Last Updated on April 19, 2018

The Best Cheap TV Providers

In the market for a cheap TV package? Availability and pricing can vary by location, but the best providers offer a fair price on the types of channels you actually watch. Plus, they often offer deals and discounts that make monthly payments more manageable. To see how the most popular providers measure up, we looked at their availability, price and overall value.

How We Chose the Best Cheap TV Providers

Availability

TV providers’ availability and plan options can vary by location. Some may only service a couple states, while others are available nationwide. We focused on providers that cover large sections of the country or service highly populated areas.

Price

Even if a provider’s advertised monthly rate is low, your bill could end up higher. Additional fees often apply and aren’t always easy to find on providers’ websites. We dug into the fine print to uncover potential rate increases after promotional period ends and extra costs like installation fees, activation fees, early termination fees and equipment fees.

Value

A TV package may be cheap, but if it doesn’t include the channels you want, it might not be worth the money. We compared available channels in entry-level packages and gave bonus points to providers who offered customizable programming or deals for bundling with other services.

Our Top Picks for the Best Cheap TV Providers

Now that we’ve done the research, we’ve compiled a concise review with things we liked and points to consider for each provider.

Outstanding customer satisfaction
States serviced
50
Pros
  • Bundling discounts
  • Long running customer satisfaction rating
  • Free installation
Cons
  • Price increases in the second year
  • Two-year contract
  • Satellite signal reliability

Why We Chose It

Bundling discounts

DIRECTV offers a discount for AT&T wireless customers who have the AT&T Unlimited Plus Enhanced plan. If you don't already have AT&T wireless, you could switch to save. It’s also possible to bundle DIRECTV with home phone or internet to get a discount on individual services. Another benefit of bundling is that multiple utilities are on one bill, which makes it easier to remember payments and avoid late fees.

Long running customer satisfaction rating

J.D. Power ranks DIRECTV as No. 1 in the nation for customer satisfaction and gives the company a perfect five out of five Power Circle rating. It’s also ranked among the top three television services on the 2017 ACSI Telecommunications Report. With availability in all 50 states, 4K programming and one Genie HD DVR included with purchase, it’s no surprise customers are so fond of the service.

Free installation

Some providers charge for installation and activation of TV service. This is a major pain point since installation fees can cost a few hundred dollars. All DIRECTV packages include standard professional installation for up to four rooms, which can potentially save you a good bit of money.

Points to Consider

Price increases in the second year

DIRECTV’s promotional pricing is low, but you will see a spike in your monthly rate after your first year of service — even though DIRECTV requires a 24-month contract. However, the company doesn’t hide this fact and is clear about the price increase on its website. If you can budget for the rate increase, DIRECTV offers a good variety of channels and on-demand programming to make it worth the cost.

Two-year contract

DIRECTV requires a two-year contract for all TV packages. Its early termination fee is prorated, so if you decide to cancel your service, you’ll have to pay for the months remaining in your contract. If you’re a renter, a student or someone who doesn’t like being in long-term contracts, then DIRECTV might not be the best fit.

Satellite signal reliability

Satellite TV is more prone to service interruptions than cable or fiber because it requires a clear view of the sky to transmit programming into your home. Bad weather — like thunderstorms and blizzards — might interfere with service. However, if you live in an area with temperate weather, you’re less likely to experience interruptions.

Most channels
Pros
  • Channel selection
  • HD DVR included
  • Save with bundles
Cons
  • Prices increase after the first year
  • Channel padding

Why We Chose It

Channel selection

U-Basic TV, U-verse’s entry-level package, includes only 15+ channels. However, its affordable U-Family TV package boasts over 200 channels — more than its competitors’ basic packages. Channels include family favorites like Food Network, Disney Channel and HGTV. If you want more options, you can add on channel packages for additional monthly fees.

HD DVR included

All U-verse packages include one free HD DVR that’ll let you record up to four programs at once and watch them from any TV in your home that has a U-verse receiver. This means no fighting over shows since you can record one while watching the other. And you don’t have to worry about any hidden installation or activation fees because, at this time, both are free for online orders.

Save with bundles

Going through one provider for home phone, internet and TV is usually the most convenient and cost-effective way to manage your utilities. When you bundle any U-verse TV package with home phone and internet, you can save on your monthly bill. Or, if you’re interested in a new wireless plan, you can receive a discount by pairing any U-verse TV package with an AT&T Unlimited Plus Enhanced plan.

Points to Consider

Prices increase after the first year

Like with DIRECTV, U-verse’s rates go up after the first year of promotional pricing. The good news is U-verse contracts are only 12 months long, so there’s no early termination fee if you choose to cancel when your first year of service is up. It’s also important to remember that, with any provider, promotional pricing is usually only guaranteed for the length of your initial contract. Once your contract expires, most providers will raise your monthly price to the regular rate.

Channel padding

U-verse does offer a good variety of channels, but some of those included may not be what you expect. With almost 80 music channels and a smattering of other, lesser-known options like Hot Buy or Jewelry Television, it does seem like the number of channels listed is overstated. But this doesn’t mean you can’t get your favorites. Carefully compare packages to ensure you’re getting the programming you and your family want.

No-contract option
Pros
  • No-contract option
  • Two-year price lock for bundled services
  • Custom TV packages
Cons
  • Router required
  • Expensive equipment

Why We Chose It

No-contract option

Some providers require customers to sign lengthy contracts, which can be difficult and expensive to get out of. Contracts are particularly frustrating if you’re a renter or student and don’t know where you’ll be living in the next year or two. Fortunately, Verizon Fios won’t lock you into a contract. If you want standalone Fios TV, your plan is automatically month-to-month, and you won’t have to worry about cancellation fees.

Two-year price lock for bundled services

If you know you’re not moving anytime soon, bundling Fios services is a cost-effective plan. Bundling Fios TV with home phone, internet or both and opting into a two-year contract guarantees the promotional price for the duration of your agreement. You’ll save money with Fios’ Double Play and Triple Play bundles, and it makes budgeting for your utilities less of a hassle.

Custom TV packages

Usually, providers’ TV packages are set in stone, and sometimes you end up paying for channels you don’t even watch. Fios’ entry-level Custom TV plan offers 155+ channels and lets you choose your programming from seven unique packages. The options include everything from Action & Adventure to Home & Family, so you can get the types of channels you and your family want without the fluff.

Points to Consider

Router required

Because Fios TV travels into the home via fiber-optic cables, you’re required to have a router to receive service. You can rent or buy one through Verizon, but both options can get pricey. Verizon does list two compatible routers (the Actiontec MI424WR Rev. 1 and Verizon Fios Quantum Gateway, Model G1100) at checkout, so if you already own one of these, you can opt to use it instead.

Expensive equipment

On top of renting or purchasing a router, a Fios TV plan doesn’t include any equipment; you’ll pay a monthly fee for each receiver and DVR you need. This equipment is expensive and, depending on how many TVs you have and which package you select, may even cost more than your actual service.

Two-year price lock
States serviced
50
Pros
  • Two-year price lock
  • Smart HD DVR included
  • High customer satisfaction rating
Cons
  • Additional equipment can be costly
  • Expensive entry-level package
  • Satellite signal reliability

Why We Chose It

Two-year price lock

Though it’s common for providers to raise prices after the first year, DISH TV’s 24-month contract doesn’t come with any surprise rate hikes. Your monthly price is locked for the duration of your contract. This can be incredibly helpful when it comes to managing home expenses and planning for the future.

Smart HD DVR included

All DISH TV packages come with a Hopper Duo Smart DVR that supports up to two HD TVs. The Hopper DVR can store up to 125 hours of HD recordings and includes a Voice Remote that lets you search for your favorite shows or channels via voice commands. The Voice Remote even has a “locate remote” feature that will beep when activated, making it much harder to lose.

High customer satisfaction rating

DISH TV has one of the highest customer satisfaction ratings for a TV provider. It scores a perfect five out of five Power Circle Rating from J.D. Power and falls a single point behind DIRECTV as No. 2 in the nation for customer satisfaction. DISH TV also ranks in the top five for customer satisfaction on the 2017 ACSI Telecommunications Report. Customers like DISH TV for its nationwide availability, two-year price guarantee and good channel variety.

Points to Consider

Additional equipment can be costly

DISH TV can get expensive if you need to add more DVRs and receivers to your home. The first DVR is included, but any additional equipment will impact your monthly bill. (It’s common for TV providers to charge for extra equipment, so you should always factor in how many DVRs and receivers you’ll need when comparison shopping.)

Expensive entry-level package

Even though DISH TV has a two-year price lock promise, the cost of its entry-level package is more expensive than some of its competitors. Paying more for DISH TV in the first year to ensure your rate doesn’t increase in the second year is a good way to keep your overall costs lower. But, if you can’t afford to do so, DISH TV’s upfront cost can make the package seem overpriced.

Satellite signal reliability

DISH TV uses satellites to deliver programming to homes, but this technology is sometimes not as reliable as other types of TV service. Inclement weather or tall objects that obstruct your dish’s view of the sky (like trees) can interrupt your service. For satellite TV to work, your satellite should have a clear view of the sky at all times.

Flexible contract options
Pros
  • Flexible contracts
  • Variety of bundles
  • Convenient installation
Cons
  • Prices and plans vary widely by location
  • Low customer satisfaction rating

Why We Chose It

Flexible contracts

XFINITY TV offers more contract options than most TV providers, so you can select a term that works for you. These options vary by location but may include no-contract plans, 12-month contracts and 24-month contracts. A 12-month contract will save you $10 per month over a no-contract plan, but if you’re a student or renter who might move soon, the month-to-month option will prevent an early termination fee down the road.

Variety of bundles

XFINITY lets you bundle TV with home phone, internet and home security service. Bundling TV with other services is a good value and makes it easier to keep track of how much you spend each month on utilities. XFINITY has Double Play (TV and internet), Triple Play (TV, internet and home phone) and Quad Play (TV, internet, home phone and home security) bundles. And each bundle type offers at least two package options to choose from, so you can find the right fit for your household and budget.

Convenient installation

Many TV providers only schedule installation appointments on weekdays, and they often can’t guarantee a timeframe for the technician to install your service. This can be frustrating if you work during the week or don’t have time to wait for the technician to arrive. With XFINITY, you can schedule a two-hour window for cable installation, and weekend appointments are available. If the technician is late, you’ll get a $20 credit.

Points to Consider

Prices and plans vary widely by location

It’s not unusual for companies to offer different plans or raise rates based on location, but XFINITY’s rates and packages vary more than its competitors’. This can make it difficult to get an accurate price range for its TV packages. Its contract options also change depending on location — some cities only offer a single contract term.

Low customer satisfaction rating

XFINITY isn’t known for having particularly good customer satisfaction. It ranks second to last on the 2017 ACSI Telecommunications Report and has a two out of five Power Circle Rating from J.D. Power. But given its low starting price, it might still be worth considering.

Guide to Cheap TV Providers

How to choose a cheap TV provider

Study additional fees and expenses

Many plans include fees in addition to the monthly price of your TV package that are either one-time or recurring. Some, like installation and equipment fees, are pretty standard, while others like broadcast or HD fees might be more uncommon. Always check with a sales representative or review the fine print so you know exactly what you’re paying for.

Check for rate increases

TV providers advertise low prices to entice new customers. These promotional rates will usually increase at the end of your initial contract and jump to the regular monthly price. However, some providers will increase rates in the middle of your contract. Most companies have rate information on their websites, but you should also confirm any rate increases with a sales representative.

Look for deals

Most of the time, it’s not difficult to find deals on TV packages. Common deals providers offer include discounts on services, Visa® Prepaid Cards and free premium channels. Though most deals are advertised on providers’ websites, it’s a good idea to call and ask a sales representative if there are any additional deals not offered online. Remember, some deals are exclusive to the company’s website and might not be honored if you order service over the phone.

Decide which channels you need

If you live an area where you have several options for your TV provider, make a list of which channels you and your family want before making your selection. Channel offerings vary between providers, so one company’s entry-level package may work better for you than another’s.

Cheap TV Providers FAQs

What are the best cheap TV providers?

Our top picks include cable, fiber, and satellite TV options:


  • DIRECTV Now
  • AT&T
  • Verizon Fios
  • Dish
  • XFINITY

AT&T and XFINITY come in cheapest — both start at $19.99/month. AT&T’s U-Basic TV package includes 15+ channels, while XFINITY’s Digital Economy Package includes 100+. DIRECTV’s DIRECTV Select package comes in third place at $35/month for 155+ channels. (Note: Pricing and availability may change and can vary by location.)

Do TV providers run credit checks?

Yes. Many TV providers require a credit check before you sign up for service. Some companies request a hard credit inquiry, which will impact your credit score. Providers say this is done to guarantee customers can make monthly payments on time. If your credit score is less than stellar, a TV provider may require an additional deposit.

What are early termination fees?

A cancellation or early termination fee is a charge that occurs when you cancel your service before your contract is up. Usually, early termination fees are prorated, which means the amount you’ll pay depends on how many months are left in your contract. For example, if you cancel service six months into a 12-month contract and have a $120 cancellation fee that’s prorated at $10 per month, you’ll have to pay $60.

Is streaming TV cheaper than cable?

Streaming live TV can be less expensive than traditional cable packages. Many companies, like DIRECTV and Hulu, now offer live TV streaming packages at low rates. These services often don’t require a contract or additional equipment. (Thinking of cutting the cord? Check out our review of The Best TV Streaming Services.)

What is the difference between cable and satellite TV?

Cable TV uses coaxial cables to transmit programming into your home. Because its infrastructure is underground, cable TV is generally less prone to service interruptions. Satellite TV delivers programming to televisions using antennas that receive signals from satellites orbiting in space. Satellite TV covers more locations than any other TV type and is available at most homes in the country.

Compare all the Best Cheap TV Providers

Best For
Contract length
States serviced
Free receiver/DVR
Installation fee
DIRECTV AT&T U-verse Verizon Fios TV DISH TV Comcast XFINITY
Outstanding customer satisfaction Most channels No-contract option Two-year price lock Flexible contract options
24 months 12 months
  • No contract
  • 24 months (when bundled)
24 months
  • No contract
  • 12 months
  • 24 months (for Triple Play bundles)
50 21 9 50 40
No No No No Yes
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