The price writ in foot-tall gold letters on promotional material is likely not the price you’ll end up paying. We dug into the fine print to uncover potential rate increases after promotional periods end and extra costs like installation fees, activation fees, early termination fees, and equipment fees. Even if a provider’s advertised monthly rate is low, your bill will likely end up being higher, and information on additional fees typically isn’t easy to find on a provider’s website. We found the cheapest TV providers by basing our comparisons on those actual, final costs.

To be perfectly honest, I wasn’t 100% committed to cutting ties completely when I dialed those digits. I don’t live in an area with decent over the air reception for the networks, which makes fall weekend football viewing more challenging without paid television. I thought I might try a free month of Sling TV. At least you can get ESPN channels on that, and at least a dozen other decent channels.
The good news is that nearly all of these services offer the ESPN family of networks as standard, at the lowest tier. Many then offer regional Fox Sports channels, and even an array of overseas sports broadcasts. Soccer fanatics should also look into FuboTV, which emphasizes the major sports leagues in general but is particularly generous with international football. Again, be sure to check with the various live TV providers to see what you’re allowed to see in your region and for what price. (If you can afford it, consider Playstation Vue, which offers easy access to the many games streaming every day on ESPN’s website.) ESPN also now offers ESPN+, which features a selection of live games from professional and college sports, along with access to the network's documentary films and some studio content exclusive to the subscription service.
For example, DIRECTV charges $20 a month for every month remaining on your contract. So if you need to get out of your contract but you still have nine months left, you’re looking at a cool $180 plus a $15 deactivation fee. It’s steep, for sure, but it’s all in the contract agreement. Make sure to ask your provider about early termination fees before you sign, just in case.
Fiber-optic uses flexible glass wires to transmit data at a fast rate (and with higher quality) than traditional cable. Fiber technology doesn’t affect television like it does internet, but few providers give you the option of buying one without the other, so your quality of internet is a worthy consideration. Both AT&T U-Verse and Verizon FiOS run on fiber-optic networks — but they’ve earned the best reputation in the industry thanks to their wicked-fast speeds.

Because the content you get with any of these cable-replacement services, especially local channels, can vary by region, you should go to each company’s website, plug in your ZIP code, and see which channels are available in your area. These video streaming services have been adding more local broadcast channels, such as ABC and CBS, but they’re not always available in smaller communities.
The best way to pick the right TV package is to first set your budget. Next, ask yourself which channels you'd like to be included in your package. Most providers offer a similar set of core channels for every plan. With each plan upgrade, the provider adds either more HD or premium channels to justify the added cost. Some of these channels may be foreign networks that you can't normally get in the U.S. or even commercial-free movie channels. None of us want our favorite movie to be interrupted by an annoying commercial break. Most providers also offer access to On-Demand libraries filled with hundreds or even thousands of titles for you to enjoy at any time. Make sure to check out the free perks included in your chosen package. For example, Spectrum gives its subscribers free HD channels on some of its plans. Premium packages from Spectrum also include movie channels like HBO, Cinemax, Showtime, TMC, and STARZ, as well as the NFL Network and NFL Redzone at no extra cost. Now that's what we call a deal!
When you’re looking for an Internet Service Provider (ISP), it’s important to narrow down your search by zip code because coverage may vary depending on your location—even within a service area for a single provider. However, don’t assume that a narrow search means limited options. In addition to cable providers, there are likely DSL, fiber, and satellite providers available at your address. We’ll help you compare all your options so you get the best service at the right price. Enter your zip code below to compare plans and choose the best fit.
One approach is to use one of the cord-cutting “calculators” at sites like The Verge and Slate, which allow users to pick out which services they’re interested in and then tally up your savings relative to cable. These are useful, but they generally don’t take into account a key cord cutting enabler: the ability to purchase shows a la carte through iTunes and Amazon, usually within a day of their original airing. This isn’t new technology—iTunes has been selling television downloads since 2005—but it changes the streaming calculus because it means you can easily and cheaply plug any gaps in whatever bundle of streaming options you choose.
Netflix.com: There is a monthly cost associated with Netflix , but the added convenience of keeping the movies and TV shows as long as you want, and being able to stream a selection of movies and TV shows over the computer through one of the options above, make it worth it.  $8.99 for the basic package, plus you can get a 1 month netflix free trial!
Comcast reported a loss of 275,000 subscribers in the third quarter of 2010, bringing the total for the calendar year to 625,000. The company said most of these losses were not from people leaving for another service. Moffett pointed out that cable companies needed to offer lower-cost packages,[7] but a survey by Strategy Analytics revealed financial considerations were not the primary reason. People were not satisfied with what they could get, and online sources had a wider array of content. The survey showed that 13% of cable subscribers intended to cancel service in the next year. Slightly more than half were under the age of 40, and nearly all had a high school education. Two-thirds had or planned further schooling, and just over half earned at least $50,000 a year.[8]

Depending on the service, you may find that not everyone in your household will be able to use it at the same time. Every streaming service we’ve reviewed has some limits on the number of separate devices that can be streaming content at the same time. For example, Sling TV’s Orange plan, $20 per month, allows for only one user at a time. The pricier Blue service, $25, allows access for three simultaneous users; adding a fourth user boosts the price to $40.
Alphabet does not break out YouTube TV numbers but for both companies it's not really about where they are now but where the market is going. The cable universe still contains about 86 million homes -- down from nearly 95 million at its peak. This isn't Alphabet trying to maintain share. It's the company seeing that not only are those 86 million remaining cable homes in play, but so are tens of millions of Millennials who never had a cord to cut in the first place.
One of the toughest things for cord-cutters to give up is sports content, since cable and satellite TV give access not only to home games, but also to matches from all around the world. An HD antenna will keep you covered for local games. Otherwise, you have two options: a cable-replacement service, or a streaming sports service. Every major sports organization offers some kind of streaming package, from MLB.TV to NFL Live to NBA League Pass. These services are expensive compared to streaming subscriptions, and can cost between $100 and $200 per year.
When hunting for the best alternative to cable TV, remember to identify what’s most important to you. Is live TV a must? Or are you mainly a binge-watcher? Do you want a premium package? Or is it all about being cost-effective? Whatever the case, pay close attention to the details and you’ll be well on your way to finding the best cable alternative for you. Happy streaming!
To help you comb through your options, we’ve put together this overview of 2019’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.
One of the more popular options for watching streamed TV shows leaves out the media streaming software and network media device altogether, and has you just connecting your desktop or laptop directly to your HDTV.   With this option you all you need is a TV and a desktop or laptop with a video output.  Our laptop has a HDMI output, so it works well to connect it to our HDTV if we want.
Their ESPN and ESPN2 are already available with their CHOICE package and above, but if that's not enough, you can subscribe to their Sports Pack add-on ($13.99/month). This gives you access to 30 regional sports networks, like the MLB Network Strike Zone and Outdoor Channel. You also get specialty sports channels that cover fly-fishing and horse racing, as well as international soccer.
Coaxial cables are capable of bi-directional carriage of signals as well as the transmission of large amounts of data. Cable television signals use only a portion of the bandwidth available over coaxial lines. This leaves plenty of space available for other digital services such as cable internet, cable telephony and wireless services, using both unlicensed and licensed spectrum. Broadband internet access is achieved over coaxial cable by using cable modems to convert the network data into a type of digital signal that can be transferred over coaxial cable. One problem with some cable systems is the older amplifiers placed along the cable routes are unidirectional thus in order to allow for uploading of data the customer would need to use an analog telephone modem to provide for the upstream connection. This limited the upstream speed to 31.2k and prevented the always-on convenience broadband internet typically provides. Many large cable systems have upgraded or are upgrading their equipment to allow for bi-directional signals, thus allowing for greater upload speed and always-on convenience, though these upgrades are expensive.
Charter Communications (which rebranded as Spectrum after acquiring Time Warner Cable and Bright House in 2016) offers the perfect example of how customers are feeling the pinch. Last quarter, Charter lost 36,000 residential pay-TV subscribers, yet the company’s TV revenues increased by 3.4 percent. In the quarter before that, Charter lost 66,000 subscribers, but still squeezed out a 2.9-percent increase in TV revenues.
Yes, I dropped my cable many years ago. The cost was outrageous and also wanted to hurt the biased Leftist media. I still have a flat panel and I can hook up to local channels which includes the three major channels and all their tv shows. I just don’t though. I turn it on and think I’ll just have it as background noise like I used to. I can’t stand it. And I’ve watched some of the tv shows and they’re truly just horrible. I watch some things on YouTube, like the old Unsolved Mysteries, but generally I just don’t need tv.
I hope you’ll forgive me, or at least not ostracize me. Ultimately, my cord cutting attempt, much like any attempt I’ve made to withhold my rage at the interim head coach for terrible clock management, or the defense’s unfathomable inability to recover a forced fumble, has failed. But I did cut the Dish bill by over 60%, which will save me over $600 in the next ten months. It’s not a $1,000 savings, but it’s a start.

My husband and I have looked into ending our cable service and moving to one of the many options presented here. However our challenge is that we haven’t found a great alternative to access a wide variety of sports events that are currently shown on cable channels like ESPN2, ESPNU, etc. ESPN3 online does have some events, but not the variety we would be looking for. Has anyone else addressed this challenge and found a suitable alternative?
I have not had cable for almost 7 years now. I do not even miss it. Television is a good distraction but than there is also YouTube and Netflix. Just sayin. Also, I find that I am a lot more active when I am not constantly wanting to keep up with the next series of shows. If I had cable now, I would probably be following like 6 shows. I don’t have time for that nor do I want to devote any time for that. It is a personal choice I guess. But yah, cut the cord a long time ago.
You simply can't get the live sports experience with internet based streaming services that you can get from cable TV. Don't believe us? We'll give you an example. Let's say you're watching the Super Bowl on your favorite streaming service. There's 2 minutes left in the fourth quarter, and your team is about to score the winning touchdown. Suddenly, the screen freezes. Now you're stuck screaming at your laptop or TV, not knowing if your team won the biggest game of the entire season. (And yes, this has actually happened before).
DirecTV Now offers a generous number of channels across four different packages, and it doesn't cost all that much, considering how much you get: $35 per month for more than 60 channels, up to $70 per month for more than 120 channels. While it's a good deal on paper, DirecTV Now itself has inconsistent video quality, a suboptimal interface and a haphazard selection of on-demand content. DVR options are still in their infancy, and platform availability is all over the place. If you want the largest amount of stuff to watch for the least amount of money, DirecTV Now works; otherwise, it's not the best choice.
By comparison, traditional TV providers face a huge risk in diverging from the status quo. Just look at what’s happening with DirecTV and Dish Network: Both companies dove headfirst into streaming with DirecTV Now and Sling TV respectively, yet those services aren’t drawing enough subscribers to compensate for the hundreds of thousands of customers now fleeing satellite TV every quarter.
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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.
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.
Even so, no service we've reviewed is incomplete enough to discourage you from using it outright. If a service sounds like it might be a good fit for you, your best bet is to investigate which channels that service offers and see if it falls within your price range. Most of these services give you anywhere from a week to a month to evaluate them before charging you, and none of them require a contract. At worst, you'll be stuck with a service you don't like for a month.
Many customers may opt for the “cord-cutting” route and purchase streaming subscriptions directly from networks that have shows they like. Many users lean toward this service because it's cheaper and they can trim the fat by removing all the unnecessary programming they don't watch and pay for the ones they do. While this might seem like a good idea on paper, for just a few extra dollars a month, you don't have to limit yourself to just one network, or one free episode on these streaming services. Access all of your favorite shows and networks in a single place with providers like DIRECTV and Spectrum.
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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.[33] 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.[34][35] 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.[36][37][38] 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.
DISH's Hopper 3 DVR unit is also one of the best in the market, allowing you to record up to 16 different shows at once. With receivers, you can have up to eight unique streams in your home. This means you can have up to eight TVs in your home playing different channels at the same time. The Hopper 3 also records up to 500 hours of HD content, and auto skips commercials.
There's no need to break the bank just to get television. Plenty of providers offer cheap cable TV packages, so you can save your money for what really matters. Check out Spectrum's Triple Play bundles. When you bundle with internet and home phone services, you can get TV and internet for as little as $30 a month for each. DIRECTV also offers affordable plans. You can get over 155 channels for just $35 a month. If you cut out just a few Starbucks and late night froyo trips every month, you could use the savings on hours of priceless entertainment!

Here’s a good place to experiment. Don’t look for a live TV option with Nickelodeon or Disney; instead, make use of the PBS app and YouTube’s kid-friendly channels, which are free. Get a subscription to Boomerang for some classic cartoons, and supplement that with some combination of Netflix, Hulu and Amazon, all of which have some excellent children’s shows.
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