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Best TV Service Providers for 2021: Plans, Prices, and More

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: $64.99–$99.99/mo.*
Channels:
190–290+
DVR storage:
500 hrs.

Best for sports

Price: $64.99–$134.99/mo.
Channels:
160–330+
DVR:
200 hrs.

Best value

Price: $44.99–$94.99/mo.
Channels:
125–200+
DVR:
varies

Cheapest

Price: $59.99–$82.12/mo.°
Channels:
55–304+
DVR:
20–75 hrs.

Best Live TV Streaming

Price: $64.99/mo.
Channels: 100+
DVR: Unlimited (9 mos.)

Data as of post date. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.
*for 24. months. Everyday Price $94.99–$119.99/mo. New customers only. All offers require 2-year commitment with early termination fee and eAutopay. Price includes Hopper Duo for qualifying customers.
† for 12 mos. plus taxes and Regional Sports Fee w/24-mo. agmt. Autopay & Paperless bill req’d. Prices higher in 2nd year.
‡ For the first 12 months
° For the first 12 months

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 all the 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 of 2021: Editor’s Choice Awards

Best TV Providers

Provider
Best overall, best for kids
DISH
Best for sports
DIRECTV
Best value
Spectrum
Cheapest
RCN
Cheapest
YouTube TV
Most channels
Verizon Fios
$500 contract buyout
Optimum
Best voice remote
Xfinity
Free premiums
Suddenlink
Excellent DVR
Cox
Our star rating* Price range Cost per channel Channel count DVR storage (HD) Simultaneous recordings
4.10 $64.99–$94.99/mo. $0.34–$0.37 190–290+ 500 hrs. 16 View plans
3.99 $64.99–$134.99/mo. $0.34–$0.41 160–330+ 125 hrs. 5 View plans
3.49 $44.99–$94.99/mo.‡ $0.36–$0.47 125–200+ 90 hrs. 2–6 View plans
3.63 $59.99–$82.12/mo. $0.20–$0.27 55–304+ 20–75 hrs. 2–6 View plans
4.50 $64.99/mo. $0.65 100+ Unlimited 3 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. $0.31–$0.37 210–340+ 25–150 hrs. 15 View plans
3.66 $60.00–$89.99/mo. $0.34–$0.48 125–260+ 150 hrs. 6 View plans
3.45 $58.00-$124.99/mo. $0.26–$0.37 225–340+ 75 hrs. 15 View plans
3.37 $50.00–$130.00/mo. $0.52–$0.67 75–250+ 250–1,000 hrs. 2–24 View plans

Data as of 12/22/20. Prices at time of writing. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.
*Learn about how we rank providers

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Best overall and best for kids: DISH

Price: $64.99–$99.99/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 $0.34–$0.37. 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 services 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: $89.99/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 $5 a month by dropping down to America’s Top 200 package ($89.99 a month, 240+ channels). You’ll lose only Nicktoons and the STARZ ENCORE stuff. So let’s make that the official recommendation—’cause 5 bucks is 5 bucks.

Best for sports: DIRECTV

 Price: $64.99–$134.99/mo.

Service type: Satellite

Channels: 160–330+

DVR: 200 hrs.

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 FS1, FS2, Golf Channel, NFL Network, NHL Network, NBA TV, and more), it’s already stacked.

And 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.

When you’re first signing up for DIRECTV, those are seriously seductive deals—but not when you consider DIRECTV’s monster 30–40% second-year price hikes. By then, your free HBO and SUNDAY TICKET promos 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:

ULTIMATE All-Included

Price: $84.99/mo.*‡

Standout features: 250+ 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.

That said, DIRECTV’s ULTIMATE All-Included package, with 250+ channels and a free year of HBO Max for $84.99 a month the first year and $142.00 the next. That averages out to $113.50 per month (and $0.45 per channel) for the full term.

That’s still a hefty payment—especially when HBO Max and NFL SUNDAY TICKET vanish in your second year. But sports fans still might be okay with that.

Best value: Spectrum

Price: $44.99–$94.99/mo.

Service type: Cable

Channels: 125–200+

DVR: 90 hrs.

Pros

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

Cons

  • Confusing DVR options

Spectrum doesn’t have as many channels as most cable providers, but some of its plans are jammed with value and have the best TV service deals.

Our recommendation, Spectrum TV® Gold ($94.99 a month), has 200+ HD channels, including NFL Network, SHOWTIME, STARZ, STARZ ENCORE, and TMC. You also get HBO Max. Sure, you’re paying $0.47 per channel, but that’s decent even without the premiums.

Our recommended Spectrum package:

Spectrum TV Gold

Price: $94.99/mo.

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

for the first 12 mos. Read full disclaimer

Spectrum has two options for DVR service. Traditional, box-based DVR service gives you 90 hours of storage for $17.98 per month—this includes the cost of the Spectrum HD TV box ($7.99 a month) and the actual DVR service ($9.99 monthly). That’s not a great price, considering the slim storage.

Spectrum DVR options

DVR Options
Spectrum HD TV box (traditional DVR)
Device price DVR service price Storage Total price
$7.99/mo. $9.99/mo. varies $17.98/mo.

Spectrum’s 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?

Cheapest: RCN

 Price: $59.99–$82.12/mo.

Service type: Cable

Channels: 55–304+

DVR: 20–75 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, might prefer a cheaper plan that fits the paycheck-to-paycheck life.

RCN has the cheapest standalone TV plans and bundles. Few rival cable providers come 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 bundles have a cost per channel of $0.20–$0.41. This is fantastic. Optimum ($0.24–$0.43) and Suddenlink ($0.24–$0.52) can compete—but only on bundles, and other providers’ bundles start at $0.46 per channel.

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 the first 12 months

Depending on where you live, the double-play bundle Signature TV + Gig Internet has 275–295+ channels and blazing fast 1 Gbps internet for $79.99–$109.99 a month or $0.27–$0.37 per channel.

What’s better than fantastic? Let’s go with awesome. Such a low cost per channel means you could add the RCN’s HD DVR converter box for only $6 a month, which would be even awesome-r if RCN’s box had more than 20 hours of content and two simultaneous recordings.

Alternatively, you could go with the RCN Android TV/TiVo DVR. It has 75 hours of HD storage, unlimited recordings, and integrated streaming apps—but it’s $20 a month. And the storage is still pretty low.

But with or without DVR, Signature TV + Gig Internet is still a killer deal.

Best Live TV Streaming: YouTube TV

Best live TV streaming

Price: $64.99/mo.
Channels: 100+
Simultaneous streams: 3
DVR: Unlimited (9 mos.)

Pros

  • No contract
  • 100+ channels
  • Unlimited DVR

Cons

  • No A&E, Hallmark, or Lifetime

YouTube TV is our best overall live TV streaming service. It has the 100+ channels, unlimited DVR (with a nine-month storage limit), three simultaneous streams, up to six user profiles, and numerous channel-pack and premium add-ons.

Since streaming services have fewer channels than cable and satellite TV providers—and, therefore, a higher cost per channel—but they have a higher concentration of popular channels. What we’re saying is: live TV streaming services don’t have all the extra nonsense channels that you find with cable and satellite TV.

Our recommended YouTube TV package:

YouTube TV

Price: $64.99/mo. 

Standout features: 100+ channels, unlimited DVR (nine-month storage limit), and three simultaneous streams.

So imagine not having to search through hundreds of channels to find AMC, Cartoon Network, Comedy Central, Disney, ESPN, FS1, FX, MTV, Paramount Network, Syfy, TBS, TNT, and USA. It’s a lost easier to find what you want to watch with YouTube TV’s leaner lineup.

But while YouTube TV’s channel lineup is has a higher concentration of popular channels, it is missing a few of the most popular networks, like A&E, Hallmark Channel, Lifetime, and VICE. If those are must-have channels for you, check out our guide to the Best Live TV Streaming Services.

If you’re not sure whether you’d prefer streaming 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 cable TV providers

If our top providers are on your nope list, or if they’re just not available near you, check out these TV services—along with 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: 50–100 hrs.

Pros

  • No contracts
  • Affordable pricing
  • Most channels
  • Excellent picture quality
  • SHOWTIME® included (select packages)

Cons

  • Internet connection required
  • Limited availability
  • Limited package choices
  • High DVR fees

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, basic DVR and set-top box included, free month of YouTube TV, and $200 in Verizon gift cards.

*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.

One drawback to Verizon Fios TV is that, in order to get that great fiber-facilitated picture quality, you’ll probably have to bundle with Verizon internet service. So if you weren’t planning to switch, that might be a problem for you.

Best voice remote: Xfinity

Price: $60.00–$89.99/mo.

Service type: Cable

Channels: 125–260+

DVR: 150 hrs.

Pros

  • Wide availability
  • No-term agreement plans (extra fee)
  • Free Peacock Premium w/ X1 DVR
  • Excellent voice remote
  • Large on-demand library

Cons

  • 12 mo. contracts
  • Up to 33% higher pricing for no-contract plans
  • DVR fees
  • HD fees

Xfinity has middling cost per channel numbers on its TV-only plans ($0.34–$0.48) 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 term agreements 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-term agreement plans, 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: 210–340+

DVR: 25–150 hrs.

Pros

  • Price for Life
  • No contracts
  • $500 contract buyout
  • High channel counts
  • HBO Max, SHOWTIME, and STARZ included in Premier plan

Cons

  • 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). Optimum used to require bundling to get TV, but now offers four standalone TV plans: Core TV ($74.99 a month, 210+ channels), Value TV ($79.99 a month, 225+ channels), Select TV ($89.99 a month, 290+ channels), and Premier TV ($124.99 a month, 340+ channels). We like Premier TV because it includes HBO, SHOWTIME, and STARZ at no extra cost.

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 (210–340+).

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 $11 per month. It has no internal hard drive because Optimum now offers cloud DVR. It’s $9.99–$21.99 a month for 25–150 hours of HD storage. That’s low-to-average, 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.

Our recommended Optimum package:

Premier TV

Price: $124.99/mo.*

Standout features: 340+ channels, including HBO, SHOWTIME, and STARZ.

*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 cable 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

  • Price for Life
  • No contracts
  • $500 contract buyout
  • 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?

Excellent DVR: Cox

Price: $50–$130/mo.

Service type: Cable

Channels: 75–250+

DVR: 250–1,000 hrs.

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.

(*Cox also has a Contour Record 24 DVR with 1,000 hours of storage and 24 simultaneous recordings. It’s even more expensive at $29.99 a month, but if you want to flex the most storage and recordings, this one’s for you.)

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.

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.

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?

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.

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 is the best cable TV provider for value, with a very good cost-per-channel, especially for a TV service 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!

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Best TV providers FAQ

What is the best and cheapest TV providers?

We think that DISH is the best TV provider overall because of its high channel count, low cost per channel, Hopper 3 DVR, and two-year pricelock. It’s also our best TV service 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 cable and satellite TV 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 cable providers.

What is the best cable 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 finding the best TV service by reading sites like ours, CableTV.com. We do all of the research for you so that you can find the best cable TV providers fast.

We don’t just point out the best overall TV providers. We also tell you the ones that have the best value, cheapest packages, best kids’ content (and parental controls), and best sports content. That way, you can find quality couch entertainment that’s right for you.

Of course, you can still do your own research to flesh out what you’ve learned here.

What are the best cable TV providers near me?

To find cable and satellite TV providers near you, enter your zip code below.

Please enter a valid zip code.

Disclaimers:

*Spectrum TV® Gold: 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® Gold promotion price is $94.99/mo; standard rates apply after yr 1. Taxes, fees and surcharges (broadcast surcharge up to $16.45/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.