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The best cheap TV providers offer a variety of options at a low cost. Though they’re more affordable, many of these providers still offer great customer support and exclusive deals that help make your plan worthwhile. The following providers each offer the best option for unique needs, including the most channels, flexible contracts, price locks, and more.
The 5 Best Cheap TV Providers
- DIRECTV – Best for customer satisfaction
- AT&T TV – Best for variety of channels
- Verizon Fios – Best no contract option
- DISH Network – Best for price lock
- Xfinity – Best for flexible contracts
The Best Cheap TV Providers: Summed Up
|Criteria||DIRECTV||AT&T TV||Verizon Fios TV||DISH TV||Comcast XFINITY|
|Best For||Customer satisfaction||Variety of channels||No-contract option||Price lock||Flexible contracts|
|Contract length||24 months||12 months||24 months (when bundled)||24 months||No contract; 12 months; 24 months (for Triple Play bundles)|
|Price||Starting at $64.99/month||Starting at $59.99/month||Starting at $50/month||Starting at $59.99/month||Starting at $49.99/month|
|Plans||View plans||View plans||View plans||View plans||View plans|
Data as of November 5, 2020
*Installation fee waived with bundles
** Installation fee waived for online orders
Why We Chose It
Long-standing high customer satisfaction
Last year, J.D. Power ranked DIRECTV as the top provider in the nation for customer satisfaction with a perfect 5/5 Power Circle rating. This year, DIRECTV lost the number one spot to DISH TV, but still received 5/5 for Overall Satisfaction and a host of other key considerations, like cost and communication. J.D. Power now ranks the company second nationwide. DIRECTV also ranked among the top four television services on the 2018 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.
Some providers charge for installation and activation of TV service. This is a major pain point since installation can cost a few hundred dollars. All DIRECTV packages include standard professional installation for up to four rooms at no cost, providing a substantial saving.
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: having multiple utilities on one bill. Remembering payments and avoiding late fees just got a whole lot easier.
Points to Consider
Price increase after 12 months
DIRECTV’s promotional pricing is low, but you will see a spike in your monthly rate after your first year of service. The good news is, the company doesn’t hide the price increase, allowing you to budget for it in advance. But because DIRECTV requires a 24-month contract, you are more or less guaranteed to experience it, and with a prorated early termination fee, you’ll have to pay for the months remaining in your contract if you decide to cancel your service. Are you a renter, a student, or just someone who doesn’t like being in long-term contracts? DIRECTV might not be your best cheap TV provider.
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.
Why We Chose It
AT&T TV’s Entertainment entry-level package offers a decent selection at 65+ live channels. If you’re looking for the cheapest cable service they offer, this is it. Looking to level up for a good price? The Ultimate package boasts over 130 channels including 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 AT&T TV packages include one free HD DVR. That DVR is what will take your cheap cable TV experience to the next level, allowing you to record up to four programs at once and watch them from any TV in your home that has an AT&T receiver. What that means for you is no fighting over shows. Now you can record one while watching another. And you don’t have to worry about any hidden installation or activation fees because both are free for online orders.
Save by bundling
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 AT&T TV with a home phone or internet, you can save on your monthly bill.
Prices increase after 12 months
Like DIRECTV, AT&T TV’s rates go up after the first year of promotional pricing. Unfortunately, you’ll also need to sign a two-year contract to take advantage of the intro promotional price, meaning you should already factor in the price hike when you sign your contract. It’s good to remember that any TV provider’s promotional pricing is usually only guaranteed for the length of your initial contract. Once your contract expires, most will raise your monthly price to a less attractive rate.
Some of AT&T TVs channels may not be what you expect. With almost 80 music channels and a smattering of lesser-viewed channels, like Hot Buy and Jewelry Television, the listed number of channels feels a little overhyped. 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.
Why We Chose It
Plenty of cable providers require customers to sign lengthy contracts, which can be both 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 next year. Fortunately, Verizon Fios won’t lock you into a contract. If you want standalone Fios TV, your plan is automatically month-to-month, with no cancellation fees.
Two-year price lock for bundles
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 for the two-year bundling contract — guarantees you’ll pay the promotional price for the duration of your contract. You’ll save money with 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. Oftentimes that means you end up paying for channels you don’t even watch. Verizon Fios’s 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 fillers.
Points to Consider
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 those, you’re in luck.
Other than giving you the option to buy your router, a Fios TV plan won’t sell (or provide for free) 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 cost more than your actual service.
Why We Chose It
Two-year price lock
It’s business as usual for TV providers to raise prices after the first year, but 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. The age-old hunt for the remote just came to an end.
Soaring customer satisfaction rating
DISH TV has one of the highest customer satisfaction ratings of any TV provider. It scored 763 from J.D. Power, tying with DIRECT/AT&T for the first place in 2020’s Residential TV Service Providers Study. DISH TV also ranks in the top three for customer satisfaction on the 2019-2020 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 pretty 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. So even though your rate doesn’t increase in the second year, you might end up paying the same amount over the course of your contract as you would have done with a price hike after a lower starting rate.
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 trees or buildings that obstruct your dish’s view of the sky can interrupt your service. For satellite TV to work, your satellite needs to have a clear shot at the Southern sky.
Why We Chose It
XFINITY TV offers more contract options than most TV providers, so you can select the one 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 services. Bundling TV with other services delivers better 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, home phone) and Quad Play (TV, internet, home phone, home security) bundles. Each bundle type offers at least two package options to choose from, so you can find the right fit for your household and budget.
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 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 has a 63 on the 2019-2020 ACSI Telecommunications Report, which is slightly below the average for the industry. On J.D. Power’s 2020 Residential TV Service Provider Study, the company also scored below the average with 733 points. But given its low starting price, it might still be worth considering.
Guide to Cheap TV Providers
How to choose a cheap TV provider
Consider additional fees and expenses
The flat rate you see for your TV service may not include extra fees and costs. With most cable providers, you’ll have additional intro fees such as setup and installation as well as ongoing fees for equipment, late payments and more. Before selecting your plan, make sure you understand these fees and how they compare between providers.
- Equipment rental: Most cable providers will include a TV receiver and remote with your purchase of a plan. Yet, other equipment such as DVRs will cost you a monthly fee. Your DVR service fee will usually be around $10, while you’ll also pay extra for HD service as well.
- Installation: Professional cable installation usually costs around $100. With most companies, you can opt for a self-installation kit, though those may cost around $20-30 as well.
- Late payments: Some cable companies include a grace period where they won’t charge you for a certain period past your due date. Others will charge you for late payments right after your due date, and late fees usually cost $10 per missed payment.
- Broadcast TV: A broadcast TV fee is charged for access to local broadcast channels like ABC, CBS and FOX. Most cable companies charge around $10-$15 per month for broadcast TV.
- Regional sports: Just like the broadcast TV fee, a regional sports fee covers access to local sports channels. This fee is usually around $10 per month.
- Premium channels: If you want access to premium channels like HBO, STARZ and SHOWTIME, you’ll need to pay extra. Some cable companies offer special promotions to give you access to these channels for a limited time, but the standard cost is usually between $10-15 per month.
- Additional TV service: Depending on the company and plan you choose, you may only have access for a certain number of TVs in your household. To activate access for each additional TV, you’ll likely need to pay an extra $10 per month.
Check for rate increases
Many cable TV providers are known for offering enticing intro deals that only last for a certain period of time. The deals will usually be for the first year, so it’s easy to forget or not even know that your rate will be going up after the initial year. Before selecting a plan, be sure to read the fine print so you can see how long your rate will last and how much it might be subject to change.
Look for deals
Cable companies are in fierce competition, and that means they’re constantly vying for your attention. Companies have gotten creative with the deals they offer. Beyond cheaper prices, some companies might partner with streaming services to offer free subscriptions for a limited time period. Other companies may also throw in free devices to help cut overall costs. Look for deals that would be most beneficial to you to make sure you’re getting the most out of them.
Decide which channels you need
Before selecting your cable plan, make sure you evaluate what types of channels you want. If you aren’t sure, you could risk paying more for channels you don’t end up using. Consider what’s most important to you, such as sports, news or entertainment. You might also want to consider if it’s worth it to pay extra for premium channels, such as HBO. Once you know the channels you need, it’ll be easier to choose the best and most affordable plan.
How We Chose the Best Cheap TV Providers
The cheapest TV provider in Maine is not necessarily the cheapest TV provider in Missouri or New Mexico. Availability relies on infrastructure (for cable) and signal access (for satellite). Some providers may only service a couple of states, while others are available nationwide. When a company has a foothold in a given market, you’re more likely to see plan flexibility and options. To make this review helpful to the most readers, we focused on providers that cover large sections of the country or service highly populated areas.
The price written in foot-tall gold letters on promotional material is likely not the price you’ll end up paying. We dug into the fine print to uncover potential rate increases after promotional periods end and extra costs like installation fees, activation fees, early termination fees, and equipment fees. Even if a provider’s advertised monthly rate is low, your bill will likely end up being higher, and information on additional fees typically isn’t easy to find on a provider’s website. We found the cheapest TV providers by basing our comparisons on those actual, final costs.
A TV package may be cheap, but if it doesn’t include the channels you want, is it worth any money at all? To sift through channel line-ups, we set a base level expectation for what we should receive when paying for standard packages. We compared available channels in entry-level plans, highlighting when a provider doesn’t reserve popular channels for upper-tier packages and giving bonus points to those that offer customizable programming or deals for bundling with other services.
Cheap TV Providers FAQs
Many TV providers do run credit checks before offering service, including AT&T, Cox and Verizon. Even if your credit is bad, most companies will work with you to still offer service, though they may require more up-front fees.
Cable companies impose early termination fees when you choose to cancel service before your contract is up. Most early termination fees can cost more than $100, but the companies will prorate your fee depending on how much service you have left in the month.
Streaming subscriptions are generally cheaper than cable, though you don’t get as many viewing options. You’ll have fewer channels to choose from, though many more on-demand options.
Cable TV is through a wired connection while satellite TV is wireless. Satellite TV usually offers a better selection of HD channels, though it isn’t as reliable as cable connection.