Best Cable TV Providers

The best TV experience starts with picking the right cable TV provider.
Best Overall
Monthly price:
$49.99$104.99
Available channels:
260+
Best Budget Buy
Monthly price:
$25$64.99
Available channels:
140+
Best No-Contract Option
Monthly price:
$44.99$104.99
Available channels:
200+
Best for Families
Monthly price:
$59.95$104.95
Available channels:
420+

There are lots of different ways to watch TV nowadays, but cable TV might be the most reliable. We’ve all been stuck waiting for a stream to buffer. A satellite dish can get finicky in bad weather and birds can attack it. Only some advanced species of super birds could possibly mess up your cable connection. (Think about it.)

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Should I bundle cable with 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.

Cable does have its drawbacks, so if you go with cable, you’ll want one of the best cable TV providers out there.

The best cable TV providers
ProviderMonthly priceAvailable channelsLearn more
Xfnity TV$49.99$104.99*260+View Plans
Spectrum TV$44.99$104.99200+View Plans
Cox TV$25$64.99140+View Plans
Optimum Cable TV$59.95$104.95420+View 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.

We didn’t include other TV providers, such as RCN, Mediacom, and Suddenlink in the “Best Cable TV Providers” because either 1) they are not widely available or 2) they weren’t as consistently good as our other picks.

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

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

Speaking of availability, let’s see what cable providers you get in your area.

Find the best TV providers in your area.

Xfinity cable TV: Best overall

Xfinity has some of the best cable TV deals around.

Xfinity cable TV packages
PlanPriceTV channel countView plan
Digital Starter$49.99/mo.140+View Plan
Digital Preferred$59.99/mo.220+View Plan
Digital Premier$104.99/mo.260+View Plan
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.

What we like about Xfinity

  • Fair pricing
  • No-contract options (but those cost $10 more a month)
  • Decent DVR

Save some money

Xfinity TV costs less than your average cable service provider. Xfinity’s Digital Starter TV plan ends up being cheaper than Cox’s, Spectrum’s, and Optimum’s basic packages.

The Digital Starter TV plan also includes 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 hound, you won’t need to worry about missing out on the most popular shows and channels with Xfinity’s service.

Xfinity also offers TV plans without a contract, which is an option we really like having. If you do choose no-contract Xfinity service, it adds on about $10 a month, but it’s worth it if you can’t commit (we’ve been there) or if you already know you’re moving out in a couple of months.

Solid DVR

Xfinity delivers some not-too-shabby equipment.

The Xfinity X1 DVR isn’t our first choice for DVR, but it comes close. It can hold about 100 hours of HD recordings and record up to six shows at once. It also includes some cool features, like a voice-controlled remote and Netflix integration.

What we don’t like about Xfinity

  • Extra fees
  • Rough customer service

No one likes extra fees

We don’t like additional fees, and Xfinity has its fair share. There’s a broadcast TV fee (up to $7 a month), a regional sports fee (up to $5 a month), and more additional fees (so says the small print). We’d rather have it so any fees are included in the monthly service price, but almost all TV providers do this, so we can’t fault Xfinity too much.

Customer service problems

Let’s not sugarcoat it—Xfinity customer service is known for being less than great. We put on our Mythbusters hats (do they wear hats?) and put it to the test.

We called Xfinity to ask some questions about cable packages, and it wasn’t that the agent was rude, rather they were much more of a salesperson than a service rep. Clearly answering our question was secondary and closing the sale was the primary goal.

Xfinity: Summary

  • Good: Affordable TV plans with a strong DVR.
  • Bad: Annoying extra fees.
  • Full review: Check out our full review of Xfinity.

Cox cable TV: Best budget buy

Cox TV is trying something new, but its service is still a mixed bag.

Cox TV packages
PlanPriceTV channel countView plan
TV Starter$25/mo.75+View Plan
Contour TV$64.99/mo.140+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 about Cox

  • A super inexpensive channel package
  • Some channel customization option
  • On-the-go streaming app

$25 a month for cable?

For those of you looking to get the most basic of basic cable packages, the Cox Starter package is ridiculously inexpensive. Yes, the channels are pretty bare-bones, but you do get antenna essentials like ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, and PBS. Sadly, there is no ESPN, HGTV, or Disney Channel. But hey, you can always sign up for a Netflix subscription.

Oh, and don’t be fooled by the 70+ channels claim. Over 50 of them are just music channels. Download Spotify instead and get unlimited music for free.

Some channel customization

If you opt for the Contour TV cable package, you’ve got some options at your disposal. The plan comes with a slew of customizable add-ons (Cox calls them “paks”). Want to add HBO and binge-watch Game of Thrones? You can add that. Or how about some Spanish-speaking channels? You can add those too.

We love having the freedom to customize cable TV, so we don’t mind Cox breaking down its TV plans into something that gives us more flexibility.

What we don’t like about Cox

  • Pricey DVR
  • Contour TV package is also pricey

Powerful DVR comes at a price

Cox’s Record 6-HD DVR costs more than a DVR should—it’s $19.99 a month. That’s twice the price of Xfinity’s X1 DVR. The Record 6-HD DVR can also (you guessed it) record six shows at once, which isn’t bad, but the Xfinity X1 DVR can do the same for half the price.

The main difference is that Cox’s DVR records up to 340 hours of content. It all depends on how much you plan on recording. If you’re a serial recorder, this will work for you. If not, you might want a cable provider with a cheaper DVR.

The price adds up

It’s not just the price of the DVR that bums us out—Cox’s Contour TV package just plain costs more than other comparable cable service providers.

By the time we got to checkout, we were looking at a monthly charge of $93.48 and a one-time charge of $20.00. And that did NOT include the broadcast surcharge ($4.00 a month), regional sports surcharge ($2.60–$6.00 a month), or “other fees.” We didn’t even get any of the add-ons (“paks”), which range from $5.00 a month to $15.99 a month.

With the DVR price and other added fees, Cox doesn’t look as inexpensive anymore. (And our first impression was so positive.) Also, it doesn’t get any extra credit for contracts because it requires a one-year commitment for TV service.

Cox: Summary

  • Good: Cox lets you customize your cable TV experience.
  • Bad: Cox’s prices are higher than we first thought.
  • Full review: Check out our full review of Cox TV.

Spectrum cable TV: Best no-contract option

No-contract TV service is Spectrum’s biggest selling point.

Spectrum cable TV packages
PlanPriceTV channel countView plan
TV Select$44.99/mo.125+View Plan
TV Silver$84.99/mo.175+View Plan
TV Gold$104.99/mo.200+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 about Spectrum

  • No contracts
  • Decent pricing

Spectrum, breaker of chains

The single best thing about Spectrum cable is how 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 enter a contract, the prices for Spectrum are actually pretty good overall.

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.

What we don’t like about Spectrum

  • Hidden fees
  • Weaker DVR

The woes of checking out

By the time we got to check-out, our monthly cost for Spectrum TV service was up to nearly $60 a month, with a one-time cost of $34.99 (see image). It’s not the worst pricing we’ve seen, but it certainly doesn’t make us feel all warm and fuzzy.

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Pro tip

One-time costs are a ridiculous cash grab when you start a cable subscription. But if you talk to a customer service agent and ask them to waive the fee, they will. At least, they did for us.

Weak DVR

Spectrum will hook you up with a DVR when you subscribe to the cable service, but it’s nothing to write home about. You get 75 hours of HD storage, and you can only record two things at once. Compare that to Xfinity, where you can record up to six things at once and get 100 hours of HD storage.

You can get away with a weaker DVR, but you’ll need to be on top of your storage. No more recording episodes of The Bachelor you know you’ll never watch. (Speaking of which, why is every Bachelor episode like three hours long? Spectrum DVR literally ain’t got time for that.)

Spectrum: Summary

  • Good: Spectrum doesn’t bother with long-term contracts.
  • Bad: You’ll get some extra fees and weaker DVR.
  • Full review: Check out our full review of Spectrum TV.

Optimum Cable TV: Best cable for the family

Optimum’s no-contract TV service isn’t too shabby, but you probably can’t get it.

Optimum cable TV packages
PlanPriceTV channel countView plan
Optimum Core TV$59.95/mo.220+View Plans
Optimum Select TV$74.95/mo.340+View Plans
Optimum Premier TV$104.95/mo.420+View Plans

What we like about Optimum

  • Record 15 shows at once
  • Exclusive New York programming

End family conflict

I don’t know about your family, but mine nearly ended due to a DVR battle circa 2005. Survivor and American Idol were on at the same time. We were a house divided. Our measly cable box could only record one thing at a time.

Thankfully, with Optimum, you can record literally 15 shows at once. You’ll never have another argument again.

(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.)

New York sports channels

Optimum is based out of NYC, and therefore, 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 Knicks will magically get better with your Optimum TV cable subscription.

What we don’t like about Optimum

  • Limited availability
  • Extra fees

Only available in the Tri-State area

Sorry if we got your hopes up about this cable TV provider: Optimum’s service area covers only New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. 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.

Extra fees

In a big surprise to nobody, this cable TV company adds extra fees to your bill. 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
  • Bad: Optimum services only three states.
  • Full review: Check out our full review of Optimum TV.

Recap: The best cable TV providers

We sorted through more than a dozen cable TV providers to highlight some of the best. We considered pricing, fees, contracts, and more to determine which cable TV provider deserves your attention. Overall, we can say this about each:

What do you think?

Did we miss something? Which service provider do you think is the best? Tell us what you think in the comments. We’d also love to hear any questions you might have.

Additional contributors

Scott Teran