The Best Cheap TV Providers

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Most Package Options

Connection Type
Fiber Optic

States Serviced
21

Most Popular

Connection Type
Satellite

States Serviced
50

Most Satisfied Customers

Connection Type
Fiber Optic

States Serviced
8

Free DVR

Connection Type
Cable

States Serviced
41

Cheap Bundle Deals

Connection Type
Cable

States Serviced
39

High-tech DVR

Connection Type
Satellite

States Serviced
50

DIY Support

Connection Type
Cable

States Serviced
19

Great Support Technology

Connection Type
Cable

States Serviced
4

Includes an Internet Bundle

Connection Type
Cable

States Serviced
41

The Best Cheap TV Providers

Most Package Options

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

With five different channel package options, AT&T provides the most variety. It offers both the smallest and largest channel packages of all our picks, basic at 20 channels and U450 at 550 channels.

AT&T’s most basic package, aptly named Basic, has 20 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, or Discovery Channel, you’ll be happier with the $50 Family package that’s around 200 channels and includes 12 of the top 35 channels.

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

AT&T Pricing

Package

Price per Month

Number of Channels

Basic
Family
200
300
450

$20
$50
$70
$75
$125

20+
200+
360+
470+
550+

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

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

DIRECTV, with service in all 50 states, is the most popular TV service provider. In addition to its widespread availability, it also hosts a great sports package, a competitive DVR, and award-winning customer service.

There are six different packages to choose from, ranging from $50–$125 per month, with a range of 145–350 channels. The cheapest package, Select, includes 145+ channels for $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 the lineup. 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’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 minute 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.

J.D. Power lumped both of AT&T’s properties, AT&T and DIRECTV into one for scoring. The two-brands collectively won the 2016 J.D. Power U.S. Residential Television Service Provider Satisfaction Study in both the East and South regions. They scored a 5/5 in all categories; overall satisfaction, billing, communication, cost, programming, performance, and customer service. DIRECTV also scored 68 percent 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.

In an industry not known for strong customer service, Verizon FiOS impresses. It beat out every other provider in all three customer service surveys. J.D. Power, Consumer Reports, and the ACSI all ranked Verizon FiOS highly, with notably high marks in channel selection and reliability.

FiOS received 5/5 from J.D. Power in all categories in the East division, received the highest rating from ACSI with a 71 percent, and its 68 reader score from Consumer Reports is the highest out of our picks. 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.

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 anyone simply looking to catch the news, award shows, and big network prime time shows and specials.

For more options, FiOS has a unique Custom TV plan. For $65 a month, you can choose one of seven genre-specific packages: 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.

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.

If you want a DVR, you’ll typically pay an extra monthly fee, ranging from $10–$20. With Charter, you don’t: Charter offers a free DVR. Over the course of a year, that’s a savings of $240 — not insignificant!

Charter only has one TV-only option, TV Select Plan. (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.) In all four of the cities we got quotes for, the channel package varied. In some places, the plan included a full 258 channels, while other cities only included 125.

Charter Spectrum TV Pricing

Package

Price per Month

Number of Channels

Spectrum TV Select

$65

125+

Offers may vary by location.

Know that Charter Spectrum has one of the worst reputations among its customers — only half of its customers are happy with their service. 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 percent) shared similar findings.

High-tech DVR

DISH Network DISH is available in all 50 states and stands out for its customer service and high-tech DVR.

DISH Network’s Hopper 3 DVR is the most advanced DVR on the market. This DVR alone could significantly elevate your TV experience with its massive storage capacity and sleek, easy-to-use interface.

Like most DVRs, the Hopper 3 costs an extra $15 per month, but we think it’s well worth it. It can simultaneously record 16 shows and hold 2,000 hours of recording. What’s more, its stand-out feature, AutoHop, automatically skips commercials on select prime-time recordings. We loved it.

DISH’s starter package is called America’s Top 120+ package — for $60 per month it features 27 of the 35 most-watched channels. You’ll have to upgrade one tier to America’s Top 200 for Disney Jr., Nick Jr., Animal planet, OWN, Hallmark channels, Investigation Discovery, and Bravo.

DISH Network Pricing

Package

Price per Month

Number of Channels


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


$60
$70
$80


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. Both providers feature over 20 regional sport networks.

DISH Network 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. 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. You can expect responsive customer service, clear communication, and fair costs.

Cheap Bundle Deals

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

XFINITY from Comcast has the cheapest deals, especially for bundling; internet practically comes free with a TV bundle.

Xfinity’s cheapest TV package, 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.

Comcast is notorious for bad customer service — long hold times, bait-and-switch pricing, and delayed service appointments are common complaints. It ranked 2/5 with J.D. Power — not quite last but definitely below 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.

Great Support Technology

Cablevision / Optimum It serves just four states, but its 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 — likely due to its advanced support technology. Optimum uses a feature called GotoAssist that allows its support team to remotely solve your tech problems.

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’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 35 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’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.

Great DIY Resources

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

Cox Communications offers standout DIY resources. If you need to troubleshoot or learn a feature of your service you can watch one of their how-tos or skim a detailed guide. There’s also customizeable troubleshooting surveys that lead you to specific solutions.

Cox only has 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.

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 percent. 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 your 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.

You could replace your TV provider altogether.

If you’re cutting the cord entirely, you’ll need a device that can support streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, or HBO Go. 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, 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 to $200.

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.

The Best Cheap TV Providers: Summed Up

Cheap TV Providers
The Best
AT&T
Package Options
Verizon Fios
Customer Satisfaction
Charter Spectrum
Free DVR
DIRECTV
Popularity
Xfinity
Bundle Deals
DISH
High-tech DVR
Cox
DIY Support
Optimum
Support Technology
Mediacom
Includes an Internet Bundle