Best Cable TV Providers of 2021
There are a lot of different ways to watch live television these days, but cable TV might be the most reliable. So we found the best cable TV providers to ensure your Sunday Night Football game, local news, and This Is Us season finale won’t get interrupted.
To some of you, comparing cable TV providers might be like comparing Coca-Cola to Pepsi. If you’re not ready to cut the cord and want to find the top cable TV provider, let us help you make the decision of which provider is best for you.
|Monthly price||Available channels||Learn more|
What to look for in a cable TV provider
The best cable TV providers have a decent dollar-to-channel ratio, most of the popular channels in its entry-level package, and sufficient DVR storage space.
TV providers that work best for consumers:
- Fair pricing
- A channel lineup with most of the popular channels
- No-contract options
- Easy to install equipment
- A DVR storage space that meets your family’s needs
A solid cable TV provider starts with a decent dollar-to-channel ratio. You want the most bang for your buck.
And the channel lineup must have most of the popular channels, even in its entry-level package, to be a strong competitor. A cable provider will also want no-contract options for those who don’t want to be tied down or move a lot.
And lastly, you’ll want an easy-to-install set-top box that has a sufficient amount of storage for you and the family to record everything you’d like.
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Xfinity is the best cable TV provider of 2021
At first glance, Xfinity’s basic package is not one of the cheapest compared to Cox and Spectrum. But … it does give you the most bang for your buck.
Xfinity TV’s Extra plan gives you more than 140 channels, including every channel of the top 25 cable TV networks (ESPN, AMC, The CW, USA, TNT, Discovery, etc.) except Univision.
Xfinity also offers TV plans without a contract, which is a super neat option. If you do choose a no-contract Xfinity service, it adds on about $20–$30 per month, but it’s worth it if you can’t commit (we’re looking at you, young folks), or if you already know you’re moving out soon.
Xfinity also delivers some pretty great DVR equipment, like a cool voice-controlled remote and a cable box. Just say “Jack Ryan” or “Riverdale” and your remote will grant your wish. If that doesn’t get you excited about DVR equipment, we don’t know what will.
The Xfinity X1 DVR isn’t our first choice for DVR, but it comes close. It has Netflix and Prime Video integration, and can record up to six shows at once, and can hold about 60 hours of HD and 300 SD recordings. Don’t worry: your family will be able to record The Price is Right, That ‘70s Show, and The Herd with Colin Cowherd all at once.
We don’t like additional fees, and Xfinity has quite a few. There’s a broadcast TV fee, a regional sports fee, and more additional fees (read that fine print). We’d rather have the fees included in the monthly service price, but almost all TV providers do this, so we can’t fault Xfinity too much.
|Plan||Price||TV channel count||Details|
|Preferred Plus||$59.99‡||220+||View Plan|
|Digital Starter||$70.99^||140+||View Plans|
|Digital Preferred||$89.49^||220+||View Plans|
Cox gives you the best pricing
Cox TV caters to the movie buffs, sports fans, families, and reality show addicts. You and your family will find a package you love with six TV channel lineups to choose from.
The “paks” include sports programming for sports fanatics, Spanish-speaking channels for telenovela addicts, and SHOWTIME, HBO, and CINEMAX for movie aficionados.
Cox’s Record 6 DVR costs $19.99 a month, the same as Xfinity X1 DVR. But Cox’s DVR stores 340 HD or 1,000 SD hours, whereas X1 only stores less than one-third of that. Cox’s DVR can also (you guessed it) record six shows at once.
Although Cox TV has an inexpensive option for people who only want a few channels, Cox’s Contour TV package costs more than other comparable cable service providers. Xfinity’s entry package gives you 140+ channels for $20 less than Cox does.
But Cox might be the only TV provider in your area, and it’s still a reliable option (as it is our second favorite cable TV provider). We recommend you check your availability, since Cox TV is available only in 19 states.
Also, there’s a 2-year contract (*eye-roll*).
One of the downsides to cable TV is contracts, and Cox TV has one (unlike Spectrum). If you choose to cancel your service within 30 days of your sign-up date, you get out of your plan for free. If you wait until after that 30-day window, you’ll be charged a $240 fee to cancel.
|Plan||Price||TV channel count||Details|
|TV Starter||$25†||75+||View Plan|
|Contour TV||$69.99†||140+||View Plan|
Spectrum is the best no-contract option
The best thing about Spectrum cable is that you don’t have to enter into a multi-year contract when you sign up. You’re a free agent—free to move on to a different TV service whenever you see fit. And if Spectrum increases the price on you after a year, you may want to.
Considering you don’t have to have a contract, the prices for Spectrum are not too bad overall. No one wants to be tied down when you may have other options in the future.
Sure, you could save a few bucks and maybe even get a few extra channels with a cable company like Cox, but you’d be stuck in a contract. And in case you didn’t know, ending contracts early is always an ugly process that ends up costing you too much money. But we have some tips on how to avoid TV cancellation fees.
Our customer service representative said the equipment varies depending on where you live. So you could get a DVR that has 21-hour storage or possibly 150-hour storage. But the one thing that does seem consistent is the DVR box can only record two things at once.
Compare that to Xfinity, where you can record up to six things at once and get 60 hours of HD or 300 hours of SD storage.
Before you get too excited about the no-contract option and reasonable pricing … check to see if Spectrum is available where you live. This provider is only available in less than 25% of the US.
|Plan||Price||TV channel count||Details|
|Spectrum TV® Select||$44.99†||125+||View Plan|
|Spectrum TV® Silver||$74.99†||175+||View Plan|
|Spectrum TV Gold||$94.99†||200+||View Plan|
Optimum is the best cable provider for the family
You’ll avoid family fights when your spouse wants to record Criminal Minds, your daughter wants to record Botched, and you want to record Monday Night Football. No more “house divided” when you can record 15 shows at once.
Just be aware that the DVR maxes out at 75 hours of HD storage. So yes, you can record everything at once, but that doesn’t mean you have room for it all. But it’s still sufficient storage space for most.
Optimum is based out of NYC, so it hooks all the Big Apple residents up with HD sports channels for every New York sports team. (Seriously, all nine of them.) Sadly, though, we can’t guarantee the Giants will magically get better with your Optimum TV cable subscription.
Optimum is only available in three states and random cities.
Sorry if we got your hopes up about this cable TV provider: Optimum’s service area covers only New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and random cities in the US. Check out this availability map to see if you’re one of the chosen ones.
If you’re fortunate enough to live in beautiful New England, though, you could do much worse than Optimum cable, especially if you’re a sports fan.
Recap: Which is the best cable TV provider?
- Xfinity: Xfinity is the best cable TV provider of 2021 because it’s the most widely available, it has a no-contract option, and Xfinity has a solid DVR in the X1.
- Cox: Cox is best for money savers who want some channel customization and a decent DVR.
- Spectrum: Spectrum is the best no-contract option with its decent pricing. You just have to live in the areas of the US that it’s available.
- Optimum: Optimum is best for the family because its set-top box allows you to record 15 shows at once. But this TV provider is for the East Coast folks, which also means you get to enjoy New York programming.
If you’re still not sure which TV provider to sign up with, check out our Best TV Providers of 2021 review to compare more options.
We compare and rank home security systems based on five key factors:
To decide which cable TV providers are best for you, we ranked each on these five factors. We also consider reliability, customer service, and bill simplicity.