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
Xfinity TV
Price:
$20.00–$68.50
/mo
Available channels:
10–125
Spectrum TV
Price:
$49.99
/mo
TV channel count
125+
Cox TV
Price:
$53.00
/mo
TV channel count
75+
Sparklight TV
Price:
$42.00
/mo
TV channel count
Up to 20
Optimum TV
Price:
$75.00
/mo
TV channel count
225+
Chantel Buchi
Staff Writer, TV & Streaming
Read More
September 06, 2022
10 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$49.99/mo. for 12 mos.*125+
Cox
Contour TV Starter$53.00/mo.75+
Sparklight
Economy Cable$42.00/mo.Up to 20
SuddenLink
Basic TV + Internet 100$59.99/mo.50+
Data effective 11/11/21. 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.
Enter your zip code to find out if these cable TV providers are available in your area.

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 the pricing is one of the best.

3.8 out of 5 stars
3.75
pro Inexpensive TV plans and bundle requiring a 1-year contract
pro Widely available across 40 states
con High-priced fees
Starts at
$20.00
/mo
Data effective 08/17/2022. 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. These plans (except for the $11 Limited Basic plan) require a one-year contract.

Since some of these plans are only available in certain areas, we recommend finding out if they’re offered in yours.

No matter what region you live in, you might have to pay up to a $25 broadcast fee and a $20 regional sports fee. But we recommend double-checking during the checkout process.

The Xfinity Limited Basic package is available for the northeast dwellers for just $20 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 130 channels (including 50 music channels and lots of HD channels).

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

  • ABC
  • CBS
  • C-SPAN
  • Court TV Mystery
  • Daystar Television Network
  • Family Entertainment Television (FETV)
  • FOX
  • 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
  • True Crime Network
  • Universal Living Faith Network
  • Univision
  • UniMas
  • WBPX (ION)

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

It’s a steal because this plan gives you 140 channels despite the “10+” advertisement! (It does include 50 music channels and lots of HD channels.)

The channels Xfinity’s Basic package includes in its channel lineup are the following:

  • ABC
  • CBS
  • C-SPAN
  • Court TV
  • Cozi TV
  • Daystar Television Network
  • Estrella TV
  • Family Entertainment Television (FETV)
  • FOX
  • Home Shopping Network (HSN)
  • INSP
  • ION
  • Impact Network
  • MeTV
  • NBC
  • PBS
  • PBS Kids
  • QVC, QVC2, QVC3
  • Telemundo
  • True Crime Network
  • The Word Network
  • The CW
  • Univision
  • Universal Living Faith Network

Now for the West Coast consumers, you get two choices:

  • Popular TV is a TV plan with 125 channels for only $50 per month (then it increases by $20 after your one-year contract ends). This is our favorite plan because you get all your favorite channels for a low price compared to other cable providers.
  • Choice Double Play is a bundle that nets you all of your local channels you see above and internet of 100 download speeds.

Check out our Xfinity TV review for the list of channels Popular TV provides you.

How much are Xfinity TV’s basic packages?
Plan
Price
Channels
Download speed
Details
Limited Basic$20.00/mo.^10+NA
Choice TV$20.00/mo.°10+NA
Popular TV$49.99/mo.**125+NA
Choice Double Play$49.99/mo.††10+NA
Data effective 02/17/22. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.
^ With No Term Agreement
° No term contract. Does not include $17.00/mo broadcast TV fee; price subj to change. Taxes and equipment not included.
** For the first 12 mos with 1-Year Agreement. Includes $10/mo. automatic payments and paperless billing discount.
†† For the first 12 months
Find out if Comcast Xfinity is available in your area by entering your zip code.

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 44 states
pro No annual contract
con Equipment varies
Starts at
$49.99
/mo
Data effective 08/17/2022. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.

Spectrum is available in 44 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 the same price as Xfinity TV, and 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$49.99/mo. for 12 mos.*125+
Data effective 04/25/22. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.
* For the first 12 months.
Enter your zip code to find which TV providers are in your area.

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
$53.00
/mo
Data effective 08/16/2022. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.

Cox Communications is offered in 19 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 $53 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$53.00/mo.75+
Data effective 11/11/21. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.
Pricing for 1 year
Find out if these cable TV providers are in your area!

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 08/08/2022. 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 02/24/22. 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.
Which cable providers are in your area? Enter your zip code to find out.

How much is Optimum's basic package?

Optimum TV offers an inexpensive bundle at a great price. You’ll get more than 50 channels with internet service of 100 Mbps download speeds so you can work without waiting forever for your screen to refresh.

pro Available in 17 states
pro No contracts (but promotional pricing ends after one year)
con Doesn’t offer a TV plan by itself

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 appropriately called “Basic TV.” And then you can add 100 Mbps to a Gig of internet depending on what internet speed you and the family will need.

Unfortunately, Optimum's website doesn’t list all 50 channels you’ll get in your lineup with its Basic TV plan. But at checkout, Optimum says they guarantee these local channels:

  • ABC
  • CBS
  • PBS
  • FOX
  • NBC
  • HSN
  • QVC
  • 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 + Internet 100$59.99/mo.100 Mbps
Enter your zip code to see which TV providers are available in your location.

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

  • Xfinity TV: For just $20 per month, the Limited Basic TV package is a super inexpensive option for northeast US residents to access over 100 channels! If you live in the central part of the US, Xfinity's Basic plan is the same $20 price. For the West Coast consumers, you have two choices: the Choice Double Play bundle with these 100 local channels and 100 Mbps internet ($50/month) or the Popular TV plan with 125+ popular channels, like Disney Channel, HGTV, and ESPN ($50/month).
  • Spectrum: We also like the dollar-to-channel ratio for Spectrum’s TV® Select plan because, like Xfinity’s Popular TV plan, $50/month for more than 125 channels doesn’t sound too bad. So there’s no question why this cable company made it onto our cheapest cable TV providers
  • Cox: Cox gives you more than 75 channels for $53 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 100) because it gives you a good deal on internet service and 50+ channels for $60 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

Enter your zip code to see if these cable providers are in your area.

Still looking? Check out our top cable TV providers.

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

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.

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 30–150 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.

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).

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

Xfinity TV and Spectrum TV both have $50 per month plans for 125+ channels, and Cox TV has a $132 per month package for 250+ channels.

How much time do Americans spend watching TV state by state?

No matter the time of year, we all love to kick up our feet, grab a snack and a beverage, and click on the TV for a little much-needed respite.

If your house is anything like ours, the next questions are answered almost by habit, often without even asking—what are we watching tonight, are we streaming something, or are we flipping through cable? And at what point do we force ourselves to stop binging and finally go to bed?

Does your house take that approach? And what about your friends, co-workers, and neighbors? Are you the only one bleary eyed each morning from too much screen time, or are you just the only one being honest about it?

Let’s talk about America’s favorite ways to lounge in front of the telly.

Streaming vs cable

Time Spent Watching Cable vs Streaming by State

According to our data, the average American watches 56 hours and 37 minutes of TV per week. We spend more time on the couch digging into leftover lasagna watching our favorite stories than working our full-time jobs.

Just how are we consuming our scrumptious screen time? Are we a streaming nation or do most of us still rely on those trusty cable subscriptions?

Turns out Americans stream TV shows, movies, and sports nearly 50% more often than we consume cable. We average nearly 35 hours a week using streaming services and only a paltry 22 hours flipping through cable.

That’s the nation as a whole, but on a state-by-state basis, Americans don’t all consume the same amount of television, nor in the same way.

Weekly watch time by state

States ranked by average hours spent watching TV per week

The states watching the most hours of TV (streaming and cable combined) a week are in the Southwest, the South, and on the East Coast.

Those watching less TV call the Pacific NW, the Midwest, and the Upper East Coast home. For example:

  • The top 5 states who spend the most time watching TV are Mississippi, New Mexico, Louisiana, Maryland, and Alabama—all with 60+ hours per week.
  • On the opposite end of the spectrum, residents of Utah spend the least amount of time watching TV, averaging 45 hours 3 minutes weekly.
  • While not a state, residents of the District of Columbia spend the absolute most time watching TV per week, clocking an average of 68 hours and 10 minutes of watch time.

Now we all know where we sit by hours watched per week, but what if we break down that time into how we watch those many, many hours? Does your state top the list in terms of cutting the cable cord?

Cord-cutter trends

The national average for 2022 shows 55.1% of Americans have gone full-on streaming, which is a not-so-surprising trend. The surprise is that most of the states cutting the cord are rural in terms of population and location.

Soon enough, the geographic regions cutting the cords may—not unlike the beloved and not-seen-for-a-hot-minute cast of Friends—unite. Until then, America seems divided (when are we not?). Except for the fact that cord or no cord, we all get to watch the Friends reunion. And that’s what really matters.

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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