Basic Cable Packages and Channels Guide

We sifted through many providers to help you find the best basic cable package for your living room and your budget

Xfinity TV
Xfinity
Xfinity TV
3.8 out of 5 stars
3.75
Price:
$20.00–$68.50
/mo
Available channels:
10–125
Spectrum TV
Spectum Authorized Reseller
Spectrum TV
3.5 out of 5 stars
3.5
Price:
$59.99
/mo
TV channel count
125+
Cox TV
Cox Authorized Retailer
Cox TV
2.8 out of 5 stars
2.75
Price:
$56.00–$139.00
/mo
TV channel count
75+
Sparklight TV
Sparklight
Sparklight TV
2.3 out of 5 stars
2.25
Price:
$42.00
/mo
TV channel count
Up to 20
Optimum TV
Optimum Authorized Reseller
Optimum TV
3.5 out of 5 stars
3.5
Price:
$70.00
/mo
TV channel count
220+
Chantel Buchi
Sr. Staff Writer, TV & Streaming
Read More
January 05, 2022
8 min read

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Basic cable packages come in handy for many reasons: they’re inexpensive, have all your local channels, and are simple. There’s no need to channel-jump through filler channels.

We’ve highlighted basic and starter packages from five cable TV companies for you. All of which have a wide availability in the US, because who wants to search through tons of cable TV providers that might not be in your area?

While an HD antenna is one of the best ways to get local channels, we know a basic cable package can promise you a decent channel lineup.

So let’s dive in to see which of these cable TV providers is ideal for your home.

What is the cheapest cable TV package?
Provider
Plan
Price
Channels
Details
Xfinity
Multiple plans (see Xfinity section below)$20.00–$68.50/mo.10–125
Spectrum
Spectrum TV® Select$59.99/mo. for 12 mos.*125+
Cox
Contour TV Starter$56.00/mo.75+
Sparklight
Economy Cable$42.00/mo.Up to 20
Optimum
300 Mbps Internet + Basic TV$70.00/mo.50+
Data effective 12/14/22. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.
* For the first 12 months.
Pricing for 1 year
Taxes, fees and surcharges extra. Services may not be available in all areas and programming is subject to change. Rates subject to change.

What to look for in a basic cable package

The best basic plans from a cable TV provider have a fair dollar-to-channel ratio, local channels, top channels in its lineup, and are widely available across the country.

Basic cable package features that work best for consumers:

  • Low price with limited fees
  • Comprehensive channel lineup with respect to its price
  • Availability in your area
  • Easy-to-install equipment
  • Sufficient DVR storage space

When looking for a basic cable plan, you want to make sure you get the most bang for your buck.

A basic plan will be low-priced with a fair number of channels, and these channels should include your local channels and could include some top channels, such as Disney Channel and HGTV.

It also helps a cable TV provider’s case when they’re widely available across the US, have easy-to-install equipment, and a decent DVR storage to record all of the live shows you might not be home for.

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How much is Xfinity’s basic plan?

We like Comcast Xfinity because it’s one of the most widely available cable providers in the US, and its pricing is one of the best.

3.8 out of 5 stars
3.75
pro Inexpensive TV plans and bundles requiring no contract
pro Widely available across 40 states
con Watch out for fees
Starts at
$20.00
/mo
Data effective 01/11/2023. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.

Xfinity has three inexpensive TV plans, one for each region this cable TV provider is available: Central US, Northeast US, and West Coast. And now, none of these plans require you to sign a contract. That's what we like to see, Xfinity.

Since some of these plans are only available in certain areas, we recommend finding out if they’re offered in yours. (Choice TV is for the Central and Western US residents and Limited Basic is for the Northeasters.)

No matter what region you live in, you might have to pay up to a $20 broadcast fee and an $11.50 regional sports fee. So we recommend double-checking your monthly total during the checkout process.

Xfinity’s Choice TV plan is for the Central US and Western US residents. This plan gives you 10+ channels for only $20 per month.

It’s a steal because, depending on where you live, this plan might give you 100+ channels despite the “10+” advertisement! (It does include 50 music channels and lots of HD channels.)

Xfinity’s entry-level package includes the following in its channel lineup:

  • ABC
  • CBS
  • CW
  • C-SPAN
  • Daystar Television Network
  • Estrella TV
  • Eternal World Television Network (EWTN)
  • Family Entertainment Television (FETV)
  • FOX
  • Home Shopping Network (HSN)
  • INSP
  • ION
  • Jewelry TV
  • Leased Access
  • Music Choice Channels
  • NBC
  • PBS
  • PBS Kids
  • QVC, QVC2, QVC3
  • ShopHQ
  • SonLife Broadcasting Network
  • Telemundo
  • True Crime Network
  • The Word Network
  • The CW
  • Univision
  • Universal Living Faith Network

The Xfinity Limited Basic package is available for the northeast dwellers for just $25 a month.

And even though the Limited Basic package is advertised as “10+ channels,” when we entered a Boston address, the channel lineup actually had over 150 channels (including 50 music channels and lots of HD channels).

The local broadcast, government, and educational channels Xfinity's Limited Basic include in its channel lineup are the following:

  • ABC
  • CBS
  • C-SPAN
  • Daystar Television Network
  • Family Entertainment Television (FETV)
  • Gem Shopping Network
  • Home Shopping Network (HSN)
  • ION Television
  • Jewelry Television
  • MeTV
  • Music Choice Channels
  • NBC
  • PBS
  • PBS Kids
  • QVC, QVC2, QVC3
  • ShopHQ
  • SonLife Broadcasting Network
  • The CatholicTV Network
  • The CW
  • Telemundo
  • Trinity Broadcasting Network
  • Universal Living Faith Network
  • Univision
  • UniMas
  • WBPX (ION)

This is a bonus for the West Coast consumers. 

Popular TV is a TV plan with over 125 channels for only $50 per month. This is our favorite plan because you get all your favorite channels for a low price compared to other cable providers. We're talking the best dollar to channel ratio here. 

Check out our Xfinity TV review for the list of channels Popular TV provides you. And if you're interested in bundling with Xfinity Internet, we have a list of the best bundles.

Ultimate TV is a TV plan for western customers, offering over 185 channels for $68.50 per month.

The Ultimate TV package was made for sports fans. With this plan you'll get a total of 22 sports channels, including all the major ones like ESPN, NBA TV, and NFL Network. 

How much are Xfinity TV’s basic packages?
Plan
Price
Channels
Download speed
Details
Choice TV$20.00/mo.^10+NA
Popular TV$50.00/mo.°125+NA
Ultimate TV$68.50/mo.°185+NA
Data effective 01/11/23. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.
^ No term contract. Broadcast TV fee extra; price subj to change. Taxes and equipment not included.
° No term contract. Broadcast TV fee and regional sports fee extra; price subj to change. Taxes and equipment not included.

How much is Spectrum’s basic package?

Spectrum gives you a complete channel lineup for the price of nosebleed tickets, and you don’t have to worry about signing a contract.

3.5 out of 5 stars
3.5
pro Widely available across the US in 41 states
pro No annual contract
con Equipment varies
Starts at
$59.99
/mo
Data effective 12/14/2022. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.

Spectrum is available in 42 states, but it doesn’t cover 50% of the state for some. Check if it’s available in your area with this availability map.

Which channels are in Spectrum’s TV Select package?

As one of the best cheap cable TV options, Spectrum undoubtedly has one of the best basic cable packages for TV watchers.

Spectrum doesn’t require a contract, you get a solid number and a great selection of channels, and the price doesn’t break your bank.

You might notice that Spectrum offers 125+ channels for $10 more than Xfinity TV's Popular TV plan. We're not sure why, but they’re both widely available across the country. There’s a good chance one of them will be available in your neighborhood.

But you’ll get the choice between paying Xfinity’s pricey fees or being OK with Spectrum’s 80-hour DVR storage.

Spectrum’s TV® Select plan includes the following channels:

  • ABC
  • BBC America
  • Cartoon Network
  • CBS
  • CNBC
  • Food Network
  • FOX
  • Fox News
  • FOX Sports (FS1)
  • Hallmark Channel
  • HGTV
  • Lifetime
  • Investigation Discovery
  • CNN
  • The CW
  • Discovery Channel
  • Disney Channel
  • ESPN, ESPN2
  • MSNBC
  • National Geographic
  • NBC
  • TBS
  • TNT
  • The Weather Channel
  • USA Network
How much is Spectrum’s basic TV package?
Plan
Price
Channels
Details
Spectrum TV® Select$59.99/mo. for 12 mos.*125+
Data effective 12/14/22. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.
* For the first 12 months.

How much is Cox’s basic TV package?

Cox TV has a higher dollar-to-channel ratio than Xfinity and Spectrum do. Still, we like how Cox gives its customers a customized checkout experience that allows you to bundle TV, internet, home security, and a home phone.

2.8 out of 5 stars
2.75
pro Bundle TV, internet, home security, and a landline
pro Personalized experience at checkout
con 2-year contract
Starts at
$56.00
Data effective 12/14/2022. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.

Cox Communications is offered in 18 states across the country, so we recommend checking in the zip finder above if this cable TV provider is in your state.

Which channels are in Cox TV’s entry-level package?

Cox’s basic plan is $56 per month with more than 75 channels, including local channels and some entertainment channels.

We don’t necessarily like that price tag because 50 of those 75 channels are music channels. But hey, maybe you like playing the music in the background while cleaning or working.

The price tag might also be worth it if you like bundling all of your services in one: TV, internet, home security, and a landline.

You’ll have to commit to your bundle for two years. Cox has this thing called a two-year contract that we could honestly do without. But after you see the personalized bundle you’ve created for your home on Cox’s website, the contract might not matter.

Cox’s Contour TV Starter channel lineup includes the following:

  • ABC
  • CBS
  • Cozi TV
  • The CW
  • C-SPAN, C-SPAN 2, C-SPAN 3
  • FOX
  • HSN, HSN 2
  • MeTV
  • UniMás
  • Music Choice
  • NBC
  • PBS
  • PBS Kids
  • QVC
  • TBS
  • TBN
  • Telemundo
  • Univision
How much is Cox’s basic TV package?
Plan
Price
Channels
Details
Contour TV Starter$56.00/mo.75+
Data effective 12/14/22. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.
Pricing for 1 year

How much is Sparklight’s basic package?

Sparklight doesn’t exactly give you the most bang for your buck, but if you like the idea of minimalism and staying up to date on the news is what you’re after, this is the plan for you.

2.3 out of 5 stars
2.25
pro No annual contracts
pro Available in 21 states
con About $2 per channel
Starts at
$42.00
/mo
Data effective 12/14/2022. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.

If local channels are all you’re looking for, Sparklight is at your service.

You’ll get around 20 channels, including local broadcast channels in standard and high definition, along with faith, shopping, and music channels.

Which channels are in Sparklight’s Economy Cable TV package?

Sparklight’s Economy package has a higher dollar-to-channel ratio than the rest on this list, but you might like the idea of having more than 20 local channels with no fluff to search through.

Or maybe you live in one of the 21 states Sparklight offers coverage, and there isn’t another cheap cable TV option. So, Sparklight has got your back. (Or you could consider the HD antenna route.)

Keep in mind that the local channels differ in each area Sparklight is offered, but to give you a sneak peek, these are the 26 channels offered in Idaho.

The local channels included in the Economy TV plan are the following:

  • ABC
  • CBS
  • C-SPAN, C-SPAN 2
  • Daystar Television Network
  • EWTN
  • FOX
  • Gem Shopping Network
  • HSN
  • ION Television
  • MeTV
  • MOVIES!
  • NBC
  • PBS
  • PBS Plus
  • PBS Learn
  • PBS World
  • QVC
  • ShopHQ
  • SonLife
  • TBN
  • Telemundo
  • The CW
How much is Sparklight’s basic TV package?
Plan
Price
Channels
Details
Economy Cable$42.00/mo.Up to 20
Data effective 12/14/22. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.
Taxes, fees and surcharges extra. Services may not be available in all areas and programming is subject to change. Rates subject to change.

How much is Optimum's basic package?

Optimum TV offers an inexpensive bundle at a decent price. You’ll get more than 50 channels with internet service of 300 Mbps download speeds so you can work without waiting forever for your screen to refresh.

pro Available in 21 states
pro No contracts (but promotional pricing ends after two years)
con Doesn’t offer a TV plan by itself
Starts at
$70.00/mo.

Optimum doesn’t offer TV plans alone, but a bundle isn’t so bad when you need internet to stream Netflix, work from home, and use your Google Nest camera.

Which channels are in Optimum's Basic TV package?

Speaking of basic packages, Optimum's entry-level plan is called “Basic TV.” And then you can add 300 Mbps to a Gig of internet depending on what internet speed you and the family will need. (Optimum also offers internet with download speeds of 500 Mbps and 1 Gig.)

Unfortunately, Optimum's website doesn’t list all 50 channels you’ll get in your lineup with its entry-level plan, but at checkout, Optimum says they guarantee these local channels:

  • ABC
  • CBS
  • FOX
  • HSN
  • NBC
  • News 12+
  • PBS
  • Telemundo
  • Univision

Luckily Optimum doesn’t require an annual contract, so you can cancel your service if you do not get the channels you were hoping for.

How much is Optimum's basic TV package?
Plan
Price
Channels
Download speed
Details
Basic TV + 300 Mbps Internet$59.99/mo.50+300 Mbps

Recap: Which cable TV provider has the best basic package?

  • Xfinity TV: For every region Xfinity services, this cable provider offers a TV plan for just $20–$25 per month. The Limited Basic TV package is a super inexpensive option for northeast US residents to access over 100 channels! And if you live in the central or western parts of the US, Xfinity's Choice TV plan gives you that same access. Xfinity also offers affordable bundles so you only have to worry about one bill for multiple services.
  • Spectrum: Spectrum’s TV® Select plan is $60/month for more than 125 channels —which is $10 more than Xfinity's Popular TV plan — so we encourage you to compare fee pricing before ordering. This TV provider also made it to our list of cheapest cable TV providers
  • Cox: Cox gives you more than 75 channels for $56 per month with the Contour TV Starter—which is a little steep—but this cable TV provider gives you a personalized checkout with many options for bundling TV, internet, home security, and a landline.
  • Sparklight: If you want only your local channels and nothing else, Sparklight might be what you’re looking for. Sparklight’s Economy Cable package is $42/month for 20 or more local news, entertainment, and lifestyle channels.
  • Optimum: We like Optimum's bundle option (Basic TV + Internet 300) because it gives you a good deal on internet service and 50+ channels for $70 per month. This is a solid option if Xfinity isn’t available in your area.

If you’re unsure which cable TV provider to sign up with, check out our Best TV Providers of 2022 review to compare more options.

Now that you know the best basic TV plans, here are your next steps

Still looking? Check out our top cable TV providers.

Looking for simplicity? Take a look at the best cable & internet bundles.

Methodology

We compare and rank basic cable packages based on five key factors:

  1. Pricing (both monthly and after the contract is over)
  2. Channel count and variety
  3. Availability
  4. Contracts (both length and if the contract is worth it)
  5. Equipment

To decide which basic cable TV packages are best for you, we ranked each on these five factors. Because these plans we’ve highlighted are basic, starter, and entry-level, we weighed the pricing and channels more heavily than other aspects.

No entry-level TV plan should break the bank for the number of channels you could get with an HD antenna.

FAQs

What channels are included in basic cable?

You should get all of your local channels, such as ABC, CBS, PBS, FOX, and NBC with basic cable.

With a great basic cable package, you should also have access to entertainment and lifestyle channels like HSN, The CW, C-SPAN, ION Television, and Telemundo.

Is cable TV worth it?

Cable TV is worth it if you like the traditional TV feel, you want all of your local and popular channels, and you like the simplicity of bundling with internet and paying one bill.

Lately, we’re noticing that cable TV can actually be cheaper than a live TV streaming service (which wasn’t the case when live streaming first came around).

Cable TV isn’t worth it if you rather stream on your device or smart TV, you only need 30–200 channels (rather than 200–300 channels that cable TV could offer you), and you want on-demand content.

We have a list of the best live TV streaming providers if the latter sounds like you.

Does basic cable come with local channels?

You should get all of your local channels, such as ABC, CBS, PBS, FOX, and NBC with basic cable. If you don’t, that basic cable package is not worth it.

We recommend checking out Xfinity’s inexpensive packages that can offer over 100 channels for $20–$50 per month! (Pricing depends on your location, but we like how Xfinity is one of the most widely available cable TV providers in the US).

How much is cable per month?

The average price for a cable TV package is around $90 per month.

Xfinity TV and Spectrum TV both have $50–$60 per month plans for 125+ channels, and Cox TV has a $139 per month package for 250+ channels.

Chantel Buchi
Written by
Chantel Buchi
Chantel is all about finding the best tv or streaming service to watch as many football games as possible to keep her Fantasy Football team in check. Prior to being a TV and Streaming Tech Reporter for Reviews.org, she worked for NFL Network and The Alliance of American Football. Before that, she received a B.A. of Communication at the University of Utah and an M.S. in Sports Journalism at USC. Go Utes and Fight On. Contact her at chantel@reviews.org

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