Best TV Service Providers for 2022: Plans, Prices, and More
In our annual Editor’s Choice Awards, our TV experts tell you which TV providers are the best overall—and which ones are best for families, value, and price.
Contract length: 24 mos.
DVR storage: 500 hrs.
Contract length: 24 mos.
DVR storage: 200 hrs.
Contract length: 1 mo.
DVR storage: 50–200 hrs.
Contract length: 12 mos.
DVR storage: Varies
Contract length: 1 mo.
DVR storage: Unlimited (9 mos.)
Data as of post date. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.
* For the first 12 months
If you’re a TV fan like us, we highly recommend DISH Network for its channel count, reliability, industry-leading equipment, parental controls, and transparent pricing.
That said, maybe you’ve already had DISH and it isn’t right for you. Read on to see why we say DIRECTV is best for sports, Verizon Fios has the best value, Spectrum is the cheapest traditional TV provider, and YouTube TV is best for live TV streaming.
Scroll on to learn more about each TV service provider and why we like ’em.
Compare the best TV service providers head to head
The best TV service provider for you will depend on a lot of things, including price, channel count, and availability. Check out our nifty table to compare cable, satellite, and live TV streaming options before you sign up.
Best TV service providers
|Astound Broadband||$99.51–$141.81/mo.||287–304+||View plans|
Best for sports
|DIRECTV STREAM||$69.99–$149.99/mo.||65–140+||View plans|
|Hulu + Live TV||$69.99–$75.99/mo.||70+||View plans|
|Sling TV||$35.00–$50.00/mo.||30–50+||View plans|
Best for streaming
Data as of post date. Prices at time of writing. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.
‡ for 12 mos.
DISH—Editor’s choice and best for families
- 2 yr. price guarantee
- Hopper 3 DVR
- HBO Max (after a long absence)
- Wide availability
- Best parental controls
- 2 yr. contract
- DVR fee
- Satellite dish requirment
For the second year running, DISH is our Editor’s Choice pick for best overall TV service—and the best TV provider for families.
DISH doesn’t have the best prices, or even the best cost per channel, but it guarantees that your payment won’t increase for two years. This is huge; no other TV provider—even the ones without contracts—offers such a guarantee.
Channel-wise, DISH carries virtually all the other most popular channels in its packages—even HBO Max ($15 a month) after a long period without it.
The DISH Hopper 3 ($10 a month) is consistently the highest-rated DVR in the TV business. It stores 500 HD hours, allows you to record up to 16 programs at once, supports 4K resolution, and includes the DISH Voice Remote. Also, you can have multiroom viewing with the DISH Joey ($5 per month, per TV).
Families will love that DISH has the channels kids want from Disney, Nickelodeon, and local PBS affiliates. And parents will appreciate DISH’s excellent parental controls, created in partnership with Common Sense Media, which enable them to fine-tune the content their kids consume.
Verizon Fios—Best value
- No contracts
- Affordable pricing
- Most channels
- SHOWTIME® and STARZ® included (select packages)
- Fios TV Test Drive
- Internet connection required
- Limited availability
Verizon Fios’ streaming TV service is such an excellent deal that it’s a shame it’s available in only the metropolitan areas of nine states.
With 425+ channels, Verizon has more channels than any other provider, and it offers them for less. With The Most Fios TV, you can have all 425+ networks (which include SHOWTIME, THE MOVIE CHANNEL, and EPIX) for $110 a month, which is only $0.26 per channel—no other provider can beat that.
The value gets even better, though. The Most Fios TV also includes your set-top box plus wireless multiroom DVR service with voice control, a combined value of $24 a month.
And, if you bundle with Verizon Fios’ lightning-fast fiber-optic internet service (speeds up to 940 Mbps), you’ll be able to enjoy consistently pristine picture quality. Bundling Verizon Fios TV with internet service will add $39.99–$89.99 to your bill, depending on your chosen speed.
So, if you get the fastest plan (Fios Gigabit, $89.99 a month), your total payment would be $199.99 monthly ($0.47 per channel). That’s a lot of bang for your buck.
But, again, it’s too bad that most of us can’t access the Verizon Fios value.
DIRECTV—Best for sports
- Free installation
- More sports channels than DISH
- Genie or Genie 2 DVR included
- NFL SUNDAY TICKET included (current season)
- 2 yr. contract
- Activation fees for service and devices
- Huge 2nd-yr. price hike
If you crave sportsball action like oxygen, DIRECTV is stacked with 27 sports channels including FS1, FS2, Golf Channel, NFL Network, NHL Network, NBA TV, and more. DIRECTV is also the exclusive home of NFL SUNDAY TICKET, a virtual feast of out-of-market NFL games—and new customers get the add-on (a $395.94 value) free (current season only).
But don’t wave a gigantic “DIRECTV is #1” foam finger just yet. All of this prime sports content will eventually cost you big-time.
DIRECTV’s packages have some of the lowest cost-per-channel numbers ($0.38–$0.44), but only in the first year. In the second year, your payment jumps by 29%–40% and your NFL SUNDAY TICKET promo expires—keeping it will cost you $395.94. Ouch.
So, DIRECTV is only a good deal for a year. But if you reallyreallyreally love sports, you might not mind the steep second-year pricing.
- No contracts
- Contract buyout
- All channels in free HD
- Affordable premium channels
- Spectrum TV app
- Low channel count
- Confusing DVR options
While Verizon Fios gives you the most for your money, Spectrum has the cheapest TV package overall.* Spectrum TV Select is $49.99 a month for 125 channels, including all of the top 35 most-watched channels according to Variety.
(*Xfinity offers a package called Popular TV that has 125+ channels for the same price—but only in its western region to compete with Spectrum.)
TV Select also includes Peacock Premium at no extra cost, which gets you a live NBC feed, a handful of other live channels, and 15,000 hours of on-demand content.
Spectrum TV Select’s low price leaves room for premium-channel add-ons.
If you add HBO ($15.00 a month), SHOWTIME ($10.00 a month), STARZ & STARZENCORE ($9.00 a month), and Sports View ($6.00 a month for 20 sports channels including NFL Network) you’ll pay only $89.99 a month.
If you love movies and sports, Spectrum TV Select plus those premium add-ons is an awesome deal—especially because HBO subscribers also get free access to HBO MaxTM (regularly $14.99). That’s a ton of content for under $100. Few other cable and satellite providers can offer that.
Unfortunately, Spectrum doesn’t include a TV box (it’s an extra $8.99 a month) and DVR service ($4.99–$9.99 a month). But even with those fees, your total payment is only $118.97 per month ($0.59 per channel). That’s still a fantastic price for such a quality-rich package.
And, if you’re looking to leave your current provider, Spectrum has one more deal for you: a contract buyout of up to $500. You also won’t have to sign a contract with Spectrum—so, if you’re unhappy, you can peace out whenever you want.
YouTube TV—Best for live TV streaming
- No contract
- 100+ channels
- Unlimited DVR
- No A&E, Lifetime, or VICE
For the second year running, YouTube TV is our Editor’s Choice for best overall live TV streaming service. It has 100+ channels (second only to DIRECTV STREAM’s 140+ channels), unlimited DVR (with a nine-month storage limit), three simultaneous streams, six user profiles, and numerous channel-pack and premium add-ons.
You might have noticed that YouTubeTV has a high cost per channel ($0.65), but this is actually good because live TV streaming services have leaner lineups stocked mostly with popular channels.
But while YouTube TV’s channel lineup has a higher concentration of popular channels, it is missing some popular networks, like A&E, Lifetime, and VICE. If those are must-have channels for you, check out our guide to the Best Live TV Streaming Services.
A downside to YouTube TV—to any streaming service, really—is that you need an internet connection to stream TV. So keep that in mind.
If you’re not sure whether you’d prefer streaming TV over cable and satellite TV, you can try YouTube TV free for seven days before deciding to switch. We think you’ll dig it.
Other top streaming services
If it’s not obvious by now, you’ve got a lot of TV options these days. And with month-to-month contracts, affordable prices, and excellent availability, live TV streaming services are a great alternative to traditional cable and satellite TV.
We already told you why we think YouTube TV is the best live TV streaming service out there, but it might not be right for your budget or taste. Check out the table to see if there’s another live TV streaming service that’s more “you.”
Top live TV streaming services
Data effective as of post date.
Xfinity—Best for user experience
- Wide availability
- No-term agreement plans (extra fee)
- Free Peacock Premium w/ X1 DVR
- Excellent voice remote
- Large on-demand library
- 12 mo. term agreements
- Up to 33% higher pricing for no-contract plans
- DVR fees
Xfinity has middling cost per channel numbers on its TV-only plans and bundles, but the bundles have high internet speeds that might be worth the extra money.
Also, Xfinity has the highly rated X1 TV box ($7.50 to $8.50 a month), which includes 150 hours of built-in storage, six simultaneous recordings, the XR15 voice remote, free Peacock Premium, and integrated streaming apps. If you want more storage, you can get 150–300 hours for an extra $10.00 to $20.00 monthly.
Our recommended Xfinity bundle, Ultimate Double Play ($109.99/mo. a month, 185+ channels, 600 Mbps), includes 150 hours of cloud DVR storage. That’s an excellent deal for so much content and speed. Plus, the highly rated Xfinity Stream mobile app allows you to stream your channel packages, on-demand, and DVR recordings while you’re on the go.
Finally, Xfinity’s term agreements are only 12 months long. That’s not terrible, and it’s worth it for this price. But, if you’re living somewhere temporarily, Xfinity does have no-term agreement plans for an extra 33% per month.
- No contracts/$500 contract buyout
- High channel counts
- Premium channels included in Premier TV plan
- Bundles with cable or fiber internet
- 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). And you have to bundle—no standalone TV plans here.
When you sign up at Optimum.com, you’ll first choose an internet plan. They cost $29.99–$79.99 a month for 100–940 Mbps download speeds via either cable or fiber (depending on your location).
Then you’ll add a TV plan ($30–$115 a month for 50–420+ channels). Premier TV has 420+ channels including HBO Max, SHOWTIME, and STARZ for $115 a month ($0.27 per channel). That’s a great value for so many channels, especially with the included premiums.
We recommend bundling Optimum 1 Gig or Fiber Internet 1 Gig ($79.99 a month) with Premier TV ($115.00 a month). The total price would be $194.99 monthly.
Also, you get your first Altice One Mini TV box free with Optimum bundles. Or you can rent-to-own an Apple TV 4K ($10 a month for 18 months) instead.
Unfortunately, you will have to pay an extra $8–$20 a month for Optimum’s Cloud DVR service, which is pretty pricey for 25–150 hours of storage. As an alternative, you could buy your own DVR, which will pay for itself (eventually) and hold more movies and shows.
As an upside, if you’re tired of your current TV provider, Optimum has no contracts and a contract buyout of up to $500. Those are two good reasons to switch to Optimum. Too bad it’s available in only four states.
- $500 contract buyout
- No contracts
- Free Altice One Mini TV box
- Free HBO Max in Premier TV plan
- No standalone TV plans
- Limited DVR storage
- DVR fees
- Buggy apps
If you don’t live in Optimum’s service area, you might live in Suddenlink’s, which covers 20 states. And, like Optimum, Suddenlink is an Altice USA company. That means the two providers are similar. Scratch that—they’re exactly the same.
Suddenlink has the same no-contract plans, $500 contact buyout, Altice One and Apple TV 4K equipment offers, Cloud DVR plans and fees, and bundling requirement as Optimum. Even the online buying process is the same.
You may wonder why Suddenlink and Optimum even bother having different brands if they’re so similar. Don’t fret—Suddenlink is in the process of changing its name to Optimum. Soon, they’ll be exactly the same, and we won’t need two different sections to talk about the same service.
We recommend Suddenlink’s Internet 1 Gig ($79.99 a month) + Premier TV ($115.00 a month). The total price is $194.99 a month for 340+ channels and 940 Mbps internet. Even with the DVR fees ($8.00–$20.00 a month, same as Optimum), this is a good value.
- Cheaper add-on packages
- Excellent DVR
- Streaming via Contour TV app
- Bundles with high-speed internet
- Two-year contracts
- Very expensive bundles
- High DVR fees
Cox has four TV-only plans, plus bundles with high-speed internet—and everything is pretty expensive, even the DVR service. With Cox standalone TV plans and bundles, the cost per channel is $0.55–$0.92. Only Sparklight ($0.95–$2.10) costs more.
But Cox’s top-tier plan, Contour TV Ultimate ($138.00 a month, $0.55 per channel), it’s a decent value, with 250+ channels—including CINEMAX, HBO Max, SHOWTIME, and STARZ—plus your first TV box free, and the Record 1 Starter DVR service (250 hours of storage, one simultaneous recording) free for 12 months.
But if you want more DVR storage and simultaneous recordings, it’s gonna cost you. Cox has three tiers of DVR service with 250–1,000 hours and 2–24 recordings for $10–$30 per month.
To compare, DISH’s America’s Top 200 plan has 240+ channels, 500 hours of DVR storage, and 16 simultaneous recordings for only $104.99 a month ($0.44 per channel)—and the price is guaranteed for two years. Cox prices are good only for 12 months. You’ll get more bang for your buck, and also save some bucks, with DISH.
Finally, if you want the best of everything, Cox’s Contour TV Ultimate (250+ channels) with Ultimate DVR (1,000 hours of storage, 24 recordings), bundled with Internet Gigablast (1 Gbps download speeds) comes to $267.99 monthly. And you’ll have all the channels, the most storage, and a super-fast internet connection.
Astound Broadband powered by RCN
- Affordable pricing
- Best cost per channel
- Free TiVo Stream 4K
- Limited availability
- Few standalone TV options
- Limited DVR storage
- DVR fee
Astound Broadband Powered by RCN now offers “streaming cable” services—same cable TV packages, but delivered over the internet like streaming services. But there is no change in Astound Broadband’s service area—Boston, Chicago, DC, Lehigh Valley (PA), New York (Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Queens).
Astound Broadband’s plans, pricing, and channel counts vary slightly between areas, but the decent value stays pretty much the same. And the provider’s internet-and-TV bundles are a really good deal.
Astound Broadband’s Signature TV + Gig Internet bundle has 287–304+ channels and 940 Mbps internet for $124.51–$141.81 a month (price and channels vary with your location).
You’ll access your Astound Broadband channels via a free TiVo Stream 4K device (extras are $7 a month each). It comes with 125 hours of cloud DVR storage, which you can upgrade to 250 hours for $9.99 a month.
We think this is a pretty solid bundle deal—if you can get it.
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 in your quest for the best TV provider deals. 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 TV service’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.
Some providers will pay to get your business. Optimum, Astound Broadband, Spectrum, and Suddenlink all pay up to $500 to free you from your current contract. How nice is that?
DVR specs and fees
Ideally, with physical DVRs like the DISH Hopper 3 and DIRECTV Genie, you want tons of storage (200 hours or more) and multiple tuners (at least two, ideally more than five) to allow for simultaneous recordings. The DVR should also run streaming apps and have a voice remote.
Key features on cloud DVR are storage and simultaneous streams. Typically, cloud DVR storage is lower than that of a physical DVR. Expect to see providers offering 25–200 hours. As for streams, three is a good amount.
Monthly fees for physical and cloud DVRs range from $4.99–$30.00, with a median rate of $15.00 a month. You’ll find the best DVR bang for your buck with DISH ($10 a month for up to 500 hours and 16 tuners) and DIRECTV (200 hours and five tuners for no extra cost).
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?
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.
We’ve reviewed some of the best TV provider mobile apps:
DISH is our Editor’s choice for the best overall TV provider and the best TV provider for families. It has high channel counts, transparent pricing, reliability, the highest-rated DVR, top-notch parental controls, and many children’s channels.
And DIRECTV remains our best-for-sports pick because it has the most sports channels and the best sports add-on around: NFL SUNDAY TICKET, which is free to new subscribers (current season only).
Despite its limited availability, we’re giving the best value award to Verizon Fios for its channel count, superb picture quality, and inclusions like a free set-top box and Basic DVR plan.
Finally, we’re calling out Spectrum as the cheapest TV provider for its Spectrum TV Select plan, which has 125+ channels for $49.99 a month. And don’t forget about those affordable premium add-ons.
Enter your zip code below to see which of these providers are in your area. Good luck!
For our annual Editor’s Choice Awards, our TV experts compare top TV providers on plans, pricing, channels, customer satisfaction, features, and more. We award points in each category, then calculate an overall editorial rating.
We then recognize these providers in five key categories—Editor’s Choice (best overall), best for families, best for sports, best value, and cheapest—so you can pick a TV provider that fits your needs. For more information on our process, see our How We Rank page.
Best TV providers FAQ
* Spectrum TV® Select: Limited time offer; subject to change; valid to qualified residential customers who have not subscribed to any services within the previous 30 days and who have no outstanding obligation to Charter. Spectrum TV® Select promotion price is $49.99/mo; standard rates apply after yr. 1. Taxes, fees and surcharges (broadcast surcharge up to $21.00/mo) extra and subject to change during and after the promotional period; installation/network activation, equipment and additional services are extra. General Terms: TV: TV equipment required; charges may apply. Channel and HD programming availability based on level of service. Account credentials may be required to stream some TV content online. Services subject to all applicable service terms and conditions, subject to change. Services not available in all areas. Restrictions apply. Enter your address to determine availability. ©2022 Charter Communications.