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These offerings are among the best TV has to offer, but they’re not exactly cheap. The good stuff never is. But if you invest in one of these prime offerings, be ready to change your TV experience forever.
Data effective as of post date. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change. *For 12 months plus taxes and RSN fee with a 2-yr contract, paperless bill, and Autopay. Price increases for months 13-24. †For 24 months with a 2-year agreement and eAutoPay. ‡For the first 12 months.
*For 12 months plus taxes and RSN fee with a 2-yr contract, paperless bill, and Autopay.
DIRECTV has a strong reputation for being the best TV provider for sports programming. Although it may be tempting to opt for its most massive package—DIRECTV PREMIER™ for $124.99 per month—we recommend you keep your eye on the ball with DIRECTV ULTIMATE at $74.99 per month.
DIRECTV ULTIMATE has all the big sports channels, including NFL Network, NBA TV, MLB Network, and NHL Network. You’ll even get a year of NFL SUNDAY TICKET at no extra cost. If you never want to miss another big game, this is the package for you.
†For 24 months with a 2-year agreement and eAutoPay.
DISH offers Disney Channel in America’s Top 150+, but America’s Top 200 is where you start getting more specific family favorites. If you’re an Animal Planet, Disney XD, or Nick Jr. fan (or if at least your kids are), America’s Top 200 will meet all your needs at a reasonable price.
What really sets DISH’s plan apart is its partnership with Common Sense Media. Using the Hopper 3 DVR, you can tailor your child’s viewing experience with age-appropriate recommendations and ratings in eight different categories:
For keeping kids happy on the go, you’ll appreciate the DISH Anywhere App. It plays your favorite shows away from home while still allowing you to filter content by age and set up separate accounts for each of your children. That’s a lot of peaceful car rides for you—and no worries about inappropriate shows popping up for your kids.
‡For the first 12 months.
Premium channels have a reputation for being prohibitively expensive. Not so with Spectrum! The Spectrum TV Gold package comes with all your favorite premium channels included for endless hours of movies that won’t cost you a Taj Mahal to watch.
If you’re sick of your current TV plan but worried about paying cancellation fees, Spectrum is eager to steal you away. When you bundle Spectrum TV with internet and phone services, it’ll pay up to $500 to rescue you from the dungeon of your current provider’s plan. Don’t keep settling for a plan you’re not in love with.
There is one important note with Spectrum: its DVRs are behind the times. Nobody’s perfect, right? To record all the great movies this package includes, treat yourself to a TiVo BOLT VOX instead of the Spectrum DVR. With the 1 TB model, you can record up to four standard and HD channels at once and save up to 150 HD hours. That’s enough to record the entire Fast and the Furious franchise nine times.
What sets Hulu apart from other contenders (and makes it our pick for best streaming package) is its expansive streaming library, which includes popular TV shows and original series like The Handmaid’s Tale and Castle Rock. And you can record any of your favorite new shows with Hulu’s Cloud DVR. It comes with 50 hours and upgrades to 200 hours for $14.99 per month.
While Hulu has a small channel count, you’ll find that they’re some of the top channels out there—local channels included. But if you’re more interested in channel count than image quality, the AT&T TV NOW’s ULTIMATE package has 125+ channels available in 720p.
Not convinced these bundles are for you? Let us explain what to look for on your quest for the perfect TV package.
You should know the different TV services types so you can see which is best for your lifestyle.
This is the classic, transmitted (as you’d expect) via a cable. Availability is often limited to a defined service area. Top cable TV providers include Cox, RCN, Optimum, Spectrum, Suddenlink, and Xfinity—all of which offer bundles with high-speed internet and TV (and even a home phone line). This is the service to pick if you have a large household that does a lot of streaming and gaming.
Some providers, like Verizon Fios, deliver your TV channels via fiber-optic networks. These super-fast connections can handle a lot more data, which mean you’ll have a more consistent—and prettier—picture (ya hear that, 4K TV owners?). Fiber is great for big streaming and gaming households, too.
Also somewhat of a classic, satellite TV signals get beamed from Earth to space, then back to a dish mounted on or around your home. For that reason, satellite TV is the mostly widely available—which is great if you live in a rural area or an ever-rambling RV. DIRECTV and DISH have a duopoly on satellite TV service.
Streaming TV services transmit via internet and fall into two categories: live streaming (Hulu + Live TV, YouTube TV, Sling TV, etc.) and on-demand (HBO Max, Netflix, Prime Video). You can combine live and on-demand services into a killer little custom package for the same price as most cable, fiber, or satellite TV plans—all without a contract. If you’re constantly on the move—or just want a simpler TV-watching experience, streaming is for you.
The perfect package for you might look completely different from anyone else’s because you have your favorite channels you don’t want to miss out on. Look for packages that include all the channels you want at a good price.
If you’re willing to invest time in examining each package from providers that service your area, you’re much more likely to find exactly what you want.
Despite your quest for the best TV package in all the land, you’re limited by what’s in your area. Unless you want to move to a place with all the best TV providers (like Wake Forest, North Carolina), you’re stuck with what you got.
Enter your zip code below to compare TV services near you.
For those ready to commit to a superior experience, follow the links above to sign up for one of these TV services’ best packages.
According to our “Best TV Providers in Customer Satisfaction” survey, DIRECTV is the top provider when it comes to overall customer satisfaction.
In our guide to the “Best TV Streaming Services of 2021,” we named YouTubeTV the best streaming provider among six other streaming TV services. For $64.99 per month, you get 85+ channels—including tons of sports networks, thousands of on-demand movies and shows, three simultaneous streams, unlimited cloud DVR storage (recordings expire after nine months), and up to six user profiles. The app is also easy to use and runs like a champ on an array of compatible streaming devices.
In our guide to the “Best TV Providers in 2021,” we compare 11 top TV service providers and RCN is the cheapest. Its plans have up to 304+ channels at the lowest cost per channel ($0.20–$0.41) we’ve seen. We recommend the Signature TV + Gig Internet bundle ($79.99–$109.99/mo., depending on where you live) which has nearly 300 channels plus 940 Mbps cable internet speeds.
We’d say that DISH is the cheapest satellite TV provider. This is based on cost per channel ($0.33–$0.34) and the fact that DISH guarantees no rate hikes for two years. And we should mention that DISH is our pick for the Best Overall and Best for Kids TV provider. You can read more about that in our guide to the “Best TV Providers in 2021,”
In the guide, you’ll read about another satellite TV provider, Orby TV. It’s technically the cheapest of the three main satellite TV services (DIRECTV, DISH, and Orby TV), but it has only 44–68+ channels—and outlandishly high startup costs. We don’t recommend it.
To find a list of internet and TV providers in your area, enter your zip code below.
Basic cable packages start at around $20 per month, though this varies by provider and service area. We don’t really recommend paying monthly for basic cable packages, though. You can get the same local channels with an over-the-air (OTA) TV antenna that you only have to pay for once—and you can get a good one for only $30–$60.
You can learn more about OTA antennas in our guide, “What is Over-the-Air (OTA) TV?”
But, if you’re still interested in basic cable, check out our article on “Basic Cable Channels and Package Guide.”
Americans spend more time watching TV than doing any other activity, and it has only increased due to the new coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, Americans spent an average of 2.8 hours per day between 2014 and 2018 watching TV, which accounted for just over half of all their leisure time.1
But which states love TV more than others?
|State||Hours per day spent watching TV|
Average for 2014–18
All top ten states watched at least 3 hours a day, with West Virginia creeping closer to 4 hours per day. Kentucky and Arkansas tied for third by watching an average of 3.30 hours of TV a day.
While there are no strict guidelines on how much TV you should watch, the more time you spend watching TV, the less time you spend being active.
One study found high television viewing (more than 3 hours per day) and low physical activity in early adulthood were associated with worse midlife executive function and processing speed.2 That means reduced abilities to coordinate, organize, and make decisions, so you’re hurting your chances of becoming a Navy SEAL.
If you insist on watching over three hours of TV a day, consider using commercial breaks to stretch out, do some burpees and pushups, and drink some water.
With that in mind, we wanted to see which states were watching the least amount of TV.
|State||Hours per day spent watching TV|
Average for 2014–18
Alaskans watch an average of 1.71 hours of TV, making Alaska the only state that watches less than an average of 2 hours of TV per day. Utah barely crosses the threshold with an average TV time of 2.2 hours per day.
The number of COVID-19 cases in the US increased to 1,678 by March 15, 2020. By the beginning of the next week, that number exploded to 33,276. Along with it, cable TV saw a 156% increase in live impressions.
With COVID-19 measures taking place, Americans are spending a lot more time at home, but how much more? We took a look at how TV viewership has spiked during new coronavirus concerns.
|Date Range||2019||2020||% Change|
In seven major Broadcast networks: ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, CW, Telemundo, Univision
Among the major broadcast networks, viewership increased dramatically year over year during March.
In the first week of March 2020, the US started with 62 reported cases, but by March 8, that number had risen to 213. By the end of the second week in March, live TV impressions also increased by 83% from 2019 numbers.
Even without live sports going on due to COVID-19 restrictions, March 2020’s live TV showed a 156% increase in viewership from 2019. That third-week spike coincides with President Trump’s announcement on March 17that asked the workforce to stay home.
The fourth week of March 2020 showed a 139% increase from 2019, which is a slight drop from the previous 2020 week but still a significant shift toward increased live TV impressions.
April 2020 continued with shutdowns, layoffs, and stay-at-home orders of varying degrees. Once the numbers for TV viewership are released for April 2020, it’s likely to show a dramatic increase from 2019’s numbers as well.
To estimate the amount of TV the average person watches per day in each state, we sourced our data from the American Time Use Survey administered by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
We used IPUMS (a survey and census data company) to create an extract of the BLS microdata files. To get our final figures, we used an average of daily time spent watching TV for 2014–2018 to compare each state’s average.
Bureau of Labor Statistics, “American Time Use Survey Summary”
jamanetwork.com, “Effect of Physical Activity and TV Viewing on Cognitive Function”
TVB, “Broadcast TV Viewership During Coronavirus”
Aljazeera, “A Timeline of the Trump Administration’s Coronavirus Actions”
Lancasteronline.com, “What happened with COVID-19; a daily log of U.S. coronavirus counts”