watching prime time now and then.
It’s these little things, plus the channel offerings, that make PlayStation Vue feel more like a traditional TV service (even though it’s not). You also get free DVR service with PlayStation Vue and can store an unlimited number shows for up to a month before they get automatically deleted. We really like the recording features that PlayStation Vue offers, but the downside is that you can only record one show at a time.
Some people use a game console for accessing streaming services and even as a solution for live TV and a DVR, such as Xbox One or the Sony Playstation Vue streaming service. The reason we do not recommend these as live TV, DVR or streaming options is because using a game console in the always-on manner that is required for watching TV uses a LOT of power. It is the equivalent of adding another refrigerator to your household and you can expect your electric bill to go up about $8-$10 per month. It's just not a responsible way to watch TV.
Charter Cable TV: Charter operates in 28 states, and now also runs Time Warner Cable TV and Bright House Networks. In fact, Charter Cable TV and Time Warner Cable TV services are both being marketed now under the Spectrum brand. Charter is spread across the U.S., with notable gaps throughout the middle part of the Midwest, some western and southwestern states like Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, and Idaho, as well as Florida and some states along the eastern seaboard. We offer guides for the entire Charter channel lineup, as well as the Time Warner Cable channel lineup.
Triple Play packages give you access to all of Spectrum’s services. You’ll not only have the greatest selection of HD channels on the market but also fast enough internet speeds for the whole family and unlimited calling to boot. Enjoy these services from home, or enjoy them on the go with help from Spectrum’s Wi-Fi hotspot network and the Spectrum TV app.
Internet streaming services also require a high-speed internet connection. If your internet isn't fast enough, you'll probably experience lots of buffering and lagging during your shows. Many cord cutters end up paying extra for a faster internet plan, just so they can stream their shows. Cable, fiber, and satellite TV aren't dependent on internet, so you'll never have to worry about inconsistent sound and picture quality. If you do need internet, why not get all of your services in the same place? You can bundle your TV service with internet to save even more every month.
Whether the price is worth it is in the eyes of the beholder. Vue may not be the cheapest, but many users feel it is the best value according to anecdotal reports in various forums. That assessment is based on features, channel selection, user interface, DVR, etc. Regardless of which streaming service is chosen, the vast majority of cord cutters claim they are saving a bundle compared to traditional cable/satellite. As for Vue's competitors, by the time you include add-ons (e.g., sports and/or movie packages) and premium channels, are you really saving much? Some of the competition also charges extra for DVR usage, but not with Vue.
There are a few things that you can do to ensure the process runs as smoothly as possible. Make sure all of the TVs that you want to be connected are in the house at the time of installation. Keep the area around your TV open so that the technician has room to work. If you're getting satellite, make sure the technician will have easy access to your balcony or roof where the dish will be mounted. Set aside enough time in your schedule for the technician to complete the entire process. Keep your phone on hand in the days and hours leading up to your appointment, so that the technician can call and confirm or alert you to any changes.
NOTE: There is no such thing as a "digital" or "HD" TV antenna. Those terms refer to the fact that the over-the-air broadcast signal is digital/HD (since 2009), not the antenna itself. No matter what you may read about "advanced technology" TV antennas, the actual reception technology has not changed in decades. Sure, antennas come in all different shapes and sizes today, even sci-fi-like designs, but those are physical changes not technical advancements. If you buy an older home and discover a TV antenna in your attic or on your roof, it's going to receive the same pristine digital broadcast signals as anything you would buy today.
*Limited time offer; subject to change; valid to qualified residential customers who have not subscribed to any services within the previous 30 days and who have no outstanding obligation to Charter. Standard rates apply after yr. 1. Price for TV Select, Internet and home phone is $99.97/mo for yr. 1; standard rates apply after yr 1. Installation, equipment, taxes, fees and surcharges extra; additional services are extra. General Terms: TV: TV equipment required, charges may apply. Channel and HD programming availability based on level of service. Account credentials may be required to stream some TV content online. INTERNET: Available Internet speeds may vary by address. Home phone: Unlimited calling includes calls within the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Guam, the Virgin Islands and more. Services subject to all applicable service terms and conditions, subject to change. Services not available in all areas. Restrictions apply. Enter your address to determine availability.
If you’re cutting cable, that means you’re most likely going to use streaming services as cable TV alternatives to watch your shows, so you’ll need a solid Internet connection. Most streaming services work fine with the lowest tier (10 Mb), preventing buffering while you stream content, but a higher-speed service (25 Mb) will perform even better. Check the offerings with your Internet provider.
To be honest, if you've got a decent laptop and a nice TV, with an HDMI cable between them you have all you need to be a cord cutter. Stream on your laptop and watch on the big screen. Or use your phone; the apps out there for casting or mirroring what you see on the phone to the TV are too numerous to mention. (Read How to Connect Your iPhone or iPad to Your TV for more.)
If you have unpredictable tastes but focus on only one show at a time, it might make the most sense to buy your television à la carte. For the amount you’d save by switching from cable to just Internet service (about $900 a year), you can pick up 30 seasons of TV for $30 each. Assuming these are all 45-minute shows with 22 episodes, that’s almost 500 hours of content. If you can’t imagine yourself ever watching more than that, then this plan is for you. (Don’t forget to grab a TV antenna for major live events like the Oscars and the Super Bowl, or if you just want the option of kicking back and watching primetime now and then.)
If you're purchasing satellite TV, a professional will come to your home and set up a dish on the roof or balcony. This installation process tends to take longer than it would for cable or fiber TV because of the large equipment that's required. You can expect the installer to be at your home for several hours, whereas cable installation typically only takes 1-3 hours. Take advantage of that time by asking any questions you might have about how your new TV connection works. The installer will be happy to help! DIRECTV installation comes free with all of the provider's packages. Many customers can even opt for next-day installation. However, if you want to start watching your favorite shows before your installation process, with DIRECTV you can! As soon as your order has been confirmed, you can log into the DIRECTV app and start watching from your mobile device. The installation process for cable or fiber TV will be relatively easy if your home already has a cable or fiber connection from past service.
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.
Why not hook your TV to an antenna and get many HD channels for free. All local broadcasters CBS, ABC, NBC, PBS, FOX broadcast free over the air HD programs. That is zero monthly bill and zero is good. For sports and other program the internet is full of resources that offer most programming for free or a small fee such as Netflix and Hulu that you mentioned above. Why not suggest these to our readers?
Not all media streamers offer the same channels: Smart TVs and Blu-ray players, as well as standalone media streamers, don't all offer the same selection of channels and services. Roku devices are the most comprehensive with up to 4,500 possibilities, but there are other media streamers available (such as Amazon Fire TV, Google Chromecast, and others) that may not have the channels and services you desire.