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Spectrum vs. AT&T TV: Which is the Better TV Provider?

CableTV.com digs in to find out which does TV better: Cheaper Spectrum or sleeker AT&T TV?

Best budget pick

Spectrum TV

Price: $44.99–$89.99/mo.

Live channels: 125–200+

Best performance pick

AT&T TV

Price: $59.99–$79.99/mo.

Live channels: 65–125+

Bottom line: Is Spectrum or AT&T TV better?

Spectrum and AT&T TV are comparable in TV channel availability, bundle options, and overall user-friendliness, but the similarities end there. Spectrum is good ole cable TV, while AT&T TV is carried over shiny new fiber-optic internet—and they’re priced accordingly.

If you’re looking to save a few bucks on your monthly bill, Spectrum is the way to go. If money is no object and you want the performance and perks of fiber-optic TV and internet (in most areas), AT&T TV delivers.

Spectrum vs. AT&T TV pros and cons

Spectrum

Lower-priced plans
Large channel counts
Old cable tech

AT&T TV

Fiber-optic performance
500-hour cloud DVR
Expensive plans

Free trials and deals

Spectrum: Spectrum will buy out the contracts of new customers switching from another service provider, up to $500. Even better, Spectrum itself doesn’t require an annual contract.

AT&T TV: HBO Max is free for 12 months when you sign up for select AT&T TV plans online.

How are Spectrum and AT&T TV different?

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FeatureSpectrumAT&T TV
Editorial star rating3.49/5.003.38/5.00
Price$44.99–$89.99/mo.$59.99–$79.99/mo.*
Live channels125–200+65–125+
Max. DVR50 hrs. (hard drive)500 hrs. (cloud)
Compatible devices87
Max. multiple streams4 3
Details

*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 and applies. Data effective as of post date. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

Spectrum and AT&T TV’s prices appear close at first, but AT&T’s plans require a two-year contract and nearly double in cost after the first year. Spectrum’s no-contract plans also go up in price after the first year, but only by about $25 a month. Like we said before, it’s all about the money when deciding between these two.

Spectrum vs. AT&T TV prices and plans

Spectrum prices and plans

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PlanPrice*Live channelsDVRMultiple TVsDetails
Select$49.99/mo.125+50 hrs. 4
Our pick
Silver
$69.99/mo.175+50 hrs.4
Gold$89.99/mo.200+50 hrs.4

*For 1st 12 mos. Data effective as of post date. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

Worth noting: Spectrum’s Silver and Gold plans include SHOWTIME, NFL Network, and access to HBO’s all-inclusive streaming service HBO Max. If you’re not into those premiums, the Select (why not Bronze?) plan covers the basic cable TV channels well.

There’s also an ultra-skinny option on Spectrum TV Choice, a streaming a la carte plan that gives you a handful of cable and local channels for $24.99 a month. Not bad, but there are better livestreaming TV options than TV Choice that give you more channels for not much more cost per month.

AT&T TV prices and plans

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PlanPrice*Live channelsCloud DVRStreamsDetails
ENTERTAINMENT$59.99/mo.65+500 hrs.3
Our pick
CHOICE
$64.99/mo.85+500 hrs.3
XTRA$74.99/mo.105+500 hrs.3
ULTIMATE$79.99/mo.125+500 hrs.3

*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 and applies. Data effective as of post date. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

The channel counts aren’t impressive, but AT&T TV’s 500-hour cloud DVR means you can record a whole lot of content from those lineups. On the lower end of the price scale, we like the CHOICE plan because it gives you a solid lineup with plenty of popular channels.

Also, even though AT&T TV requires internet to function, you don’t necessarily have to use AT&T internet—though you might as well, because of convenience. This will add an extra $30–$50 a month to your overall AT&T bill and, depending on your area, will be fiber-optic (best) or DLS (OK) internet service.

Cut the cord, save some bucks

You can get all the TV you want for less money than cable or satellite with a streaming service. Check out CableTV.com’s Best TV Streaming Services 2020 review.

Spectrum vs. AT&T TV fees and extra charges

Spectrum fees and extra charges

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FeePriceDetails
Broadcast TV service charge$13.50/mo.
Professional installation$49.99
Receiver/DVR (1)$4.99/mo.
Receiver/DVRs (2–4)$9.99/mo.

AT&T TV fees and extra charges

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FeePriceDetails
Activation fee$19.95
Regional sports fee$8.49/mo.
Extra receiver$120 each

The advantage of AT&T TV service is that you can have the receiver delivered and you can set it up yourself—and save the $19.95 activation fee if you order online; Spectrum requires a $49.99 pro install. But, if you want a second AT&T TV receiver box, you’ll have to buy it outright for $120. Local tax rates will also apply to both Spectrum and AT&T TV service.

Spectrum and AT&T TV live channels

Spectrum and AT&T TV both carry a decent array of popular entertainment, sports, news, and local channels. Below, we compare our budget (lowest-priced but still quality) and splurge (highest-priced) package picks from both TV services.

Jump to: Live sports | Local channels | Premium channels
A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Sling TV vs. Hulu + Live TV channels vs. the competition

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ChannelSpectrum
Silver
Spectrum
Gold
AT&T TV
CHOICE
AT&T TV
ULTIMATE
A&E
ABC
ACC Network
AMC
Animal Planet
BBC America
BBC World News
BET
Big Ten Network
Bloomberg TV
Boomerang
Bravo
C-SPAN
Cartoon Network / Adult Swim
CBS
CBS Sports Network
Cheddar News
CINEMAX®
CMT
CNBC
CNN
Comedy Central
COMET
Cooking Channel
COZI TV
The CW
Destination America
Discovery Channel
Discovery Family
Disney Channel
Disney Junior
Disney XD
DIY Network
E!
El Rey
EPIX®
ESPN
ESPN2
ESPNEWS
ESPNU
Food Network
FOX
FOX Business Network
FOX News
FOX Soccer Plus
FS1
FS2
Freeform
Fuse
FUSION
FX
FXM
FXX
fyi
Galavision
Golf Channel
Hallmark Channel
Hallmark Movies & Mysteries
HBO®
HGTV
HISTORY
HLN
IFC
Investigation Discovery
ION
Lifetime
Lifetime Movie Network
MLB Network
MOTOR TREND
MSNBC
MTV
MTV2
MTV Classic
NatGeo WILD
National Geographic Channel
NBA TV
NBC
NBC Sports Network
NBC Universo
NFL Network
NFL RedZone
NHL Network
Nick Jr.
Nickelodeon / Nick at Nite
Nicktoons
Olympic Channel
OWN
Oxygen
Pac 12 Network
Paramount Network
PBS
Pop
Science
SEC Network
SHOWTIME®
Smithsonian Channel
Sportsman Channel
Stadium
STARZ®
SundanceTV
Syfy
TBS
TCM
TeenNick
Telemundo
Tennis Channel
TLC
TNT
Travel Channel
TruTV
TV Land
Universal Kids
Univision
USA Network
VH1
VICE
WE TV
Weather Channel

Data effective as of post date. Availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

As you’d expect, the more expensive plans net you more channels—but are they channels you want? We think Spectrum’s plans give you plenty for less money (including premium channels), and we doubt many people are going to miss (or have even heard of) the few channels that are left out, like FUSION or the Sportsman Channel.

Sports channels

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ChannelSpectrum
Silver
Spectrum
Gold
AT&T TV
CHOICE
AT&T TV
ULTIMATE
AAC Network
Big Ten Network
CBS Sports Network
ESPN
ESPN2
ESPNEWS
ESPNU
FS1
FS2
Golf Channel
MLB Network
MLB Bases Loaded
NBA TV
NBC Sports Network
NFL Network
NHL Network
Olympic Channel
Outdoor TV
Pac 12 Network
SEC Network
Sportsman Channel
Stadium
Tennis Channel

Data effective as of post date. Availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

That’s solid sports coverage from both Spectrum and AT&T TV. We’ll give a narrow edge to AT&T TV here for the inclusions of the AAC Network and Olympic Channel.

Local channels

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ChannelSpectrum
Silver
Spectrum
Gold
AT&T TV
CHOICE
AT&T TV
ULTIMATE
ABC
CBS
FOX
NBC
The CW
PBS

Channel availability varies by region.

Nothing to see here; all the locals are accounted for. 

Get local channels without cable

If you’re only interested in local channels, you can pick up most of them with a one-time purchase of a digital antenna. Check our favorites in CableTV.com’s Best Antennas for Cord-Cutters review.

Premium channels

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ChannelSpectrumAT&T TV
HBO$15/mo.$15/mo.
CINEMAX$11/mo.$11/mo.
SHOWTIME$11/mo.$11/mo.
STARZ$11/mo.$11/mo.
EPIX$6/mo.$6/mo.

Data effective as of post date.

For those doing the math, two out of three of Spectrum’s plans already include HBO, CINEMAX, and SHOWTIME, an overall savings of $37 a month. Another check in the Spectrum column.

Spectrum vs. AT&T TV original shows and movies

This will be quick: AT&T TV has no original shows or movies, while Spectrum produces a handful of originals that haven’t exactly wowed audiences or critics.

Spectrum original series

  • L.A.’s Finest (Jessica Alba/Gabrielle Union cop drama set in the Bad Boys universe)
  • Temple (Mark Strong–led medical drama)
  • Paradise Lost (southern gothic thriller starring Josh Hartnett and Bridget Regan)
  • Manhunt (true crime anthology series)
  • Mad About You (reboot of the ‘90s NBC sitcom)
  • Curfew (post-apocalyptic action series starring Sean Bean and Adam Brody)
  • Side Games (crime drama about Latin American mafiosos infiltrating pro soccer)

Spectrum vs. AT&T TV specs and features

DVR

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FeatureSpectrumAT&T TV
Storage included50 hrs.500 hrs.

For sheer recording volume, AT&T TV’s 500-hour cloud DVR is the winner here—that’s enough space to store every season of Friends, SpongeBob SquarePants, Modern Family, and American Dad! simultaneously. In other words, probably more than you’ll ever need.

Spectrum’s hard-drive receiver DVR is less generous, offering only around 50 hours of recording space on its three cable plans. But, if you can’t think of 50 hour-long dramas, or a dozen sports leagues, you keep up on regularly, you’re likely covered with a 50-hour DVR.

YouTube TV’s cloud DVR is included, and it has unlimited storage capacity. But it does delete content after nine months. So you can record as much as you want, but make sure not to record so many Golden Girls reruns that you can’t finish watching in time.

Multiple streams

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FeatureSpectrumAT&T TV
Multiple TVs/streams43

Even though it’s packaged and operates like standard TV, AT&T TV is technically an over-the-internet streaming service. Like most streamers, AT&T TV allows for up to three simultaneous streams between its receiver box and standalone apps (more on those coming up).

Since Spectrum is standard cable, its “streams” depend on you getting extra receiver boxes connected to separate TVs. Spectrum pricing says you can get up to four for $9.99 a month total.

Compatible devices

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Compatible deviceSpectrumAT&T TV
AirTV Player
Amazon Echo Show
Amazon Fire TV Cube
Amazon Fire TV
Amazon Fire TV Stick
Android phones and tablets
Android TV
Apple TV (4th gen)
Apple TV 4K
Google Chromecast
Google Chromecast built-in
Hisense TVs
iPhone and iPad
LG TVs
Nintendo Switch
NVIDIA SHIELD
PC and Mac Web browsers
PlayStation 3
PlayStation 4
Roku
Roku Express
Roku Ultra
Samsung TVs
VIZIO TVs
Wii
Xbox 360
Xbox One

Data effective as of post date.

Spectrum and AT&T TV both have streaming apps for mobile on-the-go watching or viewing on select home streaming TV and mobile devices. If you have a compatible streaming device, these apps are an easy way to get around renting or buying extra physical receivers.

Get a new gadget

Need a new streaming device? Check out our Best Streaming TV Devices review.

Video quality

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Video SpectrumAT&T TV
Resolution720p720p

The standard resolution for live cable and streaming TV pictures is 720p, which both Spectrum and AT&T TV deliver. It’s not quite the same as the 1080p quality of satellite TV (like DIRECTV and DISH) or on-demand streaming (like Netflix and Prime Video), but it still looks sharp.

Up your stream game

Both Spectrum and AT&T deliver good internet—but are they fast enough? Read up on basic speed needs in our Best Internet for Streaming guide.

Commercials

In most instances, Spectrum’s and AT&T TV’s DVRs let you to fast-forward through commercials on recorded shows and movies. Sometimes, though, you’ll encounter unskippable ads while watching shows on demand or in DVRed content on either. The company’s always going to get its cut.

Our final take: Is Spectrum or AT&T TV worth it?

As far as basic TV service goes, there’s not much difference between cable-based Spectrum and internet-based AT&T TV—either will get all of your favorite channels in front of your eyeballs. In our assessment, the nuances break down like this:

  • Spectrum is cheaper overall, even when bundled with internet and phone service. It also doesn’t require an annual contract, and it’s available in twice as many states as AT&T TV.
  • AT&T TV’s strongest selling point is bundling with its excellent fiber-optic internet service—but that bundle drives up the price, which will double after the first 12 months of a two-year contract. Without fiber internet, AT&T TV is just an average cable TV alternative.

Spectrum vs. AT&T TV FAQ

What’s the difference between AT&T TV, AT&T TV NOW, and AT&T U-verse?

AT&T TV is similar to standard cable or satellite TV, in that it requires its own receiver box and a two-year contract—but it streams over the internet, rather than a cable or satellite signal. AT&T TV’s channel lineups also feature channel numbers, which is more common to satellite and cable than streaming TV.

AT&T TV NOW is a standalone app that can be used with most streaming devices and requires no contract—service is billed month-to-month, so you can cancel at any time. Unlike AT&T TV, AT&T TV NOW’s channels aren’t numbered, and most of its plans carry fewer channels.

AT&T U-verse was the internet-streaming predecessor to AT&T TV. It was discontinued in 2020, and AT&T now refers new customers to AT&T TV.

Is Spectrum better than AT&T TV?

In quality of TV service, we think Spectrum and AT&T TV are comparable. However, Spectrum is ultimately less expensive and more widely available than AT&T TV. If “better” means you can get it and afford it, then Spectrum is arguably better than AT&T TV. Also, Spectrum doesn’t require a two-year contract.

Do Spectrum and AT&T TV carry local channels?

Both Spectrum and AT&T TV carry local channels affiliated with ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, The CW, and PBS in most markets, as well as regional sports networks.

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