SVG Icons

Best TV Providers 2020

Which TV provider is best for kids? Best for sports? Best for value? Cheapest? Just plain best overall? We run ‘em down for you.

Best overall, best for kids

Price: $59.99–$94.99/mo.

Channels: 190–290+

DVR storage: 500 hrs.

Best for sports

Price: $64.99–$134.99/mo.

Channels: 155–330+

DVR storage: 200 hrs.

Best value

Price: $44.99–$89.99/mo.

Channels: 125–200+

DVR storage: varies

Cheapest

Price: $59.99–$82.12/mo.

Channels: 55–300+

DVR storage: 45–100 hrs.

Data effective 10/22/20. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

Bottom line

CableTV.com wants you to live your best life on the couch. And if you’re gonna do that, you need to know which TV provider is the best for your lifestyle and needs.

Like which TV provider is best for kids? Which one has allthe sportsball action? Which is the best value, or the cheapest? And which is the best overall?

Each year in our Editor’s Choice Awards, we compare top TV providers and make awards in those very categories. You can click the links below to see which provider won what and why.

Best TV Providers

TV providers comparison

Provider
Best overall, best for kids
DISH
Best for sports
DIRECTV
Best value
Spectrum
Cheapest
RCN
Most channels
Verizon Fios
$500 contract buyout
Optimum
Best voice remote
Xfinity
Free premiums
Suddenlink
Excellent DVR
Cox
Free HBO Max
AT&T TV
Most flexible
Orby TV
Our star rating* Price range Cost per channel Channel count DVR storage (HD) Simultaneous recordings
4.10 $59.99–$94.99/mo. $0.32–$0.39 190–290+ 500 hrs. 16 View plans
3.99 $64.99–$134.99/mo. $0.34–$0.42 155–330+ 125 hrs. 5 View plans
3.49 $44.99–$89.99/mo. $0.36–$0.45 125–200+ 50 shows 2–6 View plans
3.63 $59.99–$82.12/mo. $0.20–$0.37 55–300+ 45–100 hrs. 2, 4, or 6 View plans
3.88 $50.00–$90.00/mo. $0.21–$0.40 125–425+ 50–200 hrs. 2–12 View plans
3.71 $74.99–$124.99/mo.† $0.24–$0.39 220–420+ 75 hrs. 15 View plans
3.66 $46.95–$89.49/mo. $0.27–$0.51 125–260+ 150 hrs. 6 View plans
3.45 $58.00-$124.99/mo. $0.24–$0.47 200–340+ 75 hrs. 15 View plans
3.37 $25.00–$69.99/mo. $0.33–$0.50 75–250+ 100–250 hrs. 2–6 View plans
3.13 $59.99–$129.99/mo. $0.76–$1.04 65–125+ 500 hrs. 3 (streams) View plans
2.63 $40.00–$50.00/mo. $0.74–$0.91 44–68+ 100 hrs. 1 View plans

Data as of 10/22/20. Prices at time of writing. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.
† No standalone TV plans. Pricing is for double-play bundles.
*Learn about how we rank providers

Sign up for a top TV provider today

Enter your zip code to find out what TV providers are available in your area.

Please enter a valid zip code.

Best overall, best for kids: DISH

Price: $59.99–$94.99/mo.

Service type: Satellite

Channels: 190–290+

DVR: 500 hr.

Pros

  • Free installation
  • 2 yr. pricelock
  • Hopper 3 DVR
  • No-contract plans (extra fee)
  • Best parental controls

Cons

  • No HBO® or CINEMAX®
  • 2 yr. contract
  • Extra fee for no-contract plans
  • DVR rental fee
  • Satellite dish required

Well, we’ve already spilled the beans about DISH being our pick for best overall and best for kids. Now it’s time to explain what the beans mean.

DISH doesn’t have the best prices, but it does have the third-best cost per channel (CPC) at $0.32–$0.39. That’s handy for gauging the value of a package.

Also, DISH has a two-year pricelock, which keeps your payment from increasing during your contract period. This rules because many contract-based TV providers have steep price increases in the second year. So DISH’s price for peace-of-mind is sweet.

As for channels, DISH doesn’t carry the premium channels HBO or CINEMAX—but it does have virtually all the other most popular channels in its packages. Plus, you can always subscribe to HBO Max ($14.99 a month) on the side.

And then there’s the DISH Hopper 3 DVR. It might cost an extra 15 bucks a month, but it has more storage than any other provider’s DVR (except for AT&T TV’s cloud DVR).

And you can record up to 16 shows at once, which is incredible. Also, for a small fee ($5–$10 per month), you can have multiroom viewing with the DISH Joey.

As for kid stuff, DISH has the channels you want from Disney, Nickelodeon, and local PBS affiliates. And the DISH parental controls (courtesy of a partnership with Common Sense Media) are top-notch.

So if you’re worried about the rugrats stumbling into a bloodbath, a sexy shower scene, a deluge of dirty words, a tornado of fake news, or a cesspool of consumerism, you can prevent it with only a few clicks.

And, with the DISH Parental Guide’s content-focused movie and show reviews, you can steer your brood toward educational value and positive messages and role models, which is nice to see in a censorship tool.

Our recommended DISH package:

America’s Top 200

Price: $84.99/mo.*

Standout features: 240+ channels, 2-yr. pricelock.

*for 24. months. Everyday Price $109.99/mo. New customers only. All offers require 2-year commitment with early termination fee and eAutopay. Price includes Hopper Duo for qualifying customers.

If you want to give you and your kids the best—as in, all the kids’ channels and some steamy premium action (that you can block with those fancy parental controls)—America’s Top 250 is the package for you.

That said, you can save $10 a month by dropping down to America’s Top 200 package ($84.99 a month, 240+ channels). You’ll lose only Nicktoons and the STARZ ENCORE stuff. So let’s make that the official recommendation—’cause 10 bucks is 10 bucks. 

Best for sports: DIRECTV

 Price: $64.99–$134.99/mo.

Service type: Satellite

Channels: 155–330+

DVR: 200 hr.

Pros

  • Free installation
  • More sports channels than DISH
  • Genie DVR included
  • Bundle discount (through AT&T)
  • NFL SUNDAY TICKET
  • HBO Max free for a year

Cons

  • 2 yr. contract
  • Activation fee
  • Huge 2nd-yr. price hike

Is your life worth nothing without the adrenaline fix of televised sportsball action? Well, DIRECTV is where you can get it. With 27 sports channels (including the FS1, FS2, Golf Channel, NFL Network, NHL Network, NBA TV, and more), it’s already stacked.

But DIRECTV is also the only place to get tons of out-of-market games with NFL SUNDAY TICKET—and new customers get the current season free.

DIRECTV also offers free HBO Max (reg. $14.99 a month) with any plan you purchase from CHOICETM through PREMIER. When you factor in that and the free NFL SUNDAY TICKET (a $293.94 value), that’s an incredible deal.

But all that goodness doesn’t soothe the sting of DIRECTV’s monster 30–40% second-year price hike. By then, your SUNDAY TICKET promo will have expired, and you’ll be paying extra for less. Ouch. That’s a major reason that DIRECTV isn’t our top pick.

Our recommended DIRECTV package:

XTRA All-Included

Price: $79.99/mo.*‡

Standout features: 235+ channels, including a free year of HBO Max and NFL SUNDAY TICKET (current season).

* for 12 mos. plus taxes and Regional Sports Fee w/24-mo. agmt. Autopay & Paperless bill req’d. Prices higher in 2nd year. Regional Sports Fee up to $9.99/mo. is extra & applies.

‡ Promotional price expires Nov. 8, 2020

So, to keep your second-year surprise low-ish, we suggest going with the XTRA All-Included package. It’s also the best DIRECTV package for sports fans since it has just as many sports channels as the ULTIMATE package—but for $5 less per month.

If you average out the first- and second-year prices ($79.99 and $131.00 per month, respectively), you’re paying $105.50 a month for XTRA. But that’s still hefty payment, even with free HBO Max and (only) one season of NFL SUNDAY TICKET.

Best value: Spectrum

Price: $44.99–$89.99/mo.

Service type: Cable

Channels: 125–200+

DVR: storage varies

Pros

  • No contracts
  • Contract buyout
  • All channels in HD
  • Premium channels included in Silver and Gold plans
  • Cheaper DVR fees

Cons

  • Limited, confusing DVR storage
  • DVR fees

For only $89.99 a month, Spectrum’s TV Gold package comes with 200+ HD channels, including NFL Network, SHOWTIME, STARZ, STARZ ENCORE, and TMC. You also get HBO Max. Sure, you’re paying $0.45 per channel, but that’s decent even without the premiums.

The value gets even better if you’re looking to leave your current provider. Spectrum has a contract buyout of up to $500 for new customers. You also won’t have to sign a contract with Spectrum—so, if you’re unhappy, you can peace out whenever you want.

Did you hear that, bargain hunters and commitment-phobes? Can I get an amen?

Our recommended Spectrum package:

Spectrum TV Gold

Price: $89.99/mo.*

Standout features: 200+ HD channels with all premium channels included.

*for the first 12 mos.

And oooooohhhh lawd, Spectrum charges a (relatively modest) $4.99–$9.99 fee for its cloud DVR services, Cloud DVR and Cloud DVR Plus.

These services measure storage based on the number of programs, regardless of length, and you can watch with unlimited streams on your home Wi-Fi, or with three streams outside your home (via the Spectrum TV app).

Spectrum Cloud DVR and Cloud DVR Plus stats

DVR Options
Spectrum Cloud DVR
Spectrum Cloud DVR Plus
Price # of shows Keep time Available with
$4.99/mo. 50 90 days
  • Spectrum TV Stream

  • Spectrum TV Choice

  • Spectrum TV Essentials

  • $9.99/mo. 100 1 yr.
  • All of the above plans

  • Spectrum TV Select

  • Mi Plan Latino Spectrum Lifestyle

  • That’s confusing, huh? Well, Cloud DVR breaks down like this:

    • 50 half-hour episodes equals 25 hours
    • 50 films (90 minutes each) amounts to 75 hours
    • 50 long Scorsese movies (talkin’ 3 hours, here) is 150 hours

    With Cloud DVR Plus, you’ll get double the storage and 4x the keep time for an extra five bucks a month.

    Ultimately, since Spectrum’s plan prices and DVR fees are relatively low, especially with the included premium channels, we recommend Spectrum’s cloud DVR services—but with the caveat that your mileage may vary.

    Cheapest: RCN

     Price: $59.99–$82.12/mo.

    Service type: Cable

    Channels: 55–300+

    DVR: 45–100 hr.

    Pros

    • Cheapest plans
    • Best cost per channel

    Cons

    • Limited availability
    • Few standalone TV options
    • Limited DVR storage
    • DVR fee

    Okay, value is one thing. You can spend $89.99 a month on a plan and get good value. But what if you’re on a budget? A hardworking single parent, for instance, deserves a great deal—but can they afford one? They’ll prefer a cheaper plan that fits the paycheck-to-paycheck life.

    RCN has the cheapest standalone TV plans and bundles. No other cable provider comes close. Lucky for them, RCN has a limited service area—Boston, Chicago, DC, Lehigh Valley (PA), New York (Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Queens), and Philadelphia.

    Sure, a lot of people live in those places—but a lot more of us don’t. I’m sorry, us. We don’t get to save a bundle on bundles with RCN. But for those of you who can? Congrats, high-five, happy birthday. Let’s open your present.

    RCN has a cost per channel of $0.20–$0.41 from standalone TV plans through triple-play bundles. And for a triple-play bundle, $0.41 per channel is fantastic. Optimum ($0.24–$0.43) and Suddenlink ($0.24–$0.52) get close, but every other provider is at least double that.

    Our recommended RCN package:

    Signature TV + Gig Internet

    Price: $79.99–$109.99/mo.*

    Standout features: Nearly 300 channels, plus super fast internet speeds

    *for 12 mos.

    Signature TV + Gig Internet has 284–300 channels, depending on where you live. Chicago’s the lucky city with 300, but the package is 27% more expensive there.

    Still, no matter your location, Signature TV + Gig Internet costs only $0.28–$0.37 per channel. So you can pay the extra $15 a month for the RCN Android TV/TiVo DVR (with integrated streaming apps) and your cost per channel goes up by only five or six cents. Not too shabby, even if you’re in Chicago.

    Other top TV providers

    If our top providers are on your nope list, or if they’re just not available near you, check out these providers and what they do well (or not so well).

    Most channels: Verizon Fios

    Price: $50.00–$90.00/mo.

    Service type: Fiber

    Channels: 125–425+

    DVR: 50–200 hr.

    Pros

    • No contracts
    • Affordable pricing
    • Highest channel count
    • Fiber connection for excellent picture quality
    • SHOWTIME® included (select packages)
    • Free Disney+, Hulu, and ESPN+ (select packages)
    • Fios TV Test Drive

    Cons

    • Limited availability
    • Limited package choices
    • High DVR fees
    • No triple-play bundles

    Verizon Fios is a fiber network, so its signals travel faster over much more reliable pipes. That means your picture’s gonna be pristine, which will please resolution snobs. And the pricing is pretty good, too.

    The largest standalone Verizon TV plan, The Most Fios TV, has 425+ channels for $90 a month. That’s $0.21 per channel. And it includes SHOWTIME. But Verizon’s cost-per-channel numbers are still a bit higher across all three of its packages—which don’t include SHOWTIME.

    Verizon also has high DVR fees, which affect the value. You’ll pay $12–$30 for 50–200 hours of storage, which is terrible. The median price for DVR service among the providers reviewed in this piece is $15 a month.

    Our recommended Verizon Fios TV package:

    The Most Fios TV

    Price: $90/mo.*

    Standout features: 425+ channels, pristine picture quality, free Disney+, Hulu, and ESPN+ (select packages)

    *Plus taxes. For eligible new res. custs. $99 set-up & taxes & terms may apply. Subj. to credit approval & may require a deposit. Fios avail. in select areas.

    If you can get it, The Most Fios TV is a massive chunk of channels (plus free SHOWTIME) for the money.

    But if The Most Fios TV is out of your price range, Your Fios TV gives you 125+ channels for $50 a month ($0.40 per channel).

    You might also be interested in doing the Fios TV Test Drive. Sign up for a Fios Gigabit internet connection, and you get to watch all 425+ channels for 60 days—for only $50 a month.

    After the first 30 days of your Test Drive, Verizon recommends one of its packages based on your watching habits. Then, after another 30 days, your payment reverts to the regular package price. Finally, Verizon offers free Disney+, Hulu, and/or ESPN+ with select packages and bundles. That’s a $6.99–$12.99 value, monthly, depending on which add-ons come with your chosen package. You gotta love that.

    Best voice remote: Xfinity

    Price: $49.99–$89.49/mo.

    Service type: Cable

    Channels: 125–260+

    DVR: 150 hr.

    Pros

    • Wide availability
    • No-contract plans (extra fee)
    • Free Peacock Premium w/ X1 DVR
    • Excellent voice remote
    • Large on-demand library
    • 30-day money-back guarantee

    Cons

    • 12 mo. contracts
    • 50% higher pricing for no-contract plans
    • DVR fees
    • HD fees

    Xfinity has middling cost per channel numbers on its TV-only plans ($0.27–$0.51) and bundles ($0.48–$0.75), but the bundles have high internet speeds that might be worth the extra money.

    Also, Xfinity has a few perks that add value: the highly rated X1 DVR (150 hours, six simultaneous recordings, integrated Netflix, Prime Video, Pandora, and more) and highly rated XR15 voice remote, a sizeable on-demand library, and free access to the Peacock Premium streaming service.

    Unfortunately, Xfinity’s DVR and HD fees ($14.95 and $9.95, respectively) eat up, but don’t completely consume, some of that added value.

    Our recommended Verizon Fios TV package:

    X1 HD Preferred Double Play with Blast Internet

    Price: $100/mo.*

    Standout features: 200+ channels, large on-demand library, x1 DVR, voice remote, 200 Mbps, free Peacock Premium

    *for the first 12 months with a 1-year agreement.

    Xfinity’s X1 HD Preferred Double Play with Blast Internet bundle has a $0.50 cost per channel and comes with a healthy 200 Mbps broadband connection—plus the X1 DVR, Xfinity on-demand library, and free Peacock premium. That’s an excellent deal for so much content and speed.

    Plus, Xfinity’s contracts are only 12 months long*. That almost certainly means the provider will jack up your price at the end of the term, but you’ll be free to shop elsewhere after only a year (whereas some providers have longer contracts).

    (*Xfinity has no-contract plan options, but you’ll pay a hefty premium for these. It’s only worth it if you’re living somewhere temporarily.)

    $500 contract buyout: Optimum

    Price: $74.99–$124.99/mo.

    Service type: Cable

    Channels: 220–420+

    DVR: 75 hr.

    Pros

    • Affordable pricing
    • Price for Life
    • No contracts
    • $500 contract buyout
    • High channel counts
    • Altice One DVR/receiver/modem/router
    • HBO Max, SHOWTIME, and STARZ included in Premier plan

    Cons

    • No standalone TV plans
    • Limited availability
    • Low customer satisfaction scores

    To get Optimum TV service, you must live in Connecticut, New Jersey, or New York (the Bronx, Brooklyn, Long Island, or Westchester). Also, you have to bundle—no TV-only plans here.

    Optimum bundles have great value, though, with the second-best cost per channel on both internet-and-TV ($0.24–$0.39) and triple-play bundles ($0.26–$0.43). Only RCN has better bundle numbers, but it competes with Optimum only in Brooklyn—and Optimum has more channels (220–420+).

    If you’re tired of your current TV provider, Optimum (like RCN) has no contracts and a contract buyout of up to $500, so that’s a considerable value boost as well.

    The Optimum DVR is the Altice One, which costs an extra $20 per month. It has only 75 hours of HD storage (that’s low), but you can record up to 15 shows at once—and watch them anywhere with the Altice One app. The Altice One also serves as your modem/router.

    All that functionality makes the Altice One’s additional fee easier to accept. But as an alternative, you can opt instead for Optimum’s Cloud DVR plus. It has the same storage and simultaneous recordings for $17.99 a month, but new customers get it for $10 per month for the first year.

    Our recommended Optimum package:

    Optimum Select TV + Optimum 400

    Price: $99.99/mo.*

    Standout features: 340+ channels, 400 Mbps cable speeds, Price for Life

    *Plus taxes, fees, and other charges. Price for Life. Customer must remain in good standing and up to date on bill payments to remain on Price For Life.

    We think Optimum Select TV + Optimum 400 ($99.99 a month) is a solid deal, with 340+ channels and 400 Mbps. It already has more channels than many other providers offer, and that kind of internet speed will support so much HD streaming and gaming.

    But if you’re bundle shopping and you happen to live in Brooklyn, look into RCN’s Signature TV + Gig Internet bundle before Optimum’s. For $64.99 per month, you get 297+ channels and 940 Mbps download speeds. That’s 43 fewer channels, but 2.35x the internet speed—for 35% cheaper per month.

    Free SHOWTIME and STARZ: Suddenlink

    Service type: Cable

    Price: $58.00–$124.99/mo.

    Channels: 225–340+

    DVR: 75 hr.

    Pros

    • Affordable pricing
    • Price for Life
    • No contracts
    • $500 contract buyout
    • Altice One DVR/receiver/modem/router
    • Free SHOWTIME and STARZ
    • 30-day money-back guarantee

    Cons

    • No standalone TV plans
    • Limited DVR storage
    • Buggy apps

    If you don’t live in Optimum’s service area, you might live in Suddenlink’s, which covers 20 states.

    Like Optimum, Suddenlink is an Altice USA company. And while they’re not exactly the same, Suddenlink is very similar to Optimum. Both have no contracts, $500 buyout, Altice One equipment, and no standalone TV plans.

    Suddenlink has fewer channels (340+ compared to Optimum’s 420+), and you’ll pay $2 less per month for the Altice One. As for bundle prices, Suddenlink’s cost per channel numbers are just a bit higher than Optimum’s: $0.24–$0.47 for internet-and-TV bundles, and $0.28–$0.52.

    Our recommended Suddenlink package:

    Select TV + Internet 1 Gig

    Price: $109.99/mo.*

    Standout features: 290+ channels, 1 Gbps speeds, Price for Life, free SHOWTIME and STARZ

    *Price for Life. Customer must remain in good standing and up to date on bill payments to remain on Price For Life. Plus taxes, fees and other charges. Includes Auto Pay and Paperless Billing.

    We like Suddenlink’s Select TV + Internet 1 Gig for its $0.38 cost per channel and superfast broadband speeds. Plus, SHOWTIME and STARZ come free with any Select TV or Premier TV bundle. All that and no contracts? Where do we sign?

    Free HBO Max: AT&T TV

    Price: $54.99–$129.99/mo.

    Service type: Streaming

    Channels: 65–140+

    DVR: 500 hr.

    Pros

    • Free yr. of HBO Max
    • 500 hr. cloud DVR (no expiration)
    • Streaming device included

    Cons

    • 2 yr. contract
    • High prices
    • Limited channel count

    AT&T TV doesn’t belong here. It’s actually a streaming service, not a traditional cable or satellite TV service like its predecessor, AT&T U-verse.

    Whereas U-verse had hundreds of channels, AT&T TV has only 65–140+, which means a much higher cost per channel ($0.62–$0.93). That’s fine for a streaming service. But AT&T TV has a 24–month contract—streaming services aren’t supposed to have those.

    Besides, AT&T already has a streaming service, AT&T TV NOW, with the same channels (packaged differently), and no contract. That’s probably why AT&T TV NOW is more expensive than AT&T TV.

    So it’s not fair to compare AT&T TV to traditional TV providers—but that’s on AT&T for bringing a streaming service to a cable fight.

    Among the providers in this guide, AT&T TV has the fewest channels and highest cost per channel. But it also includes a free streaming device, free year of HBO Max (with the CHOICETM, and a 500-hour cloud DVR with recordings that don’t expire—which is incredible for any TV service.

    But those hardly make up for AT&T TV’s high prices. We’re hard-pressed to think of an instance where the service would be preferable over another—whether it’s cable, satellite, or streaming.

    Our recommended AT&T TV package:

    CHOICETM

    Price: $109.99/mo.*

    Standout features: 500-hr. DVR with no expiration on recordings

    *for 12 mos plus taxes and Regional Sports Fee w/ 24-mo. agmt. Prices higher in 2nd year. Regional Sports Fee up to $8.49/mo. is extra & applies.*

    But if you’re gonna (or you gotta) sign up for AT&T TV, go with the CHOICETM package ($64.99 a month, 90+ channels) so you at least get the free HBO Max subscription.

    Excellent DVR: Cox

    Price: $25.00–$69.99/mo.

    Service type: Cable

    Channels: 75–250+

    DVR: 100–250 hr.

    Pros

    • Cheaper add-on packages
    • Excellent DVR
    • Internet speeds up to 940 Mbps

    Cons

    • Limited standalone TV options
    • Majority of channels accessible only in bundles
    • DVR fees

    Cox is another service that wants you to bundle. Its TV-only plans are TV Starter ($25 a month for 75 channels that you can also get from a $25 OTA antenna) and Contour TV (140+ channels for $69.99).

    Contour TV’s cost per channel is $0.50, so not too great. And the bundle cost per channel numbers are worse: $0.60–$1.05 for internet and TV, and $0.72–$0.88 for internet, TV, and phone packages. Those are some of the worst cost-per-channel numbers compared to the other providers covered here.

    Cox does have a decent DVR in the Contour Record 6. It has 250 hours of HD storage and 6 simultaneous recordings—for another $19.99 per month. Since the bundle prices are already high enough, the DVR fee is hard to handle.

    Our recommended Cox package:

    Bronze Duo

    Price: $109.99/mo.*

    Standout features: 140+ channels, 150 Mbps internet, Contour Record 6 DVR

    *for 36 months

    If Cox is your only choice, consider the Bronze Duo bundle above. It has 140+ channels (for a cost per channel of $0.64—ouch) and comes with internet speeds up to 150 Mbps. But if you want TV only, consider a streaming service instead of Cox’s TV plans.

    Most flexible: Orby TV

    Price: $40–$50/mo.

    Service type: Satellite

    Channels: 44–68+

    DVR: 100 hr.

    Pros

    • No contracts (when you purchase vs. renting equipment)
    • Cheaper packages
    • Flexibility
    • Local channels available w/o a package

    Cons

    • High startup costs
    • Contracts for rental equipment
    • Poor customer service
    • Limited DVR storage
    • 30-day risk-free trial that isn’t risk-free
    • Difficult self-installation

    Our final TV provider is Orby TV—a satellite service that aims to be a simpler alternative to the duopoly of DIRECTV and DISH.

    If you purchase your Orby receiver or receiver/DVR combo, there is no contract, and you pay month-to-month for the channel package and DVR service. (Renters sign a two-month agreement and pay a $10-a-month rental fee).

    If you miss a payment, you lose access to your channel package, on-screen guide, and DVR, but you still get a ton of local channels through the over-the-air (OTA) antenna (see below), and you pay no cancellation or reconnect fees.

    Once you have your equipment, you schedule professional installation ($150) or a self-installation kit ($70, plus $20 for a signal meter). The install fees include the antenna and dish.

    With a 30-day money-back “risk-free” guarantee, we had to try it out. The service itself works fine—but the startup costs ($170–$350) are wildly high. Plus, the “risk-free” part covers only your receiver/DVR unit, so you could lose as much as $160 if you don’t like the service.

    Also, we hate to say it but Orby’s customer service is awful.

    Our recommended Orby TV package:

    Essential package
    Price: $40/mo.*

    Standout features: No contract, no monthly bill, no cancellation or reconnection fees, and you can keep your local channels even after you let your package lapse (except on rental accounts).

    *plus taxes and DVR fees. $10/mo. charge for rental equipment.

    As for channels, Orby has only one package, and it has 44 channels for $40 a month (or $0.74 per). This doesn’t include the free local channels you’ll get through the antenna.

    That’s a decent channel count, but there are zero sports channels (although you’ll get some sports with your locals). Also, Orby had to make some substitutions (like NewsMax instead of FOX News) to achieve affordability.

    You can add another 24 channels (still no sports) for an additional $10 a month (adjusted cost per channel: $0.91). And some premium-channel packs are available for $6–$18 a month.

    Ultimately, for reasons stated, we hesitate to actually recommend Orby TV.

    What to look for in a TV provider

    What? Really? You wanna do your own legwork after all the sweat we put into this—just kiddin’. We respect you for doing extra research. Here’s a checklist/tip sheet for TV-plan shopping to help you on your quest.

    Channels: quantity vs. quality

    Channel counts are only numbers—don’t rely solely on them. Be sure to review each provider’s channel lineups to ensure you’re getting what you want. Here are some to get you started.

    Cable and satellite TV provider channel lineups

    Contracts vs. no-contract plans

    Nobody likes to be stuck with a provider and a payment that they don’t like. Be sure you understand the terms of your contract, from term length to early-termination fees. Or look for providers who don’t require contracts like Spectrum and Optimum.

    Some providers, like Xfinity, offer no-contract plans at a higher monthly fee. Often this fee is high (Xfinity’s is as much as 50% more). We recommend these only if you feel like you’ll be moving soon—or you’re living away from home for an extended period.

    Contract buyouts

    Some providers will pay to get your business. Optimum, RCN, Spectrum, and Suddenlink all pay up to $500 to free you from your current contract. How nice is that?

    DVR specs and fees

    Ideally, you want a DVR with tons of storage and multiple tuners to allow for simultaneous recordings. It should also have a voice remote for hands-free TV. And hopefully, it’s included in the price of your plan.

    If your plan doesn’t include DVR, rental fees range from $4–$30 a month, with a median rate of $15. And if you’re paying for it, make sure you’re getting the most bang for your buck.

    Hidden fees

    When you’ve spent all this time picking a plan with a good price and cost per channel, any extra fee feels like a surprise. Your provider should disclose these when you subscribe, but these fine-print details are easy to miss. So be on the lookout.

    Here’s a list of fees that you should expect to see on your bill:

    • Broadcast TV charge: TV providers have to pay the networks for content, and they pass on the cost to you.
    • Installation charge: These vary with the provider. It’s often worth waiting for free installation offers.
    • Activation fee: Dubious fee charged to “activate” your account.
    • Early termination fee: If you cancel your contract early, your provider may charge a prorated amount based on the time remaining on your contract.
    • Reconnection fee: If you miss a payment and get a cancellation notice, your provider may charge a fee to reconnect your service.
    • HD fee: Some providers charge a fee for HD channels.
    • DVR fee: Monthly fee for DVR rental and service.
    • Multiroom/whole-home mini-receiver fee: Additional monthly fee for mini receivers or DVRs used for multiroom/whole-home viewing.
    • Cloud DVR fee: Some providers have cloud DVR instead of, or in addition to, a physical DVR.
    • TV receiver/TV box fee: Some providers offer a receiver-only (no DVR) option.
    • Late payment fee: Oh, you know this one. When you miss a payment, even if it’s because you don’t have any money, providers charge this fee as a penalty.
    • Regional sports fee: Similar to broadcast fee, but for regional sports networks.
    • Tax: Sigh. . . Taxes. What’re we gonna do?

    Mobile app

    If you lead a busy life, you’ll want to choose a provider with a reliable mobile app that allows you to make payments, manage your account, contact customer service, or watch TV on the go or offline.

    Our final take

    Well, there you have it: the best TV providers of 2020, according to CableTV.com. We wish we had an orchestra to play us out as we review, but maybe hum to yourself instead.

    Best overall/best for kids: DISH is our best overall provider thanks to its affordability, channels, and two-year pricelock. And we think it’s best for kids because of its many children’s channels and comprehensive parental controls.

    Best for sports: DIRECTV takes the trophy here with its 27 sports channels and NFL SUNDAY TICKET offer.

    Best value: Spectrum has a very good cost-per-channel, especially for a provider that includes premium channels in its packages.

    Cheapest: Whether you want TV-only or bundles, RCN has the cheapest packages with a great cost-per-channel.

    Enter your zip code below to see which of these providers are in your area. Good luck!

    Please enter a valid zip code.

    Best TV Providers FAQ

    What is the best and cheapest TV provider?

    We think that DISH is the best overall provider because of its high channel count, low cost per channel, Hopper 3 DVR, and two-year pricelock. It’s also our best for kids pick because of its numerous kids’ channels and fantastic parental controls.

    The cheapest TV provider is RCN—check out its Signature TV + 1 Gbps Internet bundle ($79.99–$109.99 a month depending on your location).

    Click the respective links to read more about these providers.

    What is the best TV and internet provider?

    Optimum and RCN offer the best internet-and-TV value. Click either of these links to learn more about these providers.

    What is the best TV provider for the money?

    Spectrum has the best value for TV-only plans. Optimum’s and RCN’s bundles with TV, internet, and phone service have the best value.

    How do I choose a TV provider?

    You can get help choosing a TV provider by reading sites like ours, CableTV.com, where we do all of the research for you. That will save you the most time in your search for quality couch entertainment.

    Or you can do your own research. To find cable providers in your area, enter your zip code below.

    Please enter a valid zip code.

    Don't miss an update

    Stay updated on the latest products and services anytime anywhere.

    This site is a U.S. Consumer site. You can learn more about our site and privacy policy here.