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Best TV Providers in Customer Satisfaction 2020

Find out how customers feel about 11 of the most popular cable and satellite TV providers across the US.

We at CableTV.com are full of opinions about TV providers—but what do customers think? They use the services daily, and pay the monthly bill, after all. What they think matters.

That’s why we ask for their thoughts in our annual Customer Satisfaction Survey. Daily use of a TV service is sustained product testing. People who pay for the product or service are literally invested in it. Customer experience is key to knowing if a TV service is worth it, or if one is better than another.

Directly below are the highest-scoring providers overall. We also have rankings for each provider in nine other survey categories. For more detail on particular categories, use the jump links below. Or read the entire article if you’re into the whole linear thing.

Best overall satisfaction survey results

Best TV providers by category

    • DIRECTV—Best overall
    • Cox—Best installation and setup
    • DIRECTV—Best channel selection
    • Spectrum—Best signal reliability

Overall customer satisfaction

The best TV provider for 2020—according to overall score? Well, Cox technically took top honors, scoring 3.965 (out of 5). DIRECTV was a very close second with 3.961, and Spectrum scored a neat third with 3.94. But scores aren’t everything, as we explain below.

Best overall satisfaction: DIRECTV

#1

Overall rating: (3.96 / 5.00)

Read our full review

Typically, we see lots of near-ties in our survey results. For example, Cox narrowly beat DIRECTV for best overall by 0.004 of a point. But a closer examination of the results reveals DIRECTV as the top provider.

Cox took top honors in other categories by hefty margins. The provider beat second-place finishers DIRECTV and Spectrum (tied at 4.12) by 0.22 of a point in installation and setup, and it dominated the monthly bill category by an even larger margin: 0.47 of a point.

These big numbers matter: Cox finished fourth in three categories (channel selection, signal reliability, and user experience) and 8th place in two others (DVR satisfaction and value).

Meanwhile, DIRECTV topped three columns (channels, user experience, and tech/customer support), took 2nd in three others (installation and setup, monthly bill, and value), and had mediocre scores in DVR satisfaction (5th) and signal reliability (6th).

At the end of the day, Cox’s overall rating may be skewed by those two monster scores. That being said, DIRECTV’s high scores across so many categories make it the actual top TV provider.

Is the #1 overall service good enough for you? If so, we completely understand if you want to stop reading and sign up for DIRECTV now.

To get started, enter your zip code below and see if DIRECTV is available in your area.

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Installation and setup

How satisfied are you with your TV provider’s installation and setup?

Best for installation and setup: Cox, DIRECTV, and Verizon Fios®

#1

Installation and setup rating: (4.34 / 5.00)

Read our full review

#2

 

Installation and setup rating: (4.12 / 5.00)

Read our full review

#3

 

Installation and setup rating: (4.12 / 5.00)

Read our full review

We’ve already told you that Cox has by far the highest installation and setup score. We also told you that DIRECTV is second-best—but we left out one fact: DIRECTV shares the runner-up spot with Verizon Fios.

Maybe Cox scored so high thanks in part to its easy self-installation kits. DIRECTV has an edge over most providers in our survey with free standard professional installation, so second place makes sense.

Verizon Fios charges up to $99.99 for professional installation, but its My Fios app offers convenience and safety: you can track your technician’s progress so you have a better idea when they’ll arrive—and you can see their face beforehand.

CableTV.com expert tip: How to save on installation

Installation fees, which can be as high as $100, can really grind one’s gears. (Don’t even get us started on “activation” fees.) Fortunately, there are ways to avoid them.

  • Try some sugar: customer-support reps hear from irate customers all day long. If you’re calm and sympathetic, they might cut you some slack on the fees.
  • Consider bundling: some providers will waive the fee if you bundle with two or more services.
  • Watch for promotional offers: watch your mailbox for ads that tout free installation.

Channel selection

How satisfied are you with your TV package’s channel selection?

Best for channel selection: DIRECTV, Verizon Fios®, and Spectrum

#1

 

Channel rating: (4.07 / 5.00)

Channels: 330+

Read our full review

#2

 

Installation and setup rating: (4.02 / 5.00)

Channels: 425+

Read our full review

#3

 

Channel rating: (3.99 / 5.00)

Channels: 200+

Read our full review

DIRECTV has 330+ channels. Second-place provider Verizon Fios has 425+. And many other providers have more channels than third-place Spectrum’s 200+. So why did customers rate these three highest for channel satisfaction?

Well, one of the markers of quality these companies share is simplicity in their channel packages. With DIRECTV, customers can choose from six different plans to get just the right number of channels. Verizon Fios and Spectrum keep it simple, like ordering fries: both providers have three packages—think of them as small, medium, and large.

Spectrum, however, is the simplest of the three providers. It has fewer channels (200+) than DIRECTV and Verizon, which means there’s also less channel bloat (packages stuffed with nothing-burger channels). Spectrum also includes free premium channels, like HBO®, SHOWTIME®, and STARZ®, in its packages.

Signal reliability

How satisfied are you with your TV provider’s/package’s signal reliability?

Best for signal reliability: Spectrum, Verizon Fios®, and Xfinity

#1

 

Reliability rating: (4.56 / 5.00)

Read our full review

#2

 

Reliability rating: (4.13 / 5.00)

Read our full review

#3

 

Reliability rating: (4.09 / 5.00)

Read our full review

It doesn’t matter how many channels your package has if your signal sucks. There’s nothing worse than your service cutting out at a pivotal moment in your favorite show.

Spectrum’s signal reliability earned the highest of any score in our survey—so its customers clearly enjoy Spectrum’s robust cable connections.

It’s a pretty steep drop from Spectrum 4.56 to Verizon’s 4.13 in second place. That doesn’t mean that it (or even third-place finisher Xfinity) are slouches in that department.

But, interestingly, two of the top three providers in signal reliability are predominantly cable services. That’s especially surprising, considering fiber is the fastest and most reliable of all connection types.

CableTV.com expert tip: service-type rundown

Here are top TV service types in order of reliability:

You might not be able to get a certain type of service in your area, so make sure to ask your service representative or enter your zip code to see what’s available where you live.

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DVR

Do you have your TV provider’s DVR / How satisfied are you with your TV provider’s DVR?

Most likely to have provider’s DVR: DIRECTV, DISH, and Optimum

#1

 

Customers using provider’s DVR: 73%

DVR rating: (4.37 / 5.00)

Read our full review

#2

 

Customers using provider’s DVR: 68%

DVR rating: (4.18 / 5.00)

Read our full review

#3

 

Customers using provider’s DVR: 58%

DVR rating: (4.16 / 5.00)

Read our full review

Which TV provider has the best TV box (that’s tech-speak for DVR)? You can rate them on storage, specs, and features—but a more telling statistic is how many of a provider’s customers use its proprietary box.

Last year, DISH had the highest percentage of customers using its DVR, while DIRECTV had the second highest. But in 2020, the DIRECTV Genie (73%) leapfrogged over DISH’s DVRs (67.5%) in this category. Optimum (59%) finished in third place.

CableTV.com expert tip: Hate your provider’s DVR? Buy your own.
You don’t have to use your provider’s DVR. You can use a different one as long as it’s compatible with the service. Check out our guide to the Top DVRs of 2020 to learn more.

User experience

How satisfied are you with your TV provider’s user experience (e.g., on-screen channel guide, on-demand menu, etc.)?

Best for user experience: DIRECTV, Xfinity, and Verizon Fios®

#1

 

User experience rating: (4.11 / 5.00)

Read our full review

#2

 

User experience rating: (4.01 / 5.00)

Read our full review

#3

 

User experience rating: (3.98 / 5.00)

Read our full review

A service could offer you all the channels in the world plus the fastest internet connection—and still suck. Maybe the signal is unreliable, or the interface is counterintuitive, or the on-screen channel guide couldn’t help you find your bellybutton. Either way, it pays to have a good user experience.

In 2020, DIRECTV took the top spot from last year’s numero uno, Xfinity, while Verizon remained in third place. That’s a pretty solid assurance that these three providers do a lot right when it comes to making TV service easy to use.

Monthly bill

How satisfied are you with your TV provider’s monthly bill?

Best for monthly bill: Cox, DIRECTV, and DISH

#1

 

Billing rating: (3.87 / 5.00)

Read our full review

#2

 

Billing rating: (3.40 / 5.00)

Read our full review

#3

 

Billing rating: (3.27 / 5.00)

Read our full review

Nobody likes to get a bill. That’s a universal truth. It’s also evident in the scores we see each year in monthly billing and value—they’re always lower than the ones you see in categories like channel selection or DVR satisfaction.

We wonder what Cox’s secret is since the provider dominated monthly billing with a score that’s nearly half a point higher than the runner-up (DIRECTV). That’s a crazy margin for our survey, which typically sees a lot of ties (or near-ties). Must be Cox’s online support for billing and flexible payment options.

CableTV.com expert tip: learn about hidden fees.

Most providers charge additional fees for broadcasting licenses, equipment, and late payments—but they don’t include them in the advertised package prices.

To save yourself from a nasty surprise, read up on these fees in advance:

Tech support and customer service

How satisfied are you with your TV provider’s tech support and customer service?

Best for tech support and customer service: DIRECTV, Cox, and Spectrum

#1

 

Support rating: (3.80 / 5.00)

Read our full review

#2

 

Support rating: (3.70 / 5.00)

Read our full review

#3

 

Support rating: (3.68 / 5.00)

Read our full review

Tech and customer support is another category where we see lower-than-usual scores because of a universal truth: finding good help from a tech-support or customer-service department can be difficult.

Customers of DIRECTV, Cox, and Spectrum are the happiest of all. It kind of makes you wonder what last year’s top three—Verizon Fios, Mediacom, and DISH—did wrong in 2019 since they finished fifth, sixth, and ninth, respectively.

CableTV.com expert tip: skip the call.

Rather than waiting on hold and trying not to get lost in the phone-support shuffle, we recommend trying your TV provider’s online support portal. Most are user-friendly and walk you through your problems step-by-step. And if you can’t find a solution there, you can still talk to a live representative via online chat.

Value

In your experience, rate your TV provider’s overall value.

Best for overall value: Optimum, DIRECTV, and Spectrum

#1

 

Value rating: (4.01 / 5.00)

Read our full review

#2

 

Value rating: (3.93 / 5.00)

Read our full review

#3

 

Value rating: (3.79 / 5.00)

Read our full review

One of the most-searched questions about TV providers is “Is [TV provider] worth it?” We understand. It’s important to know if you’re getting the most TV bang for your hard-earned buck.

Last year, DISH, AT&T, and Frontier were the top three TV providers for value. In 2020, Optimum, DIRECTV, and Spectrum are considered the most “worth it” TV services.

Optimum has TV-and-internet bundles with lots of channels and speeds up to 1,000 Mbps. DIRECTV’s six plans give customers more of a chance to pay for channels they actually want to watch. Spectrum, again, has those juicy free premium channels in its TV Silver and TV Gold plans.

CableTV.com expert tip: you know yourself best.

Every customer has different preferences. To find a provider that suits your lifestyle and tastes, choose the one that scored the highest in the categories that matter to you.

Bundling services

Do you bundle your TV service with your provider’s internet and/or phone services?

Most likely to bundle: Spectrum, Xfinity, and Verizon Fios®

#1

 

Customers bundling services: 81.5%

Channels: 200+

Internet speeds: Up to 940 Mbps

Read our full review

#2

 

Customers bundling services: 80.5% (tie)

Channels: 260+

Internet speeds: Up to 2,000 Mbps

Read our full review

#3

 

Customers bundling services: 80.5% (tie)

Channels: 425+

Internet speeds: Up to 940 Mbps

Read our full review

Of course Spectrum customers are the most likely to bundle services. We would, too, if we knew that we could get premium channels like HBO®, NFL Network, SHOWTIME®, STARZ®, TMC®, and STARZ® ENCORE included free in our affordably priced channel package.

Xfinity’s high cable speeds, high DVR and user-experience scores, variety of plans, and X1 DVR make it an excellent option for bundling too. The same goes with Verizon—which placed fourth in overall satisfaction—with its channel selection, super-fast fiber internet, highly rated DVR, and user experience.

CableTV.com expert tip: you know yourself best.

Every customer has different preferences. To find a provider that suits your lifestyle and tastes, choose the one that scored the highest in the categories that matter to you.

Notable changes in the past year

Is your TV provider absent from our survey? That’s probably because we limit our sample size to the bigger, most widely available providers. This has another benefit: improved statistical relevance.

For a comprehensive look at changes over the the last several years, you can refer to past years survey results.

Final take

In the final analysis, one company emerges as the overall best TV provider: DIRECTV.

The satellite TV service made the top three in seven survey categories (out of nine): channel selection, installation and setup, DVR use, monthly bill, tech and customer support, and value. It also very nearly tied with Cox for overall customer satisfaction.

Enter your zip code below to see if DIRECTV (or a provider that suits you better) is available in your area.

Please enter a valid zip code.

Best TV providers in customer satisfaction FAQ

What is the best and cheapest TV provider?

DIRECTV is the best and cheapest TV provider. The satellite service starts at $39.99 per month, is available almost everywhere, has 330+ channels, features six different packages to choose from, and includes the highly rated Genie DVR for free. DIRECTV also scored very high in our customer satisfaction survey.

Who is the best satellite TV provider?

That’s easy: DIRECTV. In our survey, the provider scored only 0.004 of a point behind the top provider in overall customer satisfaction, Cox. DIRECTV also appears in the top three for seven of nine categories: channel selection, installation and setup, DVR use, monthly bill, tech and customer support, and value.

What provider has the best TV and internet bundle?

Verizon Fios has the best TV and internet bundle. Its Verizon Fios Gigabit Connection + The Most Fios TV plan costs $169.99 a month and has fiber speeds up to 940 Mbps (download) and 880 Mbps (upload), 425+ channels, and a cost-per-channel of $0.39.

Methodology

We focused on the 11 largest providers in the US by customer size. Then, using Pollfish, we asked 200 customers from each provider (2,200 total) to rate them according to best overall, installation and setup, channel selection, signal reliability, DVR satisfaction, user experience, monthly bill, customer/tech support, and value.

Scoring policy

  • We rounded the star ratings to the hundredth decimal place
  • We ranked any hundredth ties based on the thousandth decimal place
  • We listed exact ties alphabetically
  • We threw out AT&T U-verse scores because AT&T replaced U-verse with AT&T TV. (Since AT&T TV is a new service, we didn’t include it in our survey.)

Before we get into the meat of the survey results, a disclaimer: We based our survey on the experiences of real customers. CableTV.com doesn’t influence the ratings, but we do employ editorial expertise to help you understand why certain TV providers came out on top.

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