Although people have been cutting the cord in droves, cable TV is still one of the most reliable ways of watching your favorite shows.
Unlike satellite TV, you won’t lose the signal when bad weather moves in or a flock of crows takes out your dish (don’t ask). And for true cordcutters, live TV streaming services rely on your internet connection - so if you don’t have great speeds you’ll be constantly facing the irritating buffering circle.
In contrast, Cable TV relies on underground cables – so it’s pretty impervious to weather and doesn’t have to be connected to your internet for you to watch it. The main downside is that cable TV companies often monopolize regions, so you only have 1 or 2 options to compare in your area.
But not always – so we still wanted to show you how to pick the best cable provider in your area. To sort through the myriads of providers, we focused on comparing a handful of qualities:
- Availability. This is #1 – wide availability is paramount. If they’re not in your region, they don’t matter.
- Plans, channel count, and pricing. A solid selection of plans to choose from gives you options. Along the same vein, a high channel count for the price can make a relatively higher-priced provider more valuable than a cheaper one that has fewer channels-per-dollar.
- Customer service. You’re going to have to deal with customer support at some point, even if it’s just for installation. So we took a look at the American Customer Satisfaction Index to determine how good each provider’s customer service is.
- And there were a handful of other things we took into consideration, like: DVR, Contracts, Fees, and Channels included.
Best Overall Cable TV - Xfinity TV
|Plans||Channel count||Price||View plan|
|Digital Economy||100+||$39.95/mo.*||View plans|
|Digital Starter||140+||$49.99/mo.*||View plans|
|Digital Preferred||220+||$59.99/mo.*||View plans|
|Digital Premium||260+||$104.99/mo.*||View plans|
*Price includes 1-year agreement.
Comcast Xfinity TV gives you a lot to like, so let’s start at the top.
Xfinity TV is available in 38 states, giving them one of the largest coverage areas of any cable provider. That makes sense: they’re the #1 biggest provider in the United States. That kind of availability means they’ll probably be in your area - use their checker to confirm.
And when it comes to pricing – both per channel and the bottom dollar – Xfinity is fair, you get 4 plans to choose from, and they offer both a 1-year and no-contract option.
The Digital Economy package is the cheapest on this list for the number of channels you get – and those channels include 24/25 of the top cable TV networks (missing only Univision).
All the locals
Plus Xfinity has the market cornered on the major networks – ABC, CBS, the CW, FOX, NBC, and PBS are all available across the country (though of course, some locations will be missing some of those – nobody’s perfect).
So you definitely won’t miss out on the basics – or for a cheap price.
While Xfinity’s customer service isn’t great, the X1 DVR lets you record up to 6 shows simultaneously and store up to 100 HD hours. It also has a voice remote feature and Netflix integrated in - it’s nice being able to keep things in one place.
And as we already mentioned, you can grab a no-contract option, or a 1-year option. Lastly, Xfinity’s bundles are absolutely great – check out our review here to learn more on that.
- Price: $39.95 – $104.99/month.
- Channels: 100 – 260+
- DVR: X1, with 6 simultaneous recordings, 100 HD hours of storage, and voice remote control; $10/month
- Apps/On Demand: Yes, the Xfinity Stream app; thousands of free On Demand shows, plus On Demand subscription packages
- ACSI Customer satisfaction ranking: 57/100 (below average)
Best for No Contracts - Spectrum TV
|Plans||Channel count||Price||View packages|
|TV Select||125+||$44.99/mo.*||View packages|
|TV Silver||175+||$84.99/mo.*||View packages|
|TV Gold||200+||$104.99/mo.*||View packages|
Charter Spectrum gives you some solid options, too, with 3 plans to choose from. They’re especially best if you hate contracts – but also don’t want to pay the extra $10 bucks a month to skip it (ahem, Xfinity).
Spectrum just doesn’t do contracts – they don’t believe in them. So you’re free to leave whenever you want, no questions asked. Plus, if you’re locked into a contract with another provider and want to switch to Spectrum – bonus: Spectrum will buy your contract out for up to $500.
Plus, there’s a chance you might actually wind up with more channels than advertised - when I plugged my zip code in, I got 154 channels for TV Select, 231 for Silver, and 293 for Gold - way more than the packages suggest. We can’t guarantee that for you, but there’s a chance. Visit the “View channel lineup” button on this page to find out what you’ll get.
And another great thing: Spectrum starts including Premium channels in their 2nd-tier package. So Silver gives you HBO and SHOWTIME, plus more great sports like the NFL Network and MLB Network. The others providers here only offer them as add-ons.
So when you consider the fact that you don’t have to worry about contracts, you might get more channels than advertised, and premiums pop up earlier – Spectrum is pretty reasonably priced and certainly comparable to Xfinity.
Spectrum also gives you some decent savings when you bundle with TV and phone service. You can get free installation (-$35), free Wi-Fi setup (-$10), and free DVR service (-$13/month) – as much as $200 saved in a year.
Although Spectrum’s DVR is a little lackluster for the price, their customer satisfaction ranking is higher than Xfinity and Frontier’s.
Plus, Spectrum TV is available in 43 states – more areas than even Xfinity, so you’ll probably see them around.
- Price: $44.99 – $104.99/month
- Channels: 125 – 200+, with the potential for more dependent on area
- DVR: Yes, the Motorola or Cisco, with 2 simultaneous streams, 21-40 hours of HD storage; $12.99/month
- Apps/On Demand: Spectrum TV app; over 140,000 titles in their On Demand library
- ACSI Customer satisfaction ranking: 59/100 (below average)
Best for Customer Satisfaction - Cox Contour TV
*For the 1st 12 months.
Cox Communications only advertises their Contour TV cable package, but you’ll get a great range of add-on “paks” to customize it to your taste: Sports, entertainment Variety, and the Movie Pak being the most prime examples. They only cost $10-$12 a month, too for 6-15 channels.
So despite having so few TV plans, this flexibility is great – you can easily add on a bunch of Disney and family channels with the Variety Pak to satisfy the fam; or nab NFL Redzone and NBC Universal Sports with the Sports Pak 2 – and still pay less than $80 bucks a month.
And if you’re more interested in a bare-bones plan, Cox’s TV Starter can’t be beat on price.
$25 bucks a month for 75+ channels? Nice.
Cox’s customer satisfaction ranking is the #1 by the ACSI for wide-spread cable TV providers - although unfortunately that’s not saying much: at 59/100, they’re still below average.
But perhaps to make up for this, Cox has a lot of great online resources to help self-install and troubleshoot your tech. For instance, alongside how-to video guides, you can also pick the issue you’re having with whatever tool and you’ll wind up with a slew of increasingly in-depth options to help you narrow in on your exact problem.
They also give you 2 DVR options to pick from: the Record 6 HD-DVR and the Record 2 HD-DVR. The former gives you 2TB of storage, which comes out to 340 hours of HD recordings; the latter gives you 500GB and 120 hours of HD.
- Price: $25 – $64.99/month
- Channels: 75-140+
- DVR: 6 or 2 simultaneous recordings, 120-340 HD storage, $12.99 – $19.99/month
- Apps/On Demand: yes, The Contour App; thousands of hours of content in an On Demand library.
- ACSI Customer satisfaction ranking: 59/100 (below average)
Best for Promotional Deals - Frontier TV
*With 2-year agreement, not including equipment, taxes, and other fees.
Now technically, Frontier FiOS TV isn’t “cable” per se – it’s fiber-optic. However, the only other big cable TV provider is Optimum – and they’re only available in 4 states on the east coast.
Frontier, on the other hand, is available in 38 states, so we’re going to make the argument that they’re worthy of inclusion here.
If it’s in your area, Frontier’s FiOS TV is a great fiber-optic cable option that offers awesome channel counts for the monthly price - no matter which of the 3 packages you choose. And you’ll get most of your locals and popular cable channels, too, like:
- The CW
- and more
Plus, bundle things together and you get fiber-optic internet, too. And even if you don’t bundle, you’ll get Netflix integrated in, too.
In either case, though, Frontier has some seriously alluring promotional offers. That includes things like free installation, a free router, and even Amazon Prime membership for a full year.
Frontier’s DVR options are pretty good, too, with 1 base DVR and 2 add-on enhancements. The base piece will give you the ability to record 4 shows simultaneously, 300+ hours of storage, and unlimited storage space.
The add-ons increase your simultaneous recording limits to 6 and 12, and storage to 1TB and 2TB, respectively. All that makes for the best DVR on here.
- Price: $94-$110/month
- Channels: 230-500+
- DVR: 4 simultaneous shows, can upgrade to 6 or 12, 300 hours of storage, upgrade to 1-2TB; base costs $11/month, 1st upgrade $10/month extra; 2nd upgrade $20/month extra
- Apps/On Demand: Yes, FrontierTV mobile app; On Demand has thousands of free movies and shows, plus premium subscriptions.
- ACSI Customer satisfaction ranking: 57/100 (below average)
Recap - The best Cable TV Providers
So which provider is best for you? Here’s a quick review:
- Best Overall: Xfinity TV. With affordable rates, wide availability, lots of great channels, and a solid DVR, they get our vote for best cable provider overall.
- Best for No Contracts: Spectrum TV. You get no contracts and a decent channel count, no matter the package. Plus, premiums like HBO and SHOWTIME are included in earlier packages than competitors.
- Best for Customer Satisfaction: Cox Contour TV. You get better customer satisfaction, plus flexible plan options.
- Best Promo Deals: Frontier FiOS TV. You get great promo deals, like free Amazon Prime membership for a year, plus an awesome DVR.
Is fiber-optic TV the same as cable TV?
No. While both cable TV and fiber-optic TV rely on underground cables to get your favorite shows to your TV set, the technology in both are different.
Cable TV uses copper coaxial cables that have been in place for decades and uses electricity to transmit your show to your TV.
Fiber-optic uses cables made up of miniscule strands of plastic and glass. Light, rather than electricity, transmits your TV show to your TV set.
Unlike fiber internet, there’s not much of a difference in performance, although you may have a clearer picture with fiber-optic than cable.
What’s the best cable company in, say Michigan?
Our pick is Xfinity TV. But, use a search tool like this one to find out what’s available in your exact area.
What’s the best cable company in Miami?
Again, we’d pick Xfinity TV for most people. But – use the search tool above to see if they’re available in your exact area.
Are there any cable deals in my area?
You can check for cable TV deals with the search tool above, or you can visit each provider’s page separately and type in your zip code to check each. If you want to do that, here are the links or each provider again:
2 thoughts on “Best Cable TV Providers”
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