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

Best Dollar-to-Channel Ratio
Xfinity
Xfinity TV
3.8 out of 5 stars
3.75
Starting price:
$20
/mo
Channel Count Range
10-185
Best No-Contract Option
Spectrum
Spectrum TV
3.5 out of 5 stars
3.5
Price:
$64.99
/mo
Channel Count
150+
Best for Customization
Cox
Cox TV
2.8 out of 5 stars
2.75
Price:
$56/mo.
Channel Count
75+
Best for Local Channels
Sparklight
Sparklight TV
2.3 out of 5 stars
2.25
Price:
$42/mo.
Channel count
Up to 20
Best Bundle Alternative
Optimum
Optimum TV
3.5 out of 5 stars
3.5
Price:
$80/mo.
Channel Count
50+
Download Speed
Up to 300 Mbps
Chantel Buchi
Jan 25, 2024
Icon Time To Read8 min read

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Looking to level up your TV game without breaking the bank? Basic cable packages have all of your local channels, they’re straightforward, and they save you from the monotonous task of channel surfing through endless filler content. 

Now, I’ve handpicked some basic and starter packages from five cable TV companies just for you. Most of these gems are widely available across the US, but to be certain, if they’re in your neck of the woods, feel free to use our zip finder tool below.

Sure, an HD antenna can do wonders for grabbing those local channels, but let’s face it, sometimes you need a little more.

So, let's get into the details to find the best cable provider for you.

How much do basic cable packages cost per month?
Provider
Plan
Price
Channels
Details
Xfinity
Multiple plans (see Xfinity section below)$20-$68.5*10-185
Spectrum
Spectrum TV® Select Signature$64.99/mo. for 12 mos.150+
Cox
Contour TV Starter$56/mo.75+
Sparklight
Economy Cable$42/mo.^Up to 20
Optimum
300 Mbps Internet + Basic TV$80/mo.°50+
Data as of 04/05/2023. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.
* Pricing for some packages are for the first 12 months. Some packages require a 1-year contract.
* 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 Select Signature promotion price is $59.99/mo; standard rates apply after yr 1. Taxes, fees, and surcharges (broadcast surcharge up to $23.20/mo) extra and subject to change during and after the promotional period; installation/network activation, equipment and additional services are extra.
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.
° Internet w/Auto Pay & Paperless Bill plus taxes. Terms apply. Not available in all areas. TV: Offer for new residential customers. Plus taxes, fees and other charges. Includes Auto Pay and Paperless Billing.
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See 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, and top channels in its lineup, and they are widely available across the country.

Basic cable package features that work best for consumers:

  • Low price with limited fees
  • Comprehensive channel lineup for 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 TV plan will be low-priced with a fair number of channels, and these channels should include your local cable 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.

What channels are included in basic cable?

You should receive 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, want all of your local and popular channels, and like the simplicity of bundling with internet and paying one bill.

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 the 200–300 channels that cable TV could offer you), and you want on-demand content.

If the latter sounds like you, we have a list of the best live TV streaming providers.

How much is Comcast Xfinity TV's basic plan?

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

Xfinity
Choice TV
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/mo.

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, I recommend finding out if they’re offered in yours. (Choice TV is for Central and Western US residents, and Limited Basic is for the Northeasters.)

No matter your region, you might have to pay up to a $21.95 broadcast fee and a $12.30 regional sports fee. So, I recommend double-checking your monthly total during the checkout process.

Xfinity’s Choice TV is the cheapest Comcast package, and is available 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 basic TV channels:

  • 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 cable 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 does Comcast Xfinity TV’s basic channel packages cost?
Plan
Price
Channels
Download speed
Details
Choice TV$20/mo.**10+NA
Popular TV$50/mo.††125+NA
Ultimate TV$68.5/mo.††185+NA
** 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 TV package?

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

Spectrum
Spectrum TV® Select Signature
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
$64.99/mo. for 12 mos.

Which channels are in Spectrum’s TV's basic cable 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 the bank.

You might notice that Spectrum offers 150+ channels for $10 more than Xfinity TV's Popular TV plan. Spectrum could use a little price decrease, but both providers are widely available nationwide. 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 cable TV 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 basic cable with Spectrum TV?
Plan
Price
Channels
Details
Spectrum TV® Select Signature$64.99/mo. for 12 mos.150+
* 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 Select Signature promotion price is $59.99/mo; standard rates apply after yr 1. Taxes, fees, and surcharges (broadcast surcharge up to $23.20/mo) extra and subject to change during and after the promotional period; installation/network activation, equipment and additional services are extra.

How much is Cox’s basic TV package?

Cox TV has a higher dollar-to-channel ratio than Xfinity and Spectrum do. Still, it's nice how Cox gives customers a customized checkout experience that allows you to bundle TV, internet, smart home automation, and a home phone.

Cox
Contour TV Starter
2.8 out of 5 stars
2.75
pro Bundle TV, internet, smart home automation, and a landline
pro Personalized experience at checkout
con 2-year contract
Starts at
$56.00

Cox Communications is offered in 18 states nationwide, so I 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.

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

The price tag might also be worth it if you like bundling all your services in one: TV, internet, smart home automation, 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/mo.75+
Pricing for 1 year

How much is Sparklight’s basic package?

Sparklight TV 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.

Sparklight
Economy Cable
2.3 out of 5 stars
2.25
pro No annual contracts
pro Available in 23 states
con About $2 per channel
Starts at
$42/mo.

With Sparklight, you'll get around 20 basic cable 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 having 20 local channels with no fluff to search through.

Or you could live in one of the 23 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 cable channels differ in each area Sparklight is offered, but to give you a sneak peek, these are the 26 channels offered in Idaho.

The basic 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/mo.^Up to 20
^ 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 reasonable price. You’ll get over 50 basic cable channels with internet service of 300 Mbps download speeds so you can work without waiting forever for your screen to refresh.

Optimum
Basic TV + 300 Mbps Internet
3.5 out of 5 stars
3.5
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
$80/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. And, for a limited time, Optimum is offering free installation on its internet service when you order online.

Which channels are in Optimum's Basic TV package?

Speaking of basic packages, Optimum's entry-level plan is aptly called “Basic TV.” And then, you can add 300–1500 Mbps of internet download speeds. If you're not sure what speeds you need, we have a guide to help you

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 basic cable TV 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 don't 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$80/mo.°50+300 Mbps
° Internet w/Auto Pay & Paperless Bill plus taxes. Terms apply. Not available in all areas. TV: Offer for new residential customers. Plus taxes, fees and other charges. Includes Auto Pay and Paperless Billing.

If you want an even cheaper and basic bundle, Xfinity offers a bundle with 10+ channels and 75 Mbps download speed. And although it advertises at "10+ channels," we've noticed Xfinity offers a lot more than that in our area. 

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

  • Comcast 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 $65/month for more than 150 channels, which is $15 more than Xfinity's Popular TV plan. So, I 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, smart home automation, 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: Optimum's bundle option (Basic TV + Internet 300) is the best because it gives you a good deal on 50+ channels and 300 Mbps download speeds for $70 per month. This is a solid option if Xfinity isn’t available in your area.

If you need help determining which cable TV provider to sign up with, check out our Best TV Providers of 2023 review to compare more options.

Methodology

We compare and ranked these 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

We ranked each of these five factors to decide which basic cable TV packages are best for you. Because the 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.

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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