Best TV Service Providers of 2021

Which one is right for you? Satellite TV, cable TV, fiber TV, or a streaming service?
Editor's Choice

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Best Cable TV

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Best Fiber TV

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Best Live TV Streaming

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The TV industry is changing month by month and year by year.

We still have satellite, cable, and fiber TV because sports are king, but we also have more live TV streaming options than ever before.

If you’re not into sports and love binge-watching, there are loads of on-demand streaming services available too.

So between satellite, cable, fiber, live TV streaming, and on-demand streaming–which one is right for you?

With all these great choices comes a different kind of problem: choosing one.

When you dive into channel lineups, availability, and pricing, it can get confusing and overwhelming pretty quickly. So, we’ll make it easier for you. Here’s our list of the best of the best.

  • Best satellite TV: DISH Network
  • Best cable TV: Xfinity
  • Best fiber TV: Verizon Fios TV
  • Best live TV streaming service: YouTube TV

And here’s a breakdown of all our top TV provider picks:

Which TV service provider is the best?
ProviderMonthly priceAvailable channelsLearn more
DISH$64.99$99.99*290View Plans
DIRECTV$64.99$134.99330View Plans
Xfinity TV$49.99$89.49220View Plans
Spectrum TV$44.99$94.99^200View Plans
Cox TV$25$69.99^140View Plans
Verizon Fios TV$50$90°425View Plans
YouTube TV$64.99**85View Plan
Hulu + Live TV$64.99$70.99**65View Plans
Sling$35$5050View Plans
Fubo$64.99$79.99**155View Plans
AT&T TV$59.99$129.99**140View Plans
Data as of 10/28/20. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.
Data effective 10/28/20. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.
* For 24 months with a 2-year agreement and eAutoPay.
For 12 months with a 2-year contract, paperless bill, & autopay. Price increases for months 13-24.
For the first 12 months. Some packages require a 1-year contract.
^ For the first 12 months.
° w/Auto Pay + taxes. Equipment charges may apply.
** Data as of 10/28/20. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.

So, what are the different types of TV service providers?

The four main types of technology used for providing TV service are:

  • Satellite
  • Cable
  • Fiber optic
  • Digital streaming (requires internet connection)
Info Box icon
Tell me more about streaming
Streaming services require high-speed internet, and we recommend download speeds of at least 25 Mbps. While the channels offered might not be as robust, you won’t have to sign up for a long-term contract.

If you don’t want traditional set-top box cable, or if you prefer a more customized slew of cable channels, you may want to skip to the streaming providers.

TV service providers offer a variety of plans, channel lineups, and technology to fit different families. We recommend checking out your options before deciding which TV provider or streaming service you should get.

Oh, hey! Guess what? We did that for you already. Check. It. Out.

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DISH Editors Pick

Best satellite TV service providers

There are really only two satellite TV providers that should even cross your radar at this point: DIRECTV and DISH.

DIRECTV has the largest number of channels and NFL SUNDAY TICKET, while DISH doesn’t have second-year price hikes nor requires you to sign a contract.

DISH: Best satellite TV provider

DISH network logo
How much does DISH cost?
PlanPriceTV channel countDetails
America's Top 120$64.99/mo.††190View Plan
America's Top 120+$79.99/mo.‡‡190+View Plan
America's Top 200$89.99/mo.^^240+View Plan
America's Top 250$99.99/mo.°°290+View Plan
Data effective 01/08/21. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.
†† for 24. months. Everyday Price $94.99/mo. New customers only. All offers require 2-year commitment with early termination fee and eAutopay. Price includes Hopper Duo for qualifying customers.
‡‡ for 24. months. Everyday Price $99.99/mo. New customers only. All offers require 2-year commitment with early termination fee and eAutopay. Price includes Hopper Duo for qualifying customers.
^^ for 24. months. Everyday Price $109.99/mo. New customers only. All offers require 2-year commitment with early termination fee and eAutopay. Price includes Hopper Duo for qualifying customers.
°° for 24. months. Everyday Price $119.99/mo. New customers only. All offers require 2-year commitment with early termination fee and eAutopay. Price includes Hopper Duo for qualifying customers.

The good

  • Consistent pricing
  • Tons of college sports coverage
  • Solid DVR

If you’re looking for the best all-around satellite TV provider, it’s DISH.

Unlike its competitor, DISH doesn’t jack up your price after the first year. You’ll pay the same price for the life of your contract. We appreciate that and we love the transparency.

Yes, it’s a bummer that DISH doesn’t carry NFL SUNDAY TICKET, but we’ve got good news for college sports fans: DISH carries the most college sports channels, including the ACCN, SEC, Pac-12, Longhorn, Big Ten Network, and ESPNU.

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Cheap sports
DISH’s most basic package includes ESPN, and you don’t have to upgrade like DIRECTV. Perfect for sports fans who want the basics for cheap.

DISH also has the best DVR available. The Hopper 3 Smart DVR lets you record up to 16 shows at once, and you can record 2½ times more HD content (500 hours) than the Genie from DIRECTV (200 hours).

However, keep in mind that the Hopper Duo (with 125 hours of DVR storage) is included in your package, but not the Hopper 3. You’ll have to pay an extra $5–$10 per month for the Hopper 3 and an additional $5 per month for each added 4K Joey receiver.

We think it’s worth the upgrade to the Hopper, though. Along with all the other awesome Hopper features, DISH has integrated Amazon Alexa voice commands into its DVR experience.

No longer must you sift through the couch cushions to find your lost remote. You can simply tell Alexa to turn on This Is Us and cry your eyes out with the rest of us.

The bad

  • Not as many channels as DIRECTV

DIRECTV’s top plan offers about 40 more channels than DISH’s top plan. Yes, it does cost a bit more. But if you and your family want lots of channels, DISH won’t be your pick.

Dive into our full DISH review for more information on channel lineups, the Hopper, and the hidden fees.

DIRECTV: Best for NFL fans

How much does DIRECTV cost?
PlanPriceTV channel countDetails
ENTERTAINMENT All-Included$64.99***160+View Plan
CHOICE All-Included$69.99†††185+View Plan
XTRA All-Included$79.99†††235+View Plan
ULTIMATE All-Included$84.99†††250+View Plan
PREMIER All-Included$134.99†††330+View Plan
Data effective 11/04/20. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.
*** for 12 mos. plus taxes and Regional Sports Fee w/24-mo. agmt. Autopay & Paperless bill reqd. Prices higher in 2nd year.*
††† for 12 mos. plus taxes and Regional Sports Fee w/24-mo. agmt. Autopay & Paperless bill reqd. Prices higher in 2nd year. Regional Sports Fee up to $9.99/mo. is extra & applies.*

The good

  • More full-time HD channels than anyone
  • Genie HD DVR

In the world of live TV, NFL games are number one.

And if you agree, then trust us on this … you’re going to want NFL SUNDAY TICKET.

If you’re an NFL fan—which you probably are if you’re reading this— you really can’t go wrong with DIRECTV. And if you get the CHOICE package or above, you get NFL SUNDAY TICKET for free for one full season.

On top of NFL SUNDAY TICKET, DIRECTV offers à-la-carte programming for most major sports leagues, including:

  • MLS Direct Kick

If you want to know more about which sports channels each DIRECTV package carries, check out our full DIRECTV review.

DIRECTV also offers more full-time high-definition (HD) channels than anyone, and it has the ability to record up to 200 hours of HD video content.

So whether you’re tuning in to see Patrick Mahomes’s lookaway throws, or you just want to marvel at the realistic zombie makeup on The Walking Dead, you can expect a crystal-clear picture for both live TV and recorded shows off your Genie DVR.

The bad

  • Prices increase after 12 months

Second-year price hikes are a real caveat. DIRECTV racks up the price by about double for the second year of your two-year contract.

We’re torn on this policy. On one hand, you get a pretty good deal for the first year of service. But on the other hand, price hikes suck.

It’s a pretty big knock on DIRECTV. But as long as you’re aware of the jump upfront, you can budget for it.

Best cable TV service providers

  • Xfinity from Comcast
  • Spectrum
  • Cox

There are a number of cable TV options out there, and most can be bundled with some kind of internet service package. But for this review, we’re steering clear of the bundled prices and compare just the cable TV service options without any extras added.

Across the board, cable television providers suffer from being available everywhere. So make sure you double-check if it’s available in your area before you get too excited.

Xfinity: Best all-around cable provider

xfinity logo
How much does Xfinity cost?
PlanPriceTV channel countDetails
Digital Starter$70.99‡‡‡140+View Plans
Digital Preferred$89.49‡‡‡220+View Plans
Data effective 12/03/20. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.
‡‡‡ With No Term Agreement

The good

  • Affordable package prices
  • Popular channels included in basic package
  • No-contract options

With the Digital Starter package starting at $70.99 per month with more than 140 channels, Xfinity wins our “best all-around package” award out of all our recommended TV providers.

The channel selection for Xfinity’s entry package is pretty similar to DISH’s base-level package (including channels like ESPN, TNT, AMC, and Discovery).

Similar to DISH, Xfinity offers one-year contract or no-contract plans. The pricing you see here is the no-contract option, but you could save $20–$30 per month if you go with the one-year contract. The small bump in price is worth that contract-free flexibility. Or just make sure you absolutely love the channel lineup you choose.

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Xfinity's Online Ordering and Self-installation make it a great choice for DIYers
Over the last year, Xfinity has made dramatic improvements to their online ordering system. So much so that most of their customers never need to pick up the phone. You can now sign up for a new plan and even upgrade (or downgrade) your existing service all through Combining the website experience with Xfinity’s self-install program means you don’t have to wait on hold OR wait at home all day for a technician.

The bad

  • Additional fees*
  • Poor customer service reputation

Sigh. The thing we all dread: fees.

And Xfinity has plenty of fees to watch out for. Regional sports fees ($6–$9 per month), broadcast TV fees ($13–$15 per month), DVR fees ($10–$20 per month), additional receiver/multiple TV fee ($5.99–$9.99 per month), and they can really start to add up quickly. Make sure to ask about any additional fees that may apply before you sign up.

For more details on packages, equipment, and channel lineups, read our full review of Xfinity.

*All fees are estimates based on information at the time of this writing. Xfinity fees can vary based on contract details and promotions.

Spectrum: Best no-contract option

Spectrum logo
How much does Spectrum cost?
PlanPriceTV channel countDetails
Spectrum TV® Select$44.99^125+View Plan
Spectrum TV® Silver$74.99^175+View Plan
Spectrum TV Gold$94.99^200+View Plan
Data effective 11/04/20. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.
^ For the first 12 months.

The good

  • Cheap starting package
  • Good bargain for premium channels

The Spectrum TV® Select package only costs $44.99 a month and nets you some great channels (ABC, ESPN, Disney Channel, and HGTV).

The TV® Silver package gives you access to premium channels like HBO and SHOWTIME for free. And when you upgrade to the almighty Gold package, you’ll get HBO, SHOWTIME, STARZ, and STARZ ENCORE.

So if you’re really into premium channels, paying extra for the upper-tier Spectrum packages might be your go-to for the best bargain. It’s a no-brainer, really.

The bad

  • Weak DVR choices

When we went through the ordering process for Spectrum and got all the way to the checkout, we realized we never got to choose which DVR we wanted. That was our first tip-off that Spectrum DVR is nothing to write home about.

Turns out you have to specify when ordering that you want a DVR that records HD content. In this day and age, there’s no excuse for a DVR that doesn’t record HD shows. What, are you going to watch a grainy recording of the Super Bowl? We think not.

Spectrum’s DVR service records only up to 21 hours of HD footage and can record only two shows at once. That’s not great. If you love Spectrum, you’d be better off getting a different DVR.

For channel lineups, more information on equipment, and more detailed pricing, check out our full review of Spectrum.

Cox: Best low-price cable TV option

cox logo
How much does Cox cost?
PlanPriceTV channel countDetails
TV Starter$25^75+View Plan
Contour TV$69.99^140+View Plan
Data effective 10/28/20. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.
^ For the first 12 months.

The good

  • Fair-priced packages

If you’re a TV minimalist looking for just the essentials, the Starter package could be a perfect fit. You’re missing out on sports channels like ESPN, but you get local channels and basics like ABC, CW, FOX, and TBS.

That’s not bad for the price of a shirt!

As for the Contour Package, you’ll get access to more than 140 channels including ESPN, HISTORY, HGTV, FOX Sports 1, and Univision. Not a bad channel lineup.

The bad

  • Paks that make the price higher than advertised
  • High DVR costs

When you start adding Paks (Cox’s word for “add-ons,” at $10–$16 per Pak per month) on top of your base service charge, your monthly price starts to go up pretty quickly.

It’s nice to start so low, but don’t expect to get out at the advertised price if you want the Sports Pak, the Movie Pak, or the Latino Pak.

Also, keep in mind that most Paks are limited to the Contour TV package, so if you’re looking for more options, you’ll be starting at a higher base price.

Cox also charges $19.99 per month for the Record 6-HD DVR, the same as Xfinity’s X1 DVR. But Cox’s DVR can store 340 HD or 1,000 SD hours, whereas the X1 can only store about one-third of that.

And if you didn’t guess from the name, Cox’s DVR can record up to six shows at the same time.

If you want to know more about Cox’s channel lineup, “paks,” and pricing, read our full Cox review. Editor's Choice award badge for Verizon Fios internet

Best fiber-optic TV service provider

Verizon Fios TV: Best for faster connection

The Verizon authorized retailer logo with the trademark red checkmark
How much does Verizon Fios TV cost?
PlanPriceTV channel countDetails
Your Fios TV$50.00/mo.^^^125+View Plan
More Fios TV$70.00/mo.°°°300+View Plan
The Most Fios TV$90.00/mo.°°°425+View Plan
Data effective 11/04/20. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.
^^^ Plus taxes. For new TV res. custs. $12/mo. STB and $15/mo. router charges apply. $99 setup & taxes & terms may apply. Subj. to credit approval & may require a deposit. Fios avail. in select areas.
°°° Plus taxes. For eligible new res. custs. $99 set-up & taxes & terms may apply. Subj. to credit approval & may require a deposit. Fios avail. in select areas.

The good

  • Fiber-optic connection
  • No-contract options
  • Channel customization

Verizon Fios TV uses a fiber-optic connection, which is actually a faster connection than traditional cable.  It’s super convenient when you’re connecting multiple devices, bundling your TV and internet together, and for those who want a faster upload and download time.

Verizon Fios TV doesn’t require an annual contract. Verizon has also recently changed their TV plans, so you don’t have to bundle it with internet anymore. But who can live without internet these days?

Verizon Your Fios TV package has a unique way of personalizing. You get to choose your top five channels, and Fios will do the rest by recommending a channel lineup for you based on your choices.

The bad

  • Limited availability

Verizon Fios is only available in nine states. So if you don’t live on the East Coast, we hope you didn’t get too attached while reading this section.

If you live in one of these states, check if Fios is offered in your city:

  • Delaware
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Pennsylvania

Check out more details on what Verizon Fios has to offer.

Best live TV streaming services

If you’re looking to cut the cord or if you’re on the fence between streaming, cable, and satellite, take a look at our top picks for live TV streaming services.

How do the top live TV streaming providers compare?
ProviderMonthly priceAvailable channelsLearn more
YouTube TV$64.99**85View Plan
Hulu + Live TV$64.99$70.99**65View Plans
Sling$35$5050View Plans
Fubo$64.99$79.99**155View Plans
AT&T TV$59.99$129.99**140View Plans
Data as of 10/28/20. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.
** Data as of 10/28/20. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.

Keep in mind these prices don’t include internet service charges (which you’ll need in order to stream), but you can check those out in our best internet for streaming article.

YouTube TV: Best live TV streaming

YouTube TV logo
How much does YouTube TV cost?
ProviderMonthly priceAvailable channelsLearn more
YouTube TV$64.99**85View Plan
Data as of 10/28/20. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.
** Data as of 10/28/20. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.

The good

  • Unlimited cloud DVR
  • Tons of channels

With YouTube TV, you get the best of all things TV and streaming have to offer with access to live TV, on-demand movies, full seasons of popular TV shows, unlimited DVR space, YouTube videos, and the latest news clips.

Unlimited DVR space means you can record literally anything and everything you want. You also get a strong channel lineup with lots of top lifestyle and entertainment channels. You even get major sports channels like NFL Network, NBA TV, and MLB Network.

All this easily makes YouTube TV one of the best streaming services available. Check out all the other details in our YouTube TV review.

The bad

  • Missing the HISTORY and Hallmark channels

That means you’ll have to miss out on your Alone and American Pickers. You’ll also be hearing from your spouse when they find out they can’t watch their favorite Hallmark Christmas movies.

Hulu + Live TV: Best for binge-watching

hulu logo
How much does Hulu + Live TV cost?
PlanPriceTV channel countDetails
Hulu + Live TV$64.99****65+View Plan
Hulu No Ads + Live TV$70.99****65+View Plan
Data as of 01/06/21. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.
**** Compatable device and internet connection required. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

The good

  • Massive on-demand streaming catalog
  • No contracts

Hulu + Live TV is the best of both worlds—lots of live channels and even more on-demand streaming. Along with over 65 channels, you get access to Hulu’s entire streaming library.

Nothing good on TV? Catch up on This is Us, The Bachelor, or Rick and Morty. Rest assured, you won’t run out of stuff to watch with Hulu Live.

As far as live channels are concerned, you get all the essentials, like ABC, ESPN, Fox, Food Network, and HGTV.

Get all the details on Hulu Live channels, cloud DVR, and user experience in our Hulu with Live TV review.

The bad

  • Price increase
  • Limited cloud DVR

Hulu + Live TV increased its pricing in December 2020, and we’re not sure why. There is no channel upgrade, DVR upgrade, or more on-demand content. This service is worth the price you want both live TV channels and a big on-demand library in one.

As for cloud DVR, your subscription comes with 50 hours of storage included. You’d be surprised how quickly you can fill up 50 hours—a few seasons of Criminal Minds would be enough to fill your storage to the brim. You can upgrade to 200 hours of storage, but it’ll cost you another $9.99 a month. No thank you.

Sling TV: Best value streaming service

Sling TV
How much does Sling TV cost?
PlanPriceTV channel countDetails
Sling Orange$35****30+View Plan
Sling Blue$35****45+View Plan
Sling Orange + Sling Blue Services$50****50+View Plan
Data as of 10/28/20. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.
**** Compatable device and internet connection required. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

The good

  • Low entry price
  • Cloud DVR

Sling TV truly understands what cord-cutting is all about: saving money without missing out on your shows. At $30 per month, Sling packages provides the best bargains around. Granted, Sling TV’s channel selection is smaller, but it also goes for quality over quantity.

And here’s a side note: you’ll have to pay an extra $5 more per month for the 50-hour cloud DVR.

You get way more value if you choose either Sling Orange or Blue than if you choose to get both of them together. When you combine the two packages, you’re almost paying just as much as YouTube TV. And YouTube TV has about 15 more live channels than Sling Orange + Blue and an unlimited DVR.

As you can tell, we weren’t sure to put Sling’s DVR in the pros or the cons, but you do get what you pay for.

The bad

  • Fewer channels than competitors

With a low entry price comes a smaller selection of channels. In fact, you get almost 50% more channels with YouTube TV or Hulu Live.

We’re still in the camp that Sling gives you quality over quantity, and you can add over 20 different channel packages for $5–$10 each. But if quantity is what you want, Sling ain’t it.

We give you a full breakdown of Sling TV, such as channel lineup, and answer a bunch of FAQ’s in our Sling TV Review.

fuboTV: Best streaming service for sports fans

FuboTV logo
How much does fuboTV cost?
PlanPriceTV channel countDetails
Family Plan$64.99****105+View Plan
Elite$79.99****155+View Plan
Data as of 10/28/20. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.
**** Compatable device and internet connection required. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

The good

  • Lots of sports (national and international)
  • Spanish-language package option

For all-around TV, fuboTV is pretty average, but it towers over the competition when it comes to sports.

fuboTV caters to all types of sports fans. You’ll get channels like ESPN, Big Ten Network, PAC-12 Networks, Tennis Channel, and Zona Fútbol.

You’ll also get all of the major national sports channels like NFL Network, MLB Network, NBA TV, and NHL Network.

But check out the sports channel lineup to see all 50 channels you could get. You heard us: 50 sports channels.

If your Abuelito wants to watch sports in Spanish, fuboTV has a Latino package for $29.99/mo. with 32 Spanish-language channels.

The bad

  • Sports-heavy content isn’t for everyone

With such a heavy focus on sports, fuboTV is pretty average when it comes to other TV offerings, and you’ll probably get more non-sports for the same price with another service.

But your kids will still be able to watch Disney Channel and Nickelodeon, your teen can watch Lifetime, and your spouse can watch HGTV with fuboTV.

We talk about fuboTV in detail, channel lineup, equipment, pricing, and more, in our best streaming services for sports piece.

AT&T TV: Best for traditional TV experience

A T and T TV logo
How much does AT&T TV cost?
ProviderMonthly priceAvailable channelsLearn more
AT&T TV$59.99$129.99**140View Plans
Data as of 11/04/20. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.
** Data as of 11/04/20. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.

The good

  • Included premium channels on some plans
  • It’s a streaming version of DIRECTV

AT&T TV includes premium channels in two of its package: ULTIMATE and PREMIER.

With the ULTIMATE plan, you’ll get the STARZ channels in your lineup. The PREMIER plan includes STARZ, SHOWTIME, and CINEMAX channels.

And if you get the CHOICE package or above, you’ll also get a free one-year membership to HBO Max, along with three free months of CINEMAX, SHOWTIME, STARZ, and EPIX.

Since AT&T TV is the live TV streaming version of DIRECTV, you can enjoy the traditional TV experience without installing a satellite dish. Instead, you’ll receive a set-top box and a voice activated remote control.

How much are AT&T TV NOW's premium channels and add-ons?

The bad

  • Like DIRECTV, AT&T TV requires a contract
  • You can’t cancel at anytime

Remember how we said AT&T TV is the streamable version of DIRECTV? Well, it literally is. AT&T TV also requires you to sign a two-year contract, and expect to see second-year price hikes.

For example, your $50 per month ENTERTAINMENT plan will be $93 the second year, and your $70 per month ULTIMATE plan will be $135 the second year. (Yeah, not the best news.)

But if you like the idea of AT&T TV’s traditional TV experience or the included premium channels, make sure the budget for that second year of service.

For a more in-depth breakdown of AT&T TV’s packages, channel lineups, and user experience, check out our full review.

What about non-live TV streaming?

With non-live TV streaming services, you don’t get your sports, news, and lifestyle live TV channels. So if you need a TV service to replace your cable or satellite provider, a non-live TV streaming service isn’t a great option.

But if you just want on-demand content, like Hulu originals or Disney movies, then one of these services will be perfect for you. And you can save some cash!


For $9–$18 per month, Netflix is a cheap way to get some of the best TV shows and movies ever made on your smartphone, laptop, or smart TV. You can watch comedy stand-ups, popular TV shows like Dead to Me, and loads of movies. It’s no wonder why this streaming service is one of the best.

To get more details on Netflix, check out our full review.


If you love escaping from the real world to watch movies about Disney princesses or Marvel superheroes, or you love classics like The Sandlot or The Lion King, look no further. You get access to all of those movies on Disney+ for just $7 per month.

Might as well head over to our Disney+ review to find out more about watching your favorite childhood movies.

Amazon Prime Video

You don’t even need an expensive Prime membership to get access to Prime Video (but how can you live without Prime, anyways?) You just need to cough up $13 per month. You’ll get access to shows like Goliath and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. One cool feature that we like: you get to watch Thursday Night Football on Prime.

To find out more details, check out our Amazon Prime Video review.

Hulu (without live TV)

Now this is a streaming service we can’t live without. Why, you ask? This Is Us. We need to be updated on the lives of Rebecca, Jack, and the triplets.

And of course we need to get our Saturday Night Live and The Good Doctor fix. You get lots of content for just $6–$12. And you can bundle with Disney+ and ESPN+ for only about $7 more!

Yeah, good luck leaving your couch.

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Curious about how expensive commercials cost?
Speaking of commercials, ever wonder how much they cost? Check our breakdown of TV commercial costs below.

Satellite vs. cable vs. live streaming

Satellite, cable, and livestreaming all do the same thing in very different ways, and knowing how they differ from one another can help you make the decision that’s right for you.

Here’s a breakdown of how each type of TV provider delivers that content to your living room and a few key things to consider before making your choice.


Going with a satellite provider generally gives you more HD channels than cable or livestreaming (especially movie channels). Satellite is also available in many rural areas where cable is not. So you can still keep up with the Kardashians even if you live outside of your local cable company’s area of service.

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Satellite (usually) beats cable
Although satellite providers like to jack up your monthly price during the second year of service, satellite usually comes out as a better deal in the long run price-wise.

The downsides are that you need to have a satellite dish installed on your roof, which can mean extra installation fees, and satellite just isn’t as reliable.

If you’re like us, sometimes your signal can get interrupted by bad weather. We know we’ve had to bundle up to knock the snow off the ol’ satellite dish a time or two during a Pats game.


Cable is all about consistency. You won’t have the same service interruptions that you see with satellite (bad weather and all that) because cable TV is connected directly via, well, cables. Underground.

And even though the monthly price can sometimes start off higher than satellite, you usually won’t see the same kind of second-year price hikes with cable. This makes it easier to budget up front, since you won’t be falling for sweet promotional deals that come back to haunt your bank account in 12 months.

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Cable gives you more flexibility
Because cable doesn’t require contracts, you have a lot more flexibility than satellite. Unfortunately, if you live in a rural area, cable may not be an option for you.

Live streaming

Live streaming, TV’s new kid on the block, has a lot going for it. Live TV streaming provides some of the lowest prices out there while still offering you a lot of the programming you’re looking for. You can also watch it on-the-go.

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The big downside to livestreaming so far?
Your channels and options are more limited. Many offer add-on packages that can get you up to the same amount of channels as satellite or cable, but by the time you add everything on, you’re paying the same or more anyway.

Live streaming relies on your internet service. In order to stream content, you need an internet connection fast enough to handle it. This means if you live in a more rural area, you may not get a strong enough internet connection to livestream TV.

And remember, streaming costs aren’t bundled into the cost of internet. So you’ll be paying for internet, but then on top of that, you pay for any streaming service you sign up for, like Hulu, Amazon Prime, or Netflix.

Understanding the contract

The most common reasons for unhappy customers (and with TV providers, there are a lot of them) usually lie within the contract. Strict cancellation policies, sudden price changes, and added fees all contribute to the internet’s hatefire toward TV providers.

We’re right there with you. We want these providers to be more transparent and up-front about these things. But for now, it’s on us to dig into contracts and understand what we’re getting ourselves into.

Early termination fees

For services like cable and live streaming that don’t require traditional contracts, this isn’t a problem. Early termination fees only apply when you’ve signed a long-term agreement that you’re trying to get out of. (We’re looking at you, satellite providers.)

For example, if you cancel a DIRECTV contract, DIRECTV will charge you a fee for every month remaining on your contract.

So if you need to get out of your contract but you still have nine months left, you’re looking at a big fee. It’s steep, for sure, but it’s all in the contract agreement. Make sure to ask your provider about early termination fees before you sign, just in case.

Price changes

We’ve mentioned it several times already, but the second-year price hike that some providers have can be a killer. This is where you get a promotional price for the first 12 months and things are looking good, when all of a sudden you open your bill a year after signing up and it’s doubled in price.

It’s definitely not good for your blood pressure, but if you’re careful, it shouldn’t come as a surprise. This practice is most common with DIRECTV, but make sure to ask about any price changes that may happen after your promotional period ends, just so you’re not blindsided with a giant bill.

Hidden fees

Hidden fees are the worst. We all know it. Here’s a list of the ones to watch out for:

  • Activation fees
  • Installation fees
  • Equipment fees (DVRs, receivers, routers, etc.)
  • Regional sports fees
  • Broadcasting fees
  • Premium channel costs (HBO, SHOWTIME, CINEMAX, etc.)

Best TV service providers recap

  • DISH has better pricing than DIRECTV (no second-year price hikes) and has a killer DVR in the Hopper 3. ($64.99–$99.99/mo.)
  • DIRECTV reigns supreme NFL fans with NFL SUNDAY TICKET. ($64.99–$134.99/mo.)
  • Xfinity offers the best all-around service with affordable pricing, no-contract options, and the X1 DVR. It struggles with monthly fees, though. ($70.99–$89.49/mo.)
  • Spectrum gives you free premium movie channels with the TV® Silver and TV Gold packages. ($44.99–$89.99/mo.)
  • Cox’s customizable packages feel almost like à-la-carte cable. ($25–$64.99/mo.)
  • Verizon Fios TV is definitely not cable. Fiber-optic technology gives a fast, reliable network for both TV and internet. ($50–$90/mo.)
  • YouTube TV has unlimited DVR storage and provides access to major sports channels, unlike any other live TV streaming service. ($64.99/mo.)
  • Hulu with Live TV combines live television,on-demand content, and original content better than any other service. ($64.99–$70.99/mo.)
  • Sling TV is the best budget streaming service that channels the true spirit of cord-cutting with its low entry prices. ($30–$45/mo.)
  • fuboTV is not only one of the best streaming services for sports, but fuboTV now has lots of news, lifestyle, and kids channels, as well. This live TV streaming service also has great plans for Spanish speakers who love watching their fútbol. ($64.99–$79.99/mo.)
  • AT&T TV includes premium channels in some of its packages, but you’ll have to budget for those second-year price hikes ($59–$129/mo.)
  • Netflix is one of the most popular on-demand streaming services with its great TV show and movie selection. This on-demand streaming service has the most content in the streaming industry, so it’ll be hard to run out things to watch. ($9–$18/mo.)
  • Disney+ practically gives you all the Disney movies you can dream of. It’s truly a magical experience. ($6/mo.)
  • Amazon Prime Video is perfect for if you don’t have cable and need to watch Thursday Night Football … here’s your answer. ($13/mo.)
  • Hulu has great original, on-demand content and can be bundled with Disney+ and ESPN+. ($6–$12/mo.)

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 and let us know which TV provider is your favorite.

The Most Expensive Commercial Breaks on TV: Can You Afford a Slot?

Buying up commercial time isn’t cheap, especially during top-viewed primetime TV. Between the top 10 most expensive commercial breaks, advertisers spend a total of $3,379,661 per 30-second commercial—yeesh. Median home values are $204,900, so you could buy about 16 homes or 10 expensive commercials. Take your pick.

Plus, when you consider the average half-hour block of TV has eight minutes of commercials, we’re talking some serious cash.

Price of a 30 second commercial graphic

Commercial sales breakdown

By show type

Sports: The NFL scores big with selling commercials, if you’re looking to buy a slot, it might take awhile to be able to afford it.

It costs nine to 11 times the median American income ($63,179) to afford 30 seconds of commercial time during an NFL game. Even the last top 10 spot, New Amsterdam, costs $172,085 for a 30-second ad, but the median US income adds up to only a little more than 25 cents every 30 seconds.5

Original, scripted series: Four original series ranked for top spots: This Is Us, Grey’s Anatomy, 911, and New Amsterdam. Combined, they rake in $889,739 per 30-second commercial.

Reality shows: Not far behind, reality TV had three top ten spots: The Masked Singer and The Voice (which airs both Monday and Tuesday).

By network

An average American TV show is 22 minutes long, which allows for eight minutes of commercials per half hour. During those eight minutes, FOX’s top-grossing show rakes in $11,039,808.

FOX takes four out of the top ten slots, but NBC takes most with five of the ten most expensive commercial slots.

Meanwhile, ABC’s Grey Anatomy takes the number six spot. Nothing from CBS in the top spot, its top show is Young Sheldon at #12.

  • Soapy Cooper

    The comments about Spectrum DVRs are not accurate based on our experience. We have Spectrum (previously Time Warner) and our DVR allows us to record 4 channels simultaneously (not 2) while watching a fifth channel. Also, our DVR can store substantially more than 21 hours of HD content as the review claims. I’m only guessing, but I’m sure we are able to store at least 100 hours of content. Overall, we’ve been satisfied with the Gold package. There are lots of channels including premium channels (HBO, Showtime, NFL Network, etc.) and there are decent mobile viewing capabilities. The Spectrum app allows you to watch all content and manage DVR settings when you’re connected to your home Wi-Fi. Substantially fewer channels are available on the Spectrum app when accessed via the internet; however, this is shortfall can largely be made up by downloading the apps for individual channels such as HBO Go, Show Anytime, Max Go, etc. On the negative side, Spectrum is expensive and the internet speeds never measure up to what they advertise. Instead of getting 100Mbps we get about 50 down/35 up. In fairness, most people I talk to all seem to have the same complaint about their service provider. And, of course, the customer service generally stinks.