Updated: February 19, 2014
AT&T U-verse® is the only fiber optic cable provider that makes the list of cheap cable TV providers. Packages for AT&T U-verse® begin at very affordable rates for local channels (when you bundle with Internet), but can get much higher when you get into the high-end packages with 400+ channels. The real value for U-verse® plans is in the entry-level and mid-range plans, as these packages are the most competitive. One potential drawback to U-verse® packages is the fact that introductory pricing is only applicable for the first six months of service. After that, expect your prices to increase. AT&T U-verse® is one of few cable TV services that utilize fiber optic networks. These networks reduce signal distortion, and have the ability to deliver picture of high quality. Fiber optics is especially appreciated by those that are looking to bundle TV with Internet, as Internet speeds on fiber optic networks can be impressive. AT&T U-verse® is only offered in a few markets, but if you're lucky enough to be in one of the areas of service, U-verse® is definitely worth looking into.
Time Warner Cable
Time Warner Cable earns a spot on the top of the list of cheap cable TV by offering competitive prices for entry-level, mid-level, and high-end packages. Time Warner Cable's cheapest plan comes in around $20/month and provides access to over 20 popular channels, including local news and weather programs. Those looking for a plan with a little more to offer can take advantage of the Standard TV package, which includes 70+ channels, or the Digital TV plan which offers customers more than 200 channels, and includes over 15,000 On Demand titles (prices may vary depending on location). Rates are typically priced lower for the first 12 months of service, and will likely increase after that time. One potential drawback of Time Warner cable is the added cost of DVR rentals. If keeping costs down is your top priority, be mindful of your DVR choice, as the top DVR will increase your bill by an additional $30/month.
Bright House Networks
Bright House Networks makes it on the list of cheap cable TV providers by offering three competitively priced plans. These plans range from $25 - $79/month and offer between 20 - 200+ channels. The major drawback to Bright House Networks is the limited availability, as service is only currently offered in parts of California, Florida, Michigan, Indiana, and Alabama. One great feature of Bright House Networks is the lack of lengthy contracts. Many cable companies will lock you into a contract of two years or more, but with Bright House, you are charged on a month-to-month basis. Bright House also does not require a credit check, another differentiating characteristic that will appeal to those with less-than-perfect credit. If you're looking for a cheap cable TV option, and are not fond of lengthy contracts, Bright House Networks should be near the top of your list.
Offering services in 40 states makes Comcast XFINITY a viable cheap cable TV option for households across the nation. Comcast XFINITY TV has several options for customers to choose from, but their most affordable packages are in the entry-level to mid-level range. For those just looking for the basics, you can get into an entry-level plan that includes 10+ channels for around $25 - $30/month. Comcast XFINITY also has multiple mid-range plans that priced bewteen $30 - $50/month and include 80 - 180+ channels. Like many cable TV providers, Comcast XFINITY TV offers prices that are lower for the first year, but increase in month 13, and if you're looking for a long term solution, these price increases can be annoying. For those on the market for a high-end plan, you may want to shop around as Comcast's Digital Premier plans can get expensive. However, Comcast XFINITY TV does include a great library of On Demand programs, Spanish language programming, and a respectable selection of DVRs. For many customers, the additional features offered by XFINITY TV will be worth the extra costs, even in the long run.
Cablevision / Optimum
Cablevision's Optimum TV is a growing cable TV provider that offers packages that range from around $40 - 70/month. Although the entry-level plan is slightly higher than many competitors, Optimum makes it on the cheap cable TV list by providing competitively priced mid-level and high-end packages. Similar to most TV providers, the prices will increase after the first year, and at that point, you will probably be able to find a cheaper provider. One potential drawback to Optimum TV is the fairly limited availability, as Optimum is only available in eight states. Optimum TV has a number of competitive DVRs, including an option that allows you to record up to four programs at once. For households with teens and kids, being able to simultaneously record four programs can help keep the peace. Optimum does not require credit checks in order to sign up for service, which can be useful if you have let your credit slide to a below-average score.