The options for television packages are both confusing and overwhelming, so we set out to find the absolute best television service for 2016. While we came up with a solid winner, we’re also aware that not everyone wants the same thing from his or her television experience, so we recommend that you check out our TV provider reviews and compare package and pricing information.
We know everyone isn’t the same, so we surveyed current & past customers, asked our friends, and researched what people typically want to see in their TV service. Of course, they all had their budgets and favorite channels, but they had different opinions on DVRs and equipment, the features included in their services, etc. We came up with the best packages for the five most common types of viewer, then we went ahead and broke those down by pricing–averaged monthly over a 2-year period to account for contracts and promotional pricing.
Want the best package? Choose which viewer sounds most like you.
Our process for rating TV services
We analyzed everything from price per channel to equipment fees and 3rd-party customer service ratings for the top national TV brands. We gave extra points for things like price guarantees, exclusive channels (e.g., NFL SUNDAY TICKET), and extra DVR features, while comparing the basics like pricing, number of channels offered, etc.
|Provider||Overall Rating||Available Offers|
|Verizon Fios||7.1/10||View Offers|
|AT&T U-Verse||6.3/10||View Offers|
|Time Warner Cable||6.2/10||View Offers|
|Charter Spectrum||4.9/10||View Offers|
Our overall scores include consideration for customer service and early termination fees. Sometimes extra fees for service aren’t even listed, so we found out which packages would be subjected to “surprise” charges and calculated those into the overall score as well. While we analyzed a tremendous amount of data, we also took into account customer reviews and feedback from our readers.
We compared each brand to one another across a large list of criteria per category, calculating our “Overall Rating” with a weighted average based on the following percentages: 35% Pricing, 15% Packages, 15% Channels, 25% Equipment & Features, 10% Customer Service.
The movie buff
Movie Buffs thrive off the art of the cinema. When it comes to high quality entertainment, they want to see the latest blockbusters along with all the classic and independent films at any time, anywhere. They’ll need a DVR that holds all their long, high-definition movies without deleting anything to make room for new recordings.
- Non-premium movie channels
- Premium channels (HBO, Cinemax, etc.) included/promotional
- Large/functional On Demand library
- Audio capacity/sound quality
- At least 200 hrs DVR recording capacity
- Mobile apps and accessing saved shows without Wi-Fi
The winner: DISH’s America’s Top 250
Dish includes all the regular movie channels, plus premium channels are included for free for three months. If you’re a subscriber to Netflix, you can access the catalog conveniently integrated into the universal search. With 4k compatibility and 5.1 Dolby Digital support, you’ll be engrossed in high quality visuals and sound so your movies will come to life.
DISH provides you with The Hopper 3, our Best DVR of 2016, so you know it’s more than capable of delivering your favorite films flawlessly. You can store up to 500 hours of HD content, meaning you can fit the entire Lord of The Rings, Hobbit, Harry Potter, and Star Wars sagas on your drive. You can even download content to your devices like tablets, laptops, and smartphones.
We recommend getting a HopperGO, which is a personal mobile video drive for viewing DVR-recorded content. You can transfer 100 hours of content from your DVR; the rechargeable battery lasts for four hours and creates a private Wi-Fi cloud to play back different transferred shows on up to five devices at once—perfect for movie lovers on the go.
The runner-up: DIRECTV’s Premier
DIRECTV includes Premium Channels as part of the base package, which is great for savings. You’ll get recent hit movies, classics, and critically acclaimed indie flicks. DIRECTV is capable of supporting 4k resolution and 5.1 Dolby Digital, so your experience will be stunning. The Genie is one of the greatest DVRs out there, with 1 TB of storage and multi-room capabilities. The new Genie 2 Go will let you download your films to take with you on road trips or plane flights.
The Primetimer enjoys hit shows like AMC’s The Walking Dead or HBO’s Game of Thrones. They have busy lives, but will definitely squeeze out a chunk of time for some necessary R&R. When they do, they need to turn to a trusty and convenient DVR that stores at least 100 HD hours of their favorites. They don’t ask for too much, but they do want the best bang for the buck.
- The Average Household – 2.53 persons/household
- Best bang for the buck among providers:
- Avg Channels: 250
- Avg Price: $77.17
- Have a mid-range DVR that can record multiple shows during primetime
- At least 100 hrs HD storage
The winner: America’s Top 250
Available nationwide, DISH’s America’s Top 250 in a 2-Year Price Lock is the best for your average user because it comes with over 290 channels and includes 50 channels from HBO, Cinemax, Showtime, and Starz for 3 months for free ($47/monthly after—not bad). Of course, you’ll get to talk Game of Thrones, Broad City, and The Walking Dead with your coworkers, or kick back and watch Adventure Time and eat some cereal on the weekend. This package has all the top shows, including upcoming favorites like Season 6 of Showtime’s Shameless or USA’s new thrillers Colony and Mr. Robot.
The included Hopper 3 was named our Best DVR of 2016 with 2 TB of storage capacity that translates to 500 hours of HD content. It has tuners for up to six simultaneous recordings and allows you to watch live TV in four different rooms, so everyone can watch on their own schedule. With DISH’s 2-Year Price Lock at $74.99/monthly, no hidden fees, and the Hopper 3, it’s a great deal that lasts and you won’t miss anything.
The runner up: DIRECTV’s Ultimate
At an average monthly cost of $63.50 over two years, DIRECTV’s Ultimate package provides 240 channels plus 50 channels from HBO, Showtime, Cinemax, and Starz for three months for free—those include hard hitters like Cinemax’s The Nick or the increasingly popular Silicon Valley from HBO.
They also include the Genie DVR that powers your entire home with 1 TB of storage. You’ll get to record your favorite series without having to constantly delete other programming, perfect for a night of glorious binge-watching.
The sports fanatic
The Sports Fanatic has a thirst for all the intense action across the world. They’ll need the essential sports channels like ESPN and ESPN 2. They’ll need access to premium channels and Pay Per View events like MMA fight nights. And Since so many games happen simultaneously, they’ll need a DVR capable of multiple recordings with at least 100 hours of storage.
- Must have the basics
- ESPN 1 and 2
- Extended coverage of NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB
- Regional Sports
- College Sports
- Bonus points: NFL Sunday Ticket (A Big Deal!)
- Must be able to record at least 3 channels at once
- Large capacity—At least 100 hrs
- Watch anywhere
The winner: DIRECTV’s Premier with NFL Sunday Ticket
NFL Sunday Ticket, a DIRECTV exclusive, allows you to catch every single out-of-market Sunday game. Their Sports Pack features competitive favorites like ESPN Classic. You’ll get great regional sports channels and in-depth college coverage. A great way to watch the NBA or NHL, you can purchase league-specific plans that give you up to 40 regular season games a week. You have access to all the big boxing and UFC matches, so you can be right there with your friends witnessing the greatest fighters of our time.
Plus you get The Genie DVR, which records up to 200 hours in HD. On top of that, you have the ability to split your with DoublePlay—perfect for those multi-team fans and fantasy leaguers. Not going to be home for the big game? No problem: with the NFL sunday Ticket app you can track stats, get up to the minute highlights, and go from watching on your tablet or phone to your big screen with a simple swipe.
The runner up: XFINITY’s Preferred + Sports Entertainment
With the $9.99 additional monthly Sports Entertainment Package, Xfinity’s Preferred pack is comprehensive enough to give you 24/7 sports coverage with all major networks.
On top of that, you can order all the big fights and other Pay-Per-View events, watch high-velocity NASCAR, and catch up with your favorites on the green with the GOLF Channel. You can also add NFL RedZone, NBA LEAGUE PASS, MLB Extra Innings, and NHL CENTER ICE to ensure you catch every important game. The X1 HD DVR records up to six shows while you watch the main event, and it also delivers service to any room in the house.
The Family Friendly subscriber wants the best channels for their kids and themselves, so that means Nick Jr., Discover, and Disney. Although every company provides parental controls, some companies are better at helping you understand what content your kids will be seeing. When it comes to staying focused and keeping the kids entertained on long trips and outings, watch anywhere features (especially downloadable content) are a must.
- Parental controls
- Kids channels (Nick, Disney, etc.)
- Watch Anywhere
- On Demand
- Other possibilities:
- Multiple TVs
- Records more than 4 shows at once
- Dedicated kids app
The winner: DISH’s America’s Top 200
Aside from providing all the family favorites, DISH has partnered with Common Sense Media to give you ratings on eight different categories that help you determine a program’s appropriateness for your kids; these ratings appear on DISHAnywhere.com, mobile apps, and the Hopper DVR. More than making sure your kids aren’t negatively influenced, the rating system also judges whether characters in the show are positive role models. They even provide an age rating and a short analysis on what parents should know before viewing a TV series or a movie.
You can also set up separate profiles for your children with DISH Anywhere. You can enter your child’s age to filter content and the app also makes it easy to select shows with large picture tiles.
DISH makes it easy to take your kids shows on the go for long road trips and drawn-out doctor visits. Up to 5 devices are supported with the convenient HopperGo portable DVR.
The runner up: U-verse U300
The U300 option from AT&T features fun, family-friendly programming that covers everything. AT&T’s Multiview allows you to put kids channels together for easier switching; it also reduces accidental viewing of inappropriate programs. With both BabyTV and BabyfirstTV, early development programming not only makes your life a little easier, but it gives your little one an early advantage in learning.
One of the cooler kid-oriented features we found was the Tumblebooks application ($5 per month) which narrates over 190 digital children’s books while read-along features and animated pictures help the story come to life. They recommend this service for pre-kindergarten through sixth-grade readers.
U-verse Game Channel has 15 games that turn TV into a fun gathering place for the family. Common Sense Media’s TV app is accessible to U-verse customers via On Demand, so you can check ratings and overviews of shows before your kids watch. They even have the U-verse KIDS! apps, which allow you to create a fun, interactive remote control on your device, enable filters for shows and movies according to age and rating, and more.
Vintage fans know good TV ages like fine wine. These viewers want access to classic movie channels, their favorite retro cartoons on Boomerang, and all the fun game shows that remind them of yesteryear. They don’t require a lot of equipment, and in fact, prefer as little maintenance as possible.
- Consistent pricing
- Classic movie channels and retro television
- DVR relatively unimportant
- Equipment, pricing, and customer support are easy to work with
The winner: DISH’s America’s Top 200
With your favorite classic channels like TCM, AMC, and VH1 Classic you’ll be reveling in the glory of the prime era of television and movies. If you need more of a blast from the past, you’ll love TV Land and Boomerang. They’ve got games and gambling covered, and enough family entertainment to keep grandkids happy.
Luckily, you know what your price is steady for two years.
The Hopper 3 DVR is perfect for movie lovers with 2 terabytes of capacity, which translates to 400 HD hours of recording—that’s a ton of picture perfect memories. Voice search makes everything easier, you can even use your laptop, tablet, or smartphone to read descriptions and select programs easier, then push it to your big screen TV. The remote features single-button closed captioning, so you don’t have to navigate through your settings to catch hard-to-hear dialogue.
DISH’s customer service is arguably the best in the nation, so if your equipment malfunctions for any reason, rest assured they’ll take care of it.
The runner up: Digital Preferred
At an average of $74.99/monthly over two years, this is a a great deal. Digital Preferred has over 220 channels including TCM, GSN, RetroPlex, Hallmark, Boomerang, and TV Land. Plus if you’re watching the grandkids, they have all the easy babysitting programs from Sprout, Nick Jr, Disney Channel, and Discovery Family.
Rumor has it that Comcast has started providing a senior discount in certain areas, but when it comes to anything official, it’s best to contact the provider for more information.
What matters most to you?
We want to know what matters most to you! Let us know what criteria you look for in TV service, how you compare TV packages, and what you’ve come to expect from the major TV providers. Leave us a comment below, explaining what you’d like us to review in future posts or which TV brands to add to our comparison.