The Best Cheap TV Providers

All the channels you want — at the lowest possible price.

What's it best for

Website

States Serviced:

Connection Type:

Most Package Options

21

Fiber Optic

Most Popular

50

Satellite

Most Satisfied Customers

8

Fiber Optic

Free DVR

41

Cable

Cheapest Bundle Deals

39

Cable

Best DVR

50

Satellite

Best DIY Support

19

Cable

Best Support Technology

4

Cable

Includes an Internet Bundle

41

Cable

The Best Cheap TV Providers

Most Package Options

AT&T U-verse AT&T U-verse is a smaller service in just 21 states, but it has the largest range of channel package options. Prices range from $19 to $125.

AT&T’s most basic package, U-Basic has 20 of the basic cable network channels; ABC, NBC, FOX, PBS, the CW. If you only want cable for basic network TV shows and live events, this could suffice. But if you want more variety with channels like Disney Channel, HGTV, Animal Planet, Discovery Channel, you’ll be happier with the U-family package that’s around 200 channels for $50 and includes 12 of the top 35 channels.

For even more channels, like ESPN, MTV, A&E, TBS, CNN, Lifetime, and Bravo, you’ll want the U200 plan with over 360 channels. That package has 34 of the 35 most popular channels (only missing Hallmark Movies). Upgrade to U300 or U400 for their HD replicas, international news, and more sports.

AT&T U-verse Pricing

Package

Price per Month

Number of Channels

U-Basic
U-family
U200
U300
U450

$20
$50
$70
$75
$125

20+
200+
360+
470+
550+

Pricing is for TV-only packages; offers may vary by location.

The U-verse DVR can record up to four shows simultaneously, holds up to 422 hours of standard definition (SD) or 155 hours of high definition (HD) content, and can be connected to four different TVs in your home. To compare, Comcast’s X1 DVR lets your record up to six shows at once, U-verse can store 100 more hours of TV compared to Comcast. Both are pretty average DVRs.

Under the AT&T umbrella, both U-verse and DirecTV won the J.D. Power award in the East and South regions, just beating out Verizon FiOS and DISH Network. U-verse also earned a 63 reader score from Consumer Reports and 70% customer satisfaction from the ACSI. That’s relatively high for a TV provider — only Verizon FiOS scored higher with 71% customer satisfaction.

Most Popular

DIRECTV Now owned by AT&T, DirecTV is the most popular satellite TV provider with about 20 million subscribers and service offered in all 50 states.

The cheapest package, Select, includes 145+ channels for only $50. It has everything from basic local and kids networks, to extras like TNT, HGTV, TBS, History, AMC, Food Network, Lifetime, MTV — all in HD. It has 33 of the 35 most watched — only ESPN and Oprah’s OWN channel are missing from that lineup.

There are six different packages to choose from, ranging from $50–$125 per month, with a range of 145–350 channels. To get ESPN, Fox Sports, an exclusive sports package, or niche channels like Sprout, Oxygen, Travel Channel, Boomerang, etc., you’ll need to upgrade to the Entertainment package.

DirecTV Pricing

Package

Price per Month

Number of Channels

Select
Entertainment
Choice
Xtra
Ultimate
Premier

$50
$55
$60
$70
$75
$125

145+
150+
175+
220+
240+
315+

Offers may vary by location.

DirecTV claims to be the “undisputed leader in sports,” but after comparing similar packages, we think that’s a bit of an exaggeration. DirecTV does have more sports-related content that Xfinity or Mediacom, for example, but DISH Network’s sports package offers the same standard sports channels for just a dollar less per month. That includes international soccer games, college sports, MLB Network Strike Zone, the Outdoor Channel, plus regional sports channels as a $14 add-on.

In all fairness, DirecTV does offer a few exclusive NFL-related features like Fantasy Zone (full fantasy football coverage) and Short Cuts (30 min recaps of every game), so check your local lineups if you have specific sport interests.

Satellite vs Cable Satellite tends to have clearer HD picture, but cable is typically more reliable. A satellite dish is susceptible to everything from heavy rain to errant baseballs. Even just moving it a bit can disrupt the signal and picture.

DirecTV uses a new DVR system called the Genie. It allows viewers to rewind shows that aired in the last 72 hours, record five shows at the same time, and store up to 200 hours of HD content. Equipment and service fees are included in packages for up to four rooms.

J.D. Power lumped both of AT&T’s properties, U-verse and DirecTV into one for their scoring. Collectively, it won the 2016 J.D. Power U.S. Residential Television Service Provider Satisfaction Study in both the East and South regions. It scored a 5/5 in all categories; overall satisfaction, billing, communication, cost, programming, performance, and customer service. DirecTV also scored 68% from the ACSI, and a reader score of 67 out of 100 from Consumer Reports — low scores, but still some of the highest in this industry.

Most Satisfied Customers

Verizon FiOS Though it’s only available in eight states, Verizon FiOS earned top scores from J.D. Power, Consumer Reports, and the ACSI.

If you’re only looking for basic cable, Verizon has a FiOS TV Local package for $10 a month for about 20 channels, including FOX, ABC, PBS, NBC, plus local channels. This would work for people who tune in for news, big network prime time shows, award shows, and network TV specials.

For those who want more, FiOS has a unique Custom TV plan. For $65 a month, you can choose one from seven genre-specific packages, including Sports & News, Kids & Pop, and Lifestyle & Reality.

If you think subscribing to just one genre is too limiting, Verizon also has more traditional options, starting with the Preferred HD plan. At 270 channels, it combines most of the channels from each custom plan pack for $75 per month. It includes all but one of the 35 most popular networks — the only one that’s missing is Oprah’s OWN network.

Consider upgrading if you want more international access, a wider variety of sports channels, or premium networks. Showtime, Cinemax, and Epix are included in the Ultimate HD plan that comes with 435+ channels for $90 per month.

Verizon FiOS Pricing

Package

Price per Month

Number of Channels

Custom TV
Preferred HD
Extreme HD
Ultimate HD
FiOS TV Local

$65
$75
$78
$90
$10

Varies
270+
340+
435+
15+

Pricing is for TV-only packages; offers may vary by location.

There’s also exclusive specialty packages you can purchase for an additional monthly price. For at-home fitness there’s a Gaiam TV Fit & Yoga package, an Anime Network that features anime straight from Japan, a Karaoke channel, an updated Disney-branded movie channel, and a few others. All ranging from $6–$8 monthly addition.

Verizon FiOS has a few different DVRs to choose from. The DVR options range from $13–$26 per month, with 50–200 hours of HD storage, and 2–12 simultaneous recording.

It received 5/5 from J.D. Power in all categories in the East division. FiOS also received the highest rating from ACSI with a 71%. Its 68 reader score from Consumer Reports is also the highest out of our picks. It was rated “Very Good” in reliability and “Good” in channel selection and equipment. This commitment to better customer service is reflected in its website’s interface too. It’s easy to navigate and find concrete information on monthly prices, DVRs, channel lineups, and extra options.

Free DVR

Charter Communications Its free DVR allows you to store up to 780 hours of content and connect to four TVs in your home.

In all four of the cities we sought quotes for, the channel packages varied. In some places, the TV Select plan included a full 258 channels, while other cities only receive 125. This is the single TV-only option from Charter Spectrum. There are more expensive package tiers with more channels, but it requires you to bundle your TV, internet, and phone. It’s not much of deal either — you’ll pay at least $90 to get all three.

Charter Spectrum TV Pricing

Package

Price per Month

Number of Channels

Spectrum TV Select

$65

125+

Offers may vary by location.

On the plus side, Charter Spectrum includes a free DVR with any TV subscription, whereas the majority of other providers like Comcast and DirecTV will charge around $15 a month.

But Charter Spectrum has one of the worst reputations among its customers. It ranked last with J.D. Power in the East and fared only slightly better than Mediacom and Comcast in the West and North Central regions. Consumer Reports (58/100) and the ACSI (63%) shared similar findings.

Best DVR

DISH Network Dish Network is available in all 50 states and is a standout provider for its customer service, flexible channel package, and its high-tech DVR.

Dish Network’s starter package is called Flex Pack — it comes with 50 channels, but the selection is a little sporadic. It offers Cartoon Network, but no Disney Channel or Nickelodeon. MTV2, but not MTV. National Geographic, but no Animal Planet. It also lists favorites like HGTV, TBS, CNN, Hallmark, E!, Food Network, TLC, A&E, AMC, and more. The Flex Pack alone includes 21 of the 35 most-watched channels.

The channels are a little random so that DISH can sell you its additional channel packs that you can add on to the Flex Pack, which includes one free pack of your choice. For example, the basic local channels like FOX, NBC, ABC, PBS, etc., are only included if you add on the Local Package for an extra $10. There’s a Kids Pack, Outdoor Pack, News Pack, a few sports packages, and some other collections. Each pack includes four to eleven genre-specific networks.

If you want to add two or more channel packs, you’ll want to look into upgrading to the America’s Top 120+ package for $55 per month — it features 27 of the 35 most-watched channels.

DISH Network Pricing

Package

Price per Month

Number of Channels

Flex Pack
America's Top 120+
America's Top 200
America's Top 250

$40
$56
$70
$80

50+
190+
240+
290+

Offers may vary by location.

Sports fans take note: DISH’s Multi-Sport Pack rivals DirecTV’s sports package. Whether you prefer NFL, MLB, NBA, college sports or international soccer, DISH has it covered for an extra $13 per month — that’s a dollar cheaper than DirecTV’s equivalent. Like DirecTV, it also features over 20 regional sport networks.

Dish Network’s Hopper 3 DVR costs an extra $15 per month, but it’s truly a cut above the rest. This DVR can record simultaneously record 16 shows and hold 2,000 hours of recording. What’s more, it’s stand-out feature, AutoHop, automatically skip commercials on select primetime recordings.

Dish won the J.D. Power award in the North Central region, earning 5/5 in all categories except programming, where it earned a 4/5. The 4 is likely due to the way it structures the basic package, with a bit of inconsistency in types of channels offered, and the potential hassle of adding on mini packages for one channel that might be included in other providers’ basic plans. Otherwise, the award signifies that DISH should offer responsive customer service, clear communication, and fair costs. It came second to AT&T in the East, third behind AT&T and Verizon FiOS in the South and West, but maintained high scores of 4/5 and 5/5.

Cheapest Packages

Comcast XFINITY Xfinity TV is offered in 39 states and has a TV/internet deal for every price point.

Xfinity’s cheapest TV package happens to be a bundle deal. The Limited Basic package includes local channels like ABC, PBS, NBC, plus a few other basic cable classics for $30–$40 a month, but it also includes 25 Mbps internet bundle. If you want more than that, the $40 Digital Economy package is your next best bet. It’s TV-only, but provides 100+ channels, 15 of which were on our top 35 list, including Fox News, CNN, A&E, AMC, E!, Food Network, Lifetime, Cartoon Network, Disney Channel.

For $50, the Digital Starter package of 140+ channels includes 30 out of 35 most watched networks. It includes international news channels, plus Freeform, FX, HGTV, MTV, Syfy, TBS, and Nickelodeon. Sports fans will also appreciate ESPN, FS1, NFL Network, Pac 12, and ROOT Sports.

XFINITY from Comcast Pricing

Package

Price per Month

Number of Channels

Digital Economy TV
Digital Starter TV
Digital Preferred TV
Digital Premier TV

$40
$50
$60
$105

100+
140+
220+
260+

Pricing is for TV-only packages; offers may vary by location.

Xfinity has a solid DVR and on-demand service. You can record six shows at once, store 300 hours of SD and 60 hours of HD, and it has a voice remote. The X1 DVR system will cost $10 per month.

Comcast is notorious for bad customer service — long hold times, bait-and-switch pricing, and delayed service appointments are common complaints. Comcast ranked 2/5 with J.D. Power, not quite last, but below the average. Its reader score from Consumer Reports is 55, just above Mediacom (50), but far below Verizon FiOS (68). The score reported Comcast especially poor when it comes to tech support, customer service, and value.

Best Support Technology

Cablevision / Optimum It serves just four states, but it's customer service team is equipped to handle most problems remotely — no appointment needed.

Optimum is a smaller provider next to the goliaths in the industry. Its service is only available in Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania. That said, it still scored above average for its customer service — and its prices are competitive with the other providers on our list.

The cheapest plan covers a range of top channels: local networks, ESPN, HGTV, kids channels, E!, Food Network, Fox, Freeform, Lifetime, MTV, and a lot more. It boasts 31 out of the 35 most watched networks — only missing OWN, Nick Jr., Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, and the Hallmark channel. The Optimum Value plan is $65 for 255+ channels.

Optimum by Cablevision Pricing

Package

Price per Month

Number of Channels

Optimum Value
Optimum Preferred
Optimum Silver
Optimum Gold

$65
$75
$90
$110

255+
340+
395+
445+

Pricing is for TV-only packages; offers may vary by location.

Consider upgrading if you watch international channels, sports, or premium channels. But you can purchase these things as a separate package too. It offers a seven channel college sports package, a 25 channel sports package, and each of the premium channels can be purchased as a separate addition. Prices for these additions are only viewable if you visit its website and plug in your address to build your own plan.

Optimum has its Multi-Room DVR for $17 a month, and allows you to record 15 shows at once. When it comes time to install this, you’ll have to pay $60 for up to two TVs, and extra $20 for three TVs, and anything more is an additional $25 each.

Optimum’s customer service is pretty average, on the jilted TV provider scale that is. It scored an average of 3/5 with J.D. Power, has a 66% with ACSI, and a 62 reader score from Consumer Reports. Optimum was rated “Good” in reliability, channel selection, technical support, and equipment.

That technical support rating comes from their GotoAssist feature. If you’re facing any kind of technical issue with your service, its support team can remotely access your device — no appointment necessary. Optimum also has a mobile app for customer support, an extensive FAQ, install and service guides, and 24/7 access to their live chat or call centers.

Includes an Internet Bundle

Mediacom It doesn't offer TV-only service, but it's bundle deal comes with a whopping 60 Mbps connection.

All of Mediacom’s TV plans require an internet bundle — there are no TV-only packages. The cheapest plan is Local Plus TV + Internet 60 for $50. It offers a lot of public access channels and basic network cable, plus 60 Mbps of internet. That’s competitive with other providers’ TV- or internet-only packages.

Mediacom Pricing

Package

Price per Month

Number of Channels

Local Plus TV
Family TV
Xtream 100 Silver
Xtream 100 Gold
Xtream 100 Platinum

$50
$80
$100
$120
$140

45+
225+
240+
280+
360+

Packages shown include internet. Offers may vary by location.

The next tier, Family TV ($80) hosts 230+ channels that catch-all for the basic viewer. It includes 34 out of the 34 most viewed networks. Disney, ESPN, MTV, AMC, etc. It’s just missing Nick Jr. As you move up tiers, it gives you the option of adding one to three genre-specific Digital Paks: Sports & Information, Kids & Variety, Movies & Music, and premium channel packages. The largest package, Xtream 100 Platinum, includes all premium channels, all Digital Packs, and 100 Mbps for $130.

If you’ve got a busy schedule, Mediacom offers the shortest install window at only 30 minutes, with availability on nights and weekends. But you’ll pay for that extra convenience with a $99 install fee.

Mediacom has a respectable TiVo DVR that holds 150 hours of HD content and 1,000 of SD. You can record six shows at a time. That should be enough for most viewers, especially with On-Demand features that let you watch some programs the following day. The DVR service is included in all packages, and for $5 per month you can connect multiple TVs.

Mediacom’s customer service ranks even worse than Comcast. Its 2/5 with J.D. Power put it at the bottom of the ranking in the West. It also earned the lowest Consumer Reports reader score at a 50, the only provider to be rated “Poor” in every single category. It tied with WOW for the lowest ACSI score at 56%. Possibly contributing to these scores, Mediacom is the only provider that doesn’t have an advertised 24/7 customer support. It stops taking calls at 7:30pm CST, but you can schedule a time for a rep to call you back.

Best DIY Resources

Cox Communications It's extensive online resources make any potential trouble-shooting a breeze.

Cox Communications offers only one TV package, unless you want to bundle. It’s called Contour and 130+ channels for $65. Its lineup covers 31 of the 35 most popular networks with family channels (Disney, Nick), movie channels (Lifetime, Hallmark, TNT), basic cable (CBS, NBC), basic sports (ESPN, Fox Sports), and special interest channels (E!, HGTV, Discovery). Like with most providers, you can add on premium and sport channel packages ranging from a $10–$15 monthly addition.

The only channels this package doesn’t have are a few niche channels (OWN, Science, American Heroes Channel, Sprout, CNN, Disney Junior, Nick Jr), exclusive sports channels (beinSports, World Fishing Network), or Spanish channels.

Cox Communications Pricing

Package

Price per Month

Number of Channels

Contour

$65

130+

Pricing is for TV-only package; offers may vary by location.

Cox has a few DVR options, the best model is called Contour Record 6 HD. It can record six shows at once and store 1,000 hours of storage. Unfortunately, there’s a monthly equipment fee of $30 per month — double the typical DVR rental cost. For $8 less, you can use the Contour Record 2 HD, that allows only two shows to be recorded simultaneously. For additional TVs in other rooms, you’ll need to rent a $3 Mini Box — but the mini box won’t support all channels or video on demand.

Its customer service scores are average, falling squarely in the middle of our picks. Cox received a 3/5 from J.D. Power, ranking middle of the pack in the West, South, and East. Cox received a reader score of 60 from Consumer Reports, and were rated “Poor” in value and video on demand, but ‘Good’ in reliability. ACSI gave it a 61%. The service could go either way for you, it definitely won’t be the worst but there’s room for improvement.

Cox does offer a large catalog of educational how-to videos and resources for setting up, using, and troubleshooting your service. Service issues are like mosquitoes, small and annoying, but not without a solution. You don’t need to call an exterminator for a few bugs, and you don’t need to call a service technician just to recover a fuzzy picture. Cox’s guides even allow you to customize your issues. Something wrong with your TV picture? You can choose whether it’s grainy, frozen or tiled, blue or black, or if the issue is poor color. After a few more questions about your service, you’ll get different steps to a solution. Cox has created a ton of step by step videos and guides so you can truly DIY any troubleshooting.

Did You Know?

Bargaining can save big.

Despite how poorly they show their appreciation, TV providers want your business. They’ll often go to pretty great lengths to keep it. Whether you’re calling up to keep your promo prices, get another month of HBO for free, or get a fee waived; there are a few ways to set yourself up for success.

Not sure what you need? Bundler’s quiz uses your TV viewing habits to recommend your best value bundle of traditional TV and streaming services.

Don’t call until you’re prepared. Know what the competitors offer in your area and claim that you’re considering them. Know what potential upgrades or prices you’re willing to pay for, and know exactly what you’re hoping to get from the call.

When you do get a lower offer you’re happy with, double check to make sure you understand if that new price requires a contract (or any derivation of the word like commitment or agreement). Confirm you new bill before you hang up, and be sure to have written everything down. Ask for call log numbers or confirmation numbers, anything that can assure verifiability if discrepancies arrive.

If your company has a reputation for unfulfilled promotion promises or conflicting information from representatives, call again later and ask to speak to another rep. Verify with them the new bargain you’ve just been promised.

Streaming is changing how we watch TV.

You might have a headache after scouring through all those tricky fees, lame customer service ratings, and comparing packages to get you those 19 channels you watch. There are other options if you don’t want to rely on a cable provider alone.

Choose just a channel.

Worried about missing out on exclusive sports packages? You can buy season passes (usually around $100 for a whole season of one sport) for live access to MLB, NHL, NBA, and the NFL games.

TV providers and networks are jumping on the bandwagon too. Lots of networks are rolling out their own streaming services, some require paid subscriptions and some have the most recent episodes or season for free. PBS is currently the only network that lets you stream all of its programming for free. Most others, including Syfy Now, AMC, and TBS, require you to sign in with your TV provider. The CW’s app lets you watch the latest five episode for free, and the rest require a sign in. HBO Go and CBS All Access allow you to either purchase a subscription similar to Netflix or Hulu, or sign in with your provider if you already pay for premium services through them.

Stream all your favorites.

Streaming apps are multiplying all the time, but the big and noteworthy include Hulu, Amazon Prime, and Netflix. Each offers a unique but extensive collection of previously released TV shows and movies, plus a growing library of exclusive content — everything from comedy specials to Emmy-winning dramas. The subscription prices usually fall around $8 a month, but that can vary based on capacity of viewers you select.

If you’re wanting to cut the cord but maintain the benefits of traditional TV channel surfing, Sling TV is a great option. Starting at a monthly $20, the base plan has 23 channels including favorites like Cartoon Network, CNN, ESPN, AMC, The Food Network, and more. To purchase additional niche packages it’s only $5 extra each month — a good option for those who want to customize their cable viewing by cutting out unnecessary channels.

TV providers have begun to offer their own streaming options too. For example, AT&T offers its own streaming app, DIRECTV NOW. Pricing starts at $35 per month (or $10 if you have an AT&T unlimited wireless plan) for 60 channels. There’s no annual contract and you can add premium channels for a monthly $5 per channel.

Replace your TV provider altogether.

If you’re cutting the cord entirely, you’ll need a device that can host all these streaming apps There are several device options, including Roku and Amazon Fire TV Stick. Many cable boxes, Smart TVs, and gaming consoles offer access to streaming apps too. Each device can vary a bit on which apps they support too, so be sure to know which streaming service you want before buying. These devices are typically a one-time purchase, ranging in price from $40–$200.

The Best Cheap TV Providers: Summed Up

Cheap TV Providers
Best For...
AT&T U-verse
Most Package Options
Verizon Fios
Most Satisfied Customers
Charter Spectrum
Free DVR
DIRECTV
Most Popular
Xfinity
Cheapest Bundle Deals
DISH Network
Best DVR
Cox
Best DIY Support
Optimum
Best Support Technology
Mediacom
Includes an Internet Bundle