Basic Cable Packages and Channels Guide

We’ll help you find the best basic cable package for your living room and your budget
  • Xfinity TV
    Monthly price:
    $35.00–$49.99/mo.
    Available channels:
    10–140+
  • Spectrum TV
    Monthly price:
    $44.99/mo.
    Available channels:
    125+
  • Suddenlink TV
    Monthly price:
    $40.00–$58.00/mo.
    Available channels:
    50–200+
  • Cox TV
    Monthly price:
    $50.00/mo.
    Available channels:
    75+
  • Sparklight TV
    Monthly price:
    $42.00/mo.
    Available channels:
    Up to 20

Basic cable packages come in handy for many reasons: they’re inexpensive, have all of 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 sift 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.

A quick comparison of basic-package cable TV providers
ProviderPlanMonthly priceChannelsDetails
Xfinity TV: NortheastLimited Basic$46.95/mo.*10+View Plans
Xfinity TV: CentralBasic$20.00/mo.*10+View Plans
Xfinity TV: WestExtra$49.99/mo.**140+View Plans
Spectrum TVSpectrum TV® Select$44.99/mo for 12 mos.†125+View Plans
Suddenlink TVValue TV$58.00/mo.††225+View Plans
Cox TVContour TV Starter$50.00/mo.‡75+View Plans
Sparklight TVEconomy Cable$42.00/mo.‡‡Up to 20View Plans

Data effective 7/12/2021. Price and channel inclusion vary according to location.
*With No Term Agreement
**For the first 12 months with a 1-year agreement.
†For the first 12 months.
††For one year. Plus taxes, fees and other charges. Includes Auto Pay and Paperless Billing.
‡1 Year Term Agreement
‡‡Up to 20 channels, including local broadcast channels in standard and high definition, cable faith and shopping channels and music channels. Equipment not included with service. A broadcast surcharge of $14.44 – $30.54 applies to all residential cable customers and a sports surcharge of $8.14 applies to Standard cable customers.

What to look for in a basic cable package

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

Basic packages that work best for consumers:

  • Low price with limited fees
  • Comprehensive channel lineup
  • Available in your area
  • Easy-to-install equipment
  • A sufficient DVR storage space

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

A basic plan will be low-priced with a decent number of channels, and these channels should include your local channels and 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, has easy to install equipment, and a decent DVR storage to record all of the live shows you might not be home for.

Put in your ZIP code below, and let’s see which cable providers are available in your area!

Want to read more?

How much is Comcast Xfinity’s basic package?

Xfinity has the most inexpensive bundle on this list

Xfinity TV logo
  • Inexpensive bundle and TV plan requiring a 1-year contract
  • Widely available across 40 states
  • A great DVR in Xfinity’s X1

Xfinity has four inexpensive options for you to choose from: two bundles and two TV plans. All of these plans require a 1-year contract besides the $20 Limited Basic plan.

PS: Unfortunately, some of these plans are only available in certain areas. Find out if they’re offered in yours.

What’s Xfinity’s Limited Basic package?

We like Comcast’s Xfinity because it’s one of the most widely available cable providers in the US, and the price tag isn’t too bad.

For example, Xfinity has four inexpensive basic and starter packages for your home.

The first option, Xfinity Limited Basic, actually has two inexpensive options. The Limited Basic package comes with 10+ channels, but you have to pair it with internet service.

To get the Limited Basic TV package, you’ll have to bundle with 25 Mbps internet for $35 per month or go big with 100 Mbps download speeds for $50. (But you could get as high as 1200 Mbps for $80 per month if you’d like!)

And even though the Limited Basic package is advertised as “10+ channels,” when we entered our location, the channel lineup actually had close to 140 channels (including 50 music channels and lots of HD (high-definition) channels).

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

  • ABC
  • CBS
  • Court TV
  • Cozi TV
  • C-SPAN
  • The CW
  • Discovery Channel
  • Family Entertainment Television (FETV)
  • FOX
  • Galavision
  • Gem Shopping Network
  • Hillsong Channel
  • HISTORY
  • HSN, HSN 2
  • Ion Television
  • MeTV
  • Music Choice (about 50)
  • NBC
  • PBS
  • PBS Kids
  • QVC, QVC 2, QVC 3
  • Shop HQ
  • TBN
  • Telemundo
  • UniMás
  • Univision

Which channels are in Xfinity’s Starter package?

If you want a few more channels and you’re willing to spend a few bucks more, then the Starter package might be for you.

You’ll get 140+ channels, and those channels include the following:

  • BBC America
  • Cartoon Network
  • CBS
  • CNBC
  • CNN
  • Comedy Central
  • C-SPAN
  • Disney Channel
  • ESPN, ESPN2
  • Food Network
  • Fox News
  • FX
  • Hallmark Channel
  • HGTV
  • Investigation Discovery
  • Lifetime
  • MSNBC
  • NBC Sports Network
  • Nickelodeon
  • PBS
  • TBS
  • Telemundo
  • TNT
  • Universal Kids
How much is Xfinity TV's basic package?
ProviderPlanMonthly priceChannelsDetails
Xfinity TVLimited Basic$20.00/mo.10+View Plan
Xfinity TVLimited Basic + 25 Mbps Internet$35.00/mo.10+View Plan
Xfinity TVLimited Basic + 100 Mbps Internet$50.00/mo.10+View Plan
Xfinity TVExtra$49.99/mo.140+View Plan

Data effective 5/5/2021.

How much is Spectrum’s basic package?

A decent number of channels for a reasonable price is everything

Spectrum logo
  • Widely available across the US in 41 states
  • No annual contract
  • Fees are pretty low compared to other TV providers

Spectrum used to be our fourth choice in basic cable packages, but it’s moved its way up to second recently. Spectrum gives you a complete channel lineup for the price of nosebleed tickets, and you don’t have to worry about signing a contract.

Spectrum is available in 41 states, but it doesn’t even cover 50% of the state for some. Check if it’s available in your area with this availability map.

Which channels are in Spectrum TV’s Select package?

We named Spectrum as one of the best cheap cable TV options out there. 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.

That sounds like a recipe for a decent cable TV provider, right?

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

  • ABC
  • BBC America
  • Big Ten Network
  • Cartoon Network
  • CBS
  • CNBC
  • CNN
  • The CW
  • Discovery Channel
  • Disney Channel
  • ESPN, ESPN2
  • Food Network
  • FOX
  • Fox News
  • Golf Channel
  • Hallmark Channel
  • HGTV
  • Lifetime
  • Investigation Discovery
  • MSNBC
  • National Geographic
  • NBC
  • NBC Sports Network
  • TBN
  • TBS
  • TNT
  • The Weather Channel
  • USA
How much is Spectrum's basic package?
PlanPriceTV channel countDetails
Spectrum TV® Select$44.99/mo for 12 mos.*125+View Plans
Data effective 11/04/20. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.
* For the first 12 months.

How much is Suddenlink’s basic package?

Suddenlink offers lots of channels in its entry-level plan

Suddenlink logo
  • Provides the most channels on this list
  • Available in 20 states
  • No contracts (but promotional pricing ends after one year)

Suddenlink offers an inexpensive bundle at a great price. You’ll get more than 50 channels with internet service of 200 Mbps download speeds so you can work without waiting forever for your screen to refresh.

Check this availability map to see if you’re in one of the 20 states Suddenlink is offered.

Which channels are in Suddenlink’s Basic TV package?

Unfortunately, Suddenlink’s website doesn’t list which 50 channels you’ll get in your lineup with its Basic TV plan, but it does say this:

“50+ Channels: All major networks including local programming.”

So we can almost bet that you’ll at least have your local channels, such as the following:

  • ABC
  • CBS
  • C-SPAN
  • FOX
  • Home Shopping Network
  • NBC
  • PBS

Which channels are in Suddenlink’s Core TV package?

You might look at this basic package price and think: Woah, that’s a little pricey.

But you get over 200 channels with Core TV, making the dollar-to-channel ratio and value pretty decent.

Core TV includes the following channels:

  • ABC
  • BBC America
  • Bloomberg
  • CNBC
  • CNN
  • The CW
  • Disney Channel
  • ESPN, ESPN2
  • Food Network
  • FOX
  • Fox News
  • Freeform
  • FS1
  • FX
  • Hallmark Channel
  • HGTV
  • MSNBC
  • National Geographic
  • NBC
  • NBC Sports Network
  • Nickelodeon
  • PBS
  • SEC Network
  • Telemundo
  • TBS
  • TNT
  • USA
  • The Weather Channel
How much is Suddenlink's basic package?
ProviderPlanMonthly priceChannelsDetails
SuddenlinkInternet 200 and Basic TV$40.00/mo.200+View Plan
SuddenlinkCore TV$58.00/mo.50+View Plan

Data effective 5/5/2021.

How much is Cox’s Starter package?

Cox TV allows you to customize your plan

Cox TV logo
  • Bundle TV, internet, home security, and a landline
  • Personalized experience at checkout
  • Offered in 19 states

Cox used to be in the second spot on our list here, but they recently doubled the price of their entry-level package (uncalled for, Cox).

But we do like how Cox has recently started giving its customers a customized checkout experience that allows you to bundle TV, internet, home security, and a home phone.

Which channels are in Cox’s TV Starter package?

Cox’s basic plan used to have a $25 price tag that we used to like. Now, for $50 per month, you get more than 75 channels, including local channels and some entertainment channels.

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

You’ll also have to commit for two years to your bundle. 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 channel lineup includes the following:

  • ABC
  • CBS
  • Cozi TV
  • The CW
  • C-SPAN, C-SPAN 2, C-SPAN 3
  • FOX
  • HSN, HSN 2
  • MeTV
  • Music Choice
  • NBC
  • PBS
  • PBS Kids
  • QVC, QVC2, QVC3
  • TBS
  • TBN
  • Telemundo
  • UniMás
  • Univision
How much is Cox's basic package?
ProviderPlanMonthly priceChannelsDetails
Cox TVContour TV Starter$50.00/mo.75+View Plan

Data effective 5/5/2021.

How much is Sparklight’s basic package?

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

Sparklight logo
  • Local channels to stay up to date on local, national, and international news
  • No annual contracts
  • Available in 21 states

Sparklight doesn’t exactly give you the most bang for your buck, but if you like the idea of minimalism, this is the plan for you.

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 package?

Sparklight’s Economy package has a higher dollar-to-channel ratio than the rest, 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.

(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 that are offered in Idaho.)

The local channels included in the Economy package are the following:

  • ABC
  • CBS
  • The CW
  • C-SPAN, C-SPAN 2
  • Daystar Television Network
  • Decades
  • Educational Access
  • EWTN
  • FOX
  • Gem Shopping Network
  • HSN
  • Ion Television
  • Local Channels
  • MeTV
  • MOVIES!
  • NBC
  • PBS
  • PBS Plus
  • PBS Learn
  • PBS World
  • QVC
  • Shop HQ
  • SonLife
  • TBN
  • Telemundo
How much is Sparklight's basic package?
ProviderPlanMonthly priceChannelsDetails
Sparklight TVEconomy$42.00/mo.20+View Plan

Data effective 5/5/2021.

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

  • Xfinity TV: The Limited Basic package for $35.00–$50.00/month is our favorite option because you get over 100 channels and internet for a low price (we don’t know anyone who doesn’t need the internet). And if you want even more channels, the Starter package for $49.99/month will give you more than 140 channels (sign us up).
  • Spectrum: We also like the dollar-to-channel ratio for Spectrum because $45/month for more than 125 channels doesn’t sound too bad. That’s why it made our list of cheapest cable TV providers.
  • Suddenlink: We also like Suddenlink’s bundle option (Internet 200 and Basic TV) because it gives you a good deal on fast internet service and 50+ channels for $40 per month. If you want the most channels of any provider on this list with 200, you’ll want the Core TV plan for $58/month.
  • Cox: Cox gives you more than 75 channels for $50 per month, 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 will be perfect for you. Sparklight’s Economy Cable package is $42/month for 20 or more local news, entertainment, and lifestyle channels.

If you’re still unsure which cable TV provider to sign up with, check out our Best TV Providers of 2021 review to compare more options.

Put in your ZIP code below, and let’s see which cable providers are available in your area!

Methodology

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

  1. Price
  2. Channels
  3. Availability
  4. Contracts
  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 weighted price and channels more heavily.

FAQs

What channels are included in basic cable?

With basic cable, you should get all of your local channels, such as ABC, CBS, FOX, and NBC.

With a great basic cable package, you should also have access to entertainment and lifestyle channels like HSN, The CW, C-SPAN, PBS, 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 channels and popular channels, and you like the simplicity of bundling with internet and paying one bill.

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.

How much is cable per month?

The average price for a basic cable package is around $40 per month.

Related articles

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.

But who needs a job when Loki is just getting good?

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 shows 46% 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.

Methodology

Reviews.org surveyed 316,174 Americans and asked them how much time they spent watching traditional cable TV and streaming per day. We used that information to determine the national and state-level averages for weekly watchtime. We then ranked each state (including D.C.) based on the combined averages for cable TV and streaming.