HomepageUtilitiesTV ProvidersThe Best Cable TV Providers
Last updated on Jan 28, 2020

The Best Cable TV Providers

We’ll help you compare the five biggest cable companies ​
We recommend products and services based on unbiased research from our editorial team. We may receive compensation if you click on a link. Read More.

How We Found the Best Cable TV

related highlight icon

5 cable companies

related highlight icon

40 hours of research

related highlight icon

136 channels compared

The Best Cable TV Providers

When it’s time to shop around for your cable TV provider, you may not have a choice at all. The industry is made up of regional monopolies, which means the cable companies that service your specific address are often limited. But fear not: We’ve taken a close look at the nation’s largest cable companies and each of their features, so you can evaluate the most common options — and find the best cable TV company for you.

The 5 Best Cable TV Providers

    The Best Cable TV Providers: Summed Up

    Spectrum
    XFINITY
    Cox
    Frontier
    Mediacom
    Flexible Bundle Deals
    Lots of Channel Packages
    High Customer Satisfaction
    HD Picture
    Genre-Specific Add-on
    No. states available
    37
    39
    18
    38
    22
    Consumer Reports reader score
    63
    65
    63
    59
    58
    No. channel packages
    3
    5
    3
    4
    4
    ACSI rating
    63
    58
    61
    60
    56
    Flexible Bundle Deals
    Spectrum

    Charter Spectrum

    Pros

    Bundled savings
    Customer service

    Cons

    One TV-only plan

    Why we chose it

    Bundled savings

    For more package options (and more channels) with Charter Spectrum, you’ll have to bundle with internet and phone service. Those bundles come at a fair price though, and include free installation (normally $35), WiFi set up (typically $10), and DVR service ($13 per month). That’s a potential savings upwards of $200 in one year. Spectrum also includes HD channels free of charge.

    What’s more, if you’d like to switch to Spectrum but are currently signed with another provider, the company will help buyout your contract up to $500 when you sign up for the Triple Play bundle.

    Customer service

    Spectrum’s customer service fares well with consumers. The company received a 63 out of 100 rating from both Consumer Reports and ACSI, coming in above the industry average. It was also awarded by J.D. Power for its customer satisfaction in the South, and it received 3 out of five power circles in the West and North Central regions.

    Points to consider

    One TV-only plan

    After Charter Communications recently acquired Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks, it rebranded as Spectrum and has worked to simplify its services. Unfortunately, that means you’ll only have one option if you just want cable TV. That one TV-only plan is called TV Select. It comes with at least 125 channels and about 46% of the most popular channels. Notable absences include E! and the Travel Channel, but otherwise you’ll be getting a fair number of major networks.

    Lots of Channel Packages
    XFINITY

    Xfinity

    Pros

    The most channel packages
    Nationwide availability

    Cons

    Customer service reputation

    Why we chose it

    The most channel packages

    Most providers either require you to bundle your TV service with internet, or they offer just one non-bundled TV option. With XFINITY, however, you can choose between all five of its cable TV packages — without signing on for internet.

    Its TV packages come with a wide range of channels, from 10 to over 260. The most well-rounded plan is its Starter plan, that has 40% of the most popular channels, including ESPN and the Hallmark Channel. You’ll only be missing out on premium networks and specialty sports channels like the MLB Network and Starz.

    Nationwide availability

    XFINITY from Comcast is the most widely available cable provider, with service in 39 states and 8,444 zip codes — so there’s a good chance you’ll be comparing it to another one on our list. It’s top serviced cities are Houston, Chicago, Miami, Philadelphia, Minneapolis, San Jose, and Denver.

    Points to consider

    Customer service reputation

    Comcast has earned a reputation for bad customer service, but it has steadily improved its ratings year after year. Its ACSI score rose by eight points in just one year, from 54 out of 100 in 2015 to 62 out of 100 in 2016. This is an indication that the company is making an effort to improve its reputation and will likely continue to progress. Though from 2017 to 2018, its rating did drop by one point.

    Last year, the company’s VP of customer service, Tom Karinshak, detailed some steps Comcast is making to overhaul its customer service, including; expanding digital care teams, a callback feature that allows you to schedule a time for Comcast to call you (rather than wait on hold), and an ETA feature that messages customers on the arrival status of service technicians (for installation and troubleshooting).

    High Customer Satisfaction
    Cox

    Cox Communications

    Pros

    Online resources
    Customizable plans

    Cons

    DIY fee

    Why we chose it

    Online resources

    If you prefer to self-install and troubleshoot your own technology, Cox Communications’ website makes that possible. Its vast resource library offers educational how-to videos on setting up, using, and troubleshooting your services. If you have a problem, just select your issue in its search tool, and it’ll direct you to the right instruction manual.

    For example, if your TV isn’t working, you can designate whether it’s grainy, frozen, tiled, blue, or black. After a few more questions about your service, you’ll get a specific solution and clear way forward (even if that means scheduling professional help). It’s a small convenience, but we love the option to handle simple fixes ourselves, instead of having to parse through outdated forums or spend our lunch break on hold with a technician.

    Customizable plans

    The Contour TV plan with 140+ channels will suit anyone looking to capture a lot of favorites. It has nearly every channel except premium networks and specialty sports. You can also choose its TV Starter or Contour Flex (usually around $25 per month), and get the basics like PBS, ABC, the CW. Cox offers supplemental TV packages you can add on to that to get just your favorite genre-specific channels. Choose from sports, movies, and variety packages for an additional $10 per month.

    Points to consider

    DIY fee

    Cox is one of the few providers that offer the option to self-install your service. The catch? It’ll cost you $20 — basically charging you to DIY. Your alternative is a $75 professional installation. This doesn’t seem to hurt its customer satisfaction though, as it scored 65 out 100 from Consumer Reports and 63 out of 100 from the ACSI — both scores above Comcast and Mediacom.

    HD Picture
    Frontier

    Frontier Communications

    Pros

    Fiber-optic options
    Promotional offers

    Cons

    Average customer service

    Why we chose it

    Fiber-optic options

    With Frontier, depending on your location, you may be able to choose between FiOS TV or Vantage TV. FiOS TV is service by fiber-optic cable, rather than traditional. If you choose to bundle, you’ll have fiber-optic internet too — which means astronomical speeds. For your TV service, it might mean a sharper image but only if you have an HD or Ultra HD television to support it.

    Promotional offers

    Frontier boasts some tempting promotional offers including a free install, a free router, and Amazon Prime for a year. All enticing discounts that could lead to significant savings, especially because Frontier’s usual charge for install is $80. This is one of the best cable deals we found.

    Points to consider

    Average customer service

    Customer service is fairly average, with a rating of 60 out of 100 from the ACSI and 59 out of 100 from Consumer Reports. This can be attributed to the fact that you’ll likely have to call to get any information and access to more plan options. Those plans might include a Frontier Prime plan, that has 60% of the most popular channels. It only skips out on HBO, Nick at Nite, and other premium networks.

    Genre Specific Add ons
    Mediacom

    Mediacom

    Pros

    Add-on channel packages
    Flexible installation window

    Cons

    Poorly-rated customer service

    Why we chose it

    Add-on channel packages

    Mediacom only offers its cable TV service paired with an internet plan, but that starting bundle comes at a fair rate. You can get high speed internet (60 Mbps or 100 Mbps) with the Local Plus TV plan. It comes with the basic networks like NBC, the CW, and ABC — but not much beyond that. You’ll have to upgrade to the Family TV plan for everything except premium channels.

    Mediacom also offers add-on genre packages that you can use to supplement the Local Plus plan, without getting a ton of channels you aren’t interested in. There’s one for sports, movies, and kids channels. This could be a great option for viewers who stick to just a few favorites.

    Flexible installation window

    When it comes time to install, Mediacom has the most flexible scheduling. You can schedule that installation during evenings or on the weekends, and only need to schedule a 30-minute window. The downside is that installation costs $99. That’s a steep price in comparison to Charter’s $35 fee.

    Points to consider

    Poorly-rated customer service

    Where Mediacom really suffers is its customer service. It consistently ranks at the bottom, a worrisome practice in an industry with an already poor reputation. Consumer Reports readers gave it 58 out of 100, ACSI gave it 56 out of 100. If you choose Mediacom as your cable provider, keep a keen eye on your billing statements and confirm any deals your promised.

    How We Chose the Best Cable TV Providers

    Availability

    There’s a good chance you won’t have more than two options for your cable TV service. Providers have limited competition by avoiding regions with existing monopolies. We favored cable providers with widespread available that were the most likely to be available to you. Local and more regional providers (like WOW! or Cincinnati Bell), score great in customer service but offer service in fewer than 10 states. If you happen to live somewhere with a local provider, it’s still worth considering.

    Plans, pricing, and packages

    We also considered each company’s assortment of channel packages, their prices, and the variety of bundling plans. We took the 136 most watched channels and tallied each provider’s channel plan to compare the price it took to get the best value. We found that you can usually get the best value just by sticking to the simplest channel package. Our favorite providers also offer discounts when you bundle your internet service, and they limit fees for first-time customers.

    Customer service

    We looked closely at the ratings and scores by Consumer Reports, the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI), and J.D. Power. Each of these groups rate cable companies on customer satisfaction, with some breakout categories like performance, value, communications, billing, and technical support. Companies that score well with these consumer resources are more likely to resolve issues, clearly communicate changes in billing, and consistently provide reliable television service.

    Guide to Choosing a Cable TV Provider

    Find your options

    Unlike satellite TV (think DISH and DIRECTV), cable TV companies aren’t available nationwide. Most people have fewer than three options no matter where they live. Why? Building out cable TV infrastructure and wiring in new areas is an expensive endeavor — one that requires careful consideration.

    One of those considerations is the competition. If a large provider is already dominating a regional market, it usually isn’t be worth the investment for others to compete, creating regional monopolies. If you’re not sure who the big players in your zipcode are, you can use our tool above or enter your address directly into providers’ sites.

    Consider your viewing habits

    In 2016, Nielsen company discovered that, of the average 200 channels customer were paying for, they were only watching about 19 channels. That’s less than 10 percent. To find the best provider for you, you’ll want one that can maximize your favorite channels in one package — so you aren’t paying for 180 channels of excess.

    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.

    Watch for fees

    It’s not just your extra channels that can rack up a cable bill. You’ll want to keep a keen eye on subtle fees, too. Installation, equipment, and a local broadcast station surcharge are common — but how much those fees cost can be vastly different between providers.

    To help you compare costs, we’ve compiled the most common fees from the top cable companies. If you’re more cost-conscious, you may consider these more seriously. Keep in mind, promotional deals for new customers tend to waive a few fees too.

    Installation
    Broadcast TV
    HD Access
    DVR
    Charter Spectrum
    $35
    $7.50/mo.
    Free
    $10/mo.
    XFINITY from Comcast
    $50
    $8/mo.
    $10/mo.
    $10/mo.
    Cox Communications
    $20 DIY,
    $75 professional
    $4/mo.
    $8.50/mo.
    $13/mo.
    Frontier
    $80
    $3/mo.
    $10/mo.
    $15/mo.
    Mediacom
    $100
    $6/mo.
    $7/mo.
    $15/mo.

    Be prepared to bundle

    Most providers heavily encourage bundling your telecommunication services; phone, internet, and sometimes home security. Some providers, like Comcast and Cox, give you wide range of TV and internet options that you can purchase independently. Others, like Charter Spectrum, only offer one TV package without bundling. If you choose Mediacom, you won’t have an option at all, as all its TV plans require an internet bundle. On the plus side: By bundling, you’re likely to save an average of $20 to $30 for each service.

    Cable TV FAQs

    More TV/Internet Reviews

    We’ve spent years researching and reviewing the telecommunications space. If you’re looking for other kinds of service, more tv options, or would like to dive deeper into a specific avenue, check out on of our other reviews:

    About the Authors

    Danika Miller

    Danika Miller Internet & Entertainment Writer

    Danika Miller has been writing for Reviews.com for three years, where she specializes in streaming, internet, and TV topics. She holds a bachelor’s degree in creative and technical writing from Western Washington University.