Best Cable TV Providers of 2021

The best TV experience starts with picking the right cable TV provider for you
Best Cable TV Provider of 2021

Monthly price:
$49.99$89.49
Available channels:
220
Best for Customization

Monthly price:
$25$69.99
Available channels:
140
Best No-Contract Option

Monthly price:
$44.99$94.99
Available channels:
200
Best for Families

Monthly price:
$74.99$124.99
Available channels:
420

There are a lot of different ways to watch live television these days, but cable TV might be the most reliable. We’ve all been stuck waiting for a stream to buffer or for a satellite dish to stop being so finicky. 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 that decision with our research.

What are the best cable TV providers?
ProviderMonthly priceAvailable channelsLearn more
Xfinity TV$49.99$89.49*220View Plans
Cox TV$25$69.99140View Plans
Spectrum TV$44.99$94.99200View Plans
Optimum Cable TV$74.99$124.99420View Plans
Data effective 11/19/18. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.
* For the first 12 months. Some packages require a 1-year contract.
For the first 12 months.

These are the factors we looked at to determine the best cable TV providers:

  • Price
  • Contract
  • Fees
  • Channels
  • DVR
  • Availability

Speaking of availability, let’s see which cable providers are available in your area before we dive in.

Find the best TV providers in your area.

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Should I bundle with cable internet?
All of these cable providers offer bundles that get you both TV and decent internet speeds. You may save some bucks by getting everything on the same network.
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Xfinity is the best cable TV provider of 2021

Xfinity has some of the best cable TV deals around

PlanPriceTV channel countDetails
Extra$49.99140+View Plans
Preferred Plus$59.99220+View Plans
Digital Starter$70.99^140+View Plans
Digital Preferred$89.49^220+View Plans
Data effective 11/19/18. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.
For the first 12 months with a 1-year agreement.
^ With No Term Agreement

What we like

  • Xfinity has fair pricing and no-contract options
  • This cable TV provider gives you a solid DVR

Xfinity TV gives you the best value

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. If you’re a cable TV devotee, you won’t have to worry about missing out on the most popular channels and shows: Xfinity’s got your back.

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 $10 a 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 has solid DVR equipment

Xfinity 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.

There are easy add-on options at checkout

Xfinity conveniently gives you options to customize your plan with premium channels and entertainment packages at checkout. Here are options you can add:

How much are Xfinity's add-on premium channels and packages?
Channel or packagePrice
Sports Entertainment Package$9.99/mo.
HBO$15.00/mo.
SHOWTIME$12.00/mo.
STARZ$8.99/mo.
CINEMAX$12.00/mo.
EPIX$5.99/mo.
Sports & Entertainment$9.99/mo.
Deportes$5.00/mo.
TMC (The Movie Channel)$12.00/mo.

Date effective 12/10/2020.

What we don’t like

  • Xfinity has quite a bit of extra fees

No one likes extra fees

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.

Xfinity summary

  • Good: Xfinity has the best cable TV deals and a solid DVR for a great price.
  • Bad: Xfinity has a list of extra fees, but almost all TV providers have them one way or another.
  • Full review: Check out our full review of Xfinity for more information about the one-year contract or no-contact options, channel lineups, and fees.

Cox gives you the best pricing

Cox TV’s package is costly, but you’ll find a customized channel package you and your family will enjoy

How much are Cox TV's packages?
PlanPriceTV channel countDetails
TV Starter$2575+View Plan
Contour TV$69.99140+View Plan
Data effective 11/19/18. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.
For the first 12 months.

What we like

  • Cox gives you some channel customization options
  • Cox’s DVR has decent storage space

Cox gives you channel customization

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.

The DVR has decent storage space

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.

What we don’t like

  • The Contour TV package is pricey
  • There’s a 2-year contract with this cable TV provider

The price adds up

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.

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.

Cox summary

  • Good: Cox lets you customize your cable TV experience for your home.
  • Bad: Cox’s Contour package price and availability are a little questionable.
  • Full review: Find out the answers to your other questions in our full review of Cox TV.

Spectrum is the best no-contract option

No contract? No problem. Spectrum’s biggest selling point is a nice plus.

How much are Spectrum's cable TV packages?
PlanPriceTV channel countDetails
Spectrum TV® Select$44.99125+View Plans
Spectrum TV® Silver$74.99175+View Plans
Spectrum TV Gold$94.99200+View Plans
Data effective 11/19/18. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.
For the first 12 months.

What we like

  • There’s no such thing as contracts with Spectrum
  • Spectrum has decent pricing for your wallet

Spectrum has a 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.

Reasonable pricing for no-contract cable

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.

What we don’t like

  • Spectrum’s equipment varies based on your location
  • This cable TV provider has limited availability

Spectrum’s equipment varies depending on where you live

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.

Spectrum is available in random areas

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.

Spectrum summary

  • Good: Spectrum doesn’t bother with any kind of contract.
  • Bad: Unfortunately, you won’t know what equipment you’ll have until you sign up.
  • Full review: Check out the channel lineups and fees in our full review of Spectrum TV.

Optimum is the best cable provider for the family

Optimum’s no-contract TV service is a great option . . . if you live in one of three states

How much are Optimum's cable TV packages?
PlanPriceTV channel countDetails
Core TV$74.99/mo.220+View Plan
Value TV$79.99/mo.255+View Plan
Select TV$89.99/mo.240+View Plan
Premier TV$124.99/mo.420+View Plan

Data effective 1/12/2021.

What we like about Optimum

  • You can record 15 shows at once with Optimum’s DVR
  • Optimum gives you exclusive New York programming

End family conflict with Optimum’s DVR

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.

New York sports channels for the win

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.

What we don’t like

  • Optimum has very limited availability
  • Another cable TV provider with extra fees

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.

Expect extra fees

In a big surprise to nobody, this cable TV company adds extra fees to your bill. Most cable TV providers do. So, as a general rule of thumb, add an extra $15–$30 to what you think you’ll pay and you’ll be closer to the final bill.

Optimum summary

  • Good: Simultaneous recordings and sports coverage is a win.
  • Bad: Optimum is a great option … if you live in one of the areas it’s available.
  • Full review: Check out our full review of Optimum TV for more information on channel lineups and fees.

Recap: Which is the best cable TV provider?

Finding the right cable TV provider is key when it comes to making everyone in the family happy with TV entertainment. We looked at lots of cable TV providers to highlight some of the best for you, and overall, we can say this about each:

  • 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.

What do you think?

Which cable TV provider do you think is the best? Tell us what you think in the comments.