Best TV Service Providers of 2019

Editor's Pick
Monthly price:
$59.99$134.99
Available channels:
330+
Best Satellite TV
Monthly price:
$59.99$89.99
Available channels:
290+
Best Cable TV
Monthly price:
$49.99$104.99
Available channels:
260+
Best Fiber TV
Monthly price:
$64.99$89.99
Available channels:
425+
Best Live TV Streaming
Monthly price:
$49.99
Available channels:
70+

The TV industry is changing.

We, the viewers, know what we want, and we want it for a reasonable price. We want TV that’s customized for us with our favorite shows, sports, and series—and rightfully so.

And in response, satellite providers, cable TV companies, and internet streaming services have given us more choices than ever before.

Congratulations! We did it!

But with all those sweet, sweet choices comes a different kind of problem: sifting through our options. When you dive into channel selections, availability, and pricing options, it can get confusing and overwhelming really quickly.

Let’s make it easier.

The best TV providers for 2019—based on technology type—are DISH, Xfinity, Verizon Fios TV, and YouTube TV.

That said, standouts like DIRECTV for NFL SUNDAY TICKET and Sling TV for its budget-friendly options are worth looking into if you want satellite TV or live TV streaming in particular.

2019 Top TV service providers breakdown
ProviderMonthly priceAvailable channelsConnection TypeLearn more
DIRECTV$59.99$134.99*330+SatelliteView Plans
DISH$59.99$89.99290+SatelliteView Plans
Xfinity TV$49.99$104.99260+CableView Plans
Spectrum TV$44.99$89.99^200+CableView Plans
Cox TV$25$69.99^140+CableView Plans
Verizon Fios TV$64.99$89.99°425+FiberView Plans
Data effective 11/19/18. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.
* For 12 months with a 2-year contract, paperless bill, & autopay. Price increases for months 13-24.
For 24 months with a 2-year agreement and eAutoPay.
For the first 12 months. Some packages require a 1-year contract.
^ For the first 12 months.
° With autopay for 1 yr, plus taxes, equip. charges & other fees
Light Bulb icon
Price changes
TV providers change their prices more often than we change the channel during commercial breaks. Check out “Understanding the contract” for more information on second-year price hikes, hidden fees, and more.

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 choices, and technology to fit different needs. We recommend researching multiple options before deciding which TV provider will work best for you.

Oh, hey! Guess what? We did that for you already. Check it out.

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.

Many internet services like AT&T (AT&T U-verse TV), CenturyLink, and Frontier partner with either DIRECTV or DISH instead of pushing their own TV service, so we’re sticking to the two major players and their differences.

DIRECTV: Editor’s pick—Best for NFL fans

DIRECTV
DIRECTV packages
PlanPriceTV channel countDetails
SELECT­ All-Included$59.99/mo.**155+View Plan
ENTERTAINMENT All-Included$64.99/mo.**160+View Plan
CHOICE All-Included$69.99/mo.††185+View Plan
XTRA All-Included$79.99/mo.††235+View Plan
ULTIMATE All-Included$84.99/mo.††250+View Plan
PREMIER All-Included$134.99/mo.††330+View Plan
Data effective 11/19/18. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.
** /mo. for 12 mos plus taxes
†† /mo. for 12 mos plus taxes and RSN fee

The good

  • NFL SUNDAY TICKET
  • More full-time HD channels than anyone
  • Genie HD DVR

In the world of live TV, NFL football is king.

So in that spirit, all hail NFL SUNDAY TICKET, First of Its Name, King of Weekend Primetime, Lord of the TV Ratings, and Protector of the Realm.

But seriously, DIRECTV is our Editor’s Pick because if you’re a sports fan—which we are— you really can’t go wrong. On top of NFL SUNDAY TICKET, DIRECTV offers à-la-carte programming for most major sports leagues, including:

  • MLB EXTRA INNINGS®
  • NBA LEAGUE PASS
  • MLS Direct KickTM
  • NHL® CENTER ICE®

Also, when you upgrade to the ENTERTAINMENT package, you’ll get ESPN, TNT, and TBS—which carry Monday Night Football, Inside the NBA, and the majority of college hoops (including March Madness) between them.

Light Bulb icon
Record everything at once
The Genie HD DVR lets you record up to five shows at once. DVR pricing is also already included in your monthly price. Yay!

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 Tom Brady’s piercing, baby-blue eyes, 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 bummer. DIRECTV racks up the price for the second year of your two-year agreement. The price you were paying for the ENTERTAINMENT package nearly doubles during year two. Buyer beware.

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. Especially when your monthly price doubles for the second year.

It’s a pretty big knock on DIRECTV. But as long as you’re aware of the jump up-front, you can plan on it, and you still get a decent deal over the life of your contract.

For more in-depth details about DIRECTV packages and channel selection, check out our full DIRECTV review.

DISH: Best satellite TV provider

DISH network
DISH packages
PlanPriceTV channel countDetails
America's Top 120$59.99/mo.190View Plan
America's Top 120+$69.99/mo.190+View Plan
America's Top 200$79.99/mo.240+View Plan
America's Top 250$89.99/mo.290+View Plan
Data effective 11/19/18. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.
For 24 months with a 2-year agreement and eAutoPay.

The good

  • Consistent pricing
  • Tons of college sports coverage
  • Best DVR available

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

Yes, it’s a massive bummer that DISH doesn’t carry NFL SUNDAY TICKET, but we’ve got good news for college sports fans. DISH carriers the most college sports channels, including the SEC, Pac-12, Longhorn, and Big Ten Networks, and ESPN Goal Line.

At first glance, DISH looks like it’s more expensive than DIRECTV, but 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.

Money icon
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 2 ½ times more HD content (500 hours) than the Genie from DIRECTV (200 hours). However, keep in mind that the advertised package price doesn’t include the DVR price. You’ll have to pay an extra $10 per month for the Hopper and an additional $5–$10 per month for each added receiver.

We think it’s worth the upgrade to the Hopper, though, because 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-cushion chasms 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

  • Mediocre customer service reputation

It’s really not that big of a shock that a major TV provider has inconsistent customer service at best. We pitted DIRECTV and DISH against each other in the customer service department, and DISH falls short on the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI1). From our experience, you can expect longer hold times with DISH’s customer service department.

Dive into our full DISH review for more information on channel selection, Hopper capabilities, and set-up process.

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 comparing just the cable TV service options without any extras added.

Across the board, cable TV providers suffer from poor customer service reviews, so we’ll . . . be grading on a curve.

Xfinity: Best all-around cable provider

xfinity logo
Xfinity cable packages
PlanPriceTV channel countDetails
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.

The good

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

With the Digital Starter package starting at $49.99 per month, Xfinity comes in with the best all-around package 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). It’s also a better bargain than the satellite service (and the next-closest cable TV provider, Spectrum) by about $10 per month.

Light Bulb icon
Record all the shows
The Xfinity X1 DVR can record up to six shows at once and holds up to 100 hours of recorded HD content. Not bad for a cable provider.

Unlike the satellite TV companies, Xfinity offers no-contract plans. It does charge $10 more per month for non-contract services, but we feel like the small bump in price is worth that contract-free flexibility. Also, keep in mind that promotional pricing usually requires a minimum one-year contract.

The bad

  • Additional fees*
  • Poor customer service reputation

Sigh. Fees, amirite?

Xfinity has plenty to watch out for. Regional sports fees ($5 per month), broadcast TV fees ($7 per month), DVR fees ($19.95 per month), additional receiver/multiple TV fee ($9.95 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.

Look, Xfinity offers a lot of great things, but a good customer service experience is just not one of them. And remember, we’re grading on a curve.

According to the ACSI, Comcast has been dead last (or close to it) for the last few years.

To be fair, Xfinity has many brick-and-mortar locations for customer service and our experience dealing with an Xfinity rep. face-to-face was much better than it was over the phone. Unfortunately, these stores aren’t available in all areas, so you may be stuck dealing with them over the phone.

For more details on packages, equipment, and our experience, 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
Spectrum cable packages
PlanPriceTV channel countDetails
TV Select$44.99/mo.^125+View Plan
TV Silver$69.99/mo.^175+View Plan
TV Gold$89.99/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.

The good

  • Cheap starting package
  • Good bargain for premium channels

Remember how XFINITY thought it was so cool offering a starter channel package for $49.99 a month? Well, Spectrum has something to say about that.

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

The Silver TV package gives you access to premium channels like HBO, SHOWTIME, and CINEMAX for a better entry price than any other competitor.

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.

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 information, equipment selection, and more detailed pricing, check out our full review of Spectrum.

Cox: Best for customization

cox communications logo
Cox cable packages
PlanPriceTV channel countDetails
Contour TV$69.99/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.

The good

  • Customizable packages

Cox takes a different approach to cable TV packaging with its “Paks” options. The Contour TV package gives you a preselected channel base (and your choice of one premium channel like HBO). You can then add on Paks of additional channel options.

It’s a pseudo-à-la-carte way to choose the channels that matter most to you.

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 basics like ABC, FOX, and TBS.

We’re still on the fence about this approach. It needs some fine-tuning, in our opinion, but it gives you a little more control over the channels that are included in the price you’re paying.

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.

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 more for its DVR services than competitors like Xfinity, even though both have similar capabilities. Cox charges $19.99 per month for the Record 6-HD DVR, which can record up to six shows at the same time. That’s double the price of Xfinity’s X1 DVR, which does the same thing.

If you want a more thorough rundown of Cox’s channel selection, equipment offerings, and pricing, read our full Cox review.

Best fiber-optic TV service provider

Verizon Fios TV: Best for customer service

Verizon Fios Fastest Internet
Verizon Fios TV packages
PlanPriceTV channel countDetails
Custom TV$64.99/mo.^^VariesView Plan
Preferred$74.99/mo.^^295+View Plan
Extreme$79.99/mo.^^365+View Plan
Ultimate$89.99/mo.^^425+View Plan
^^ plus taxes, equip. charges & other fees

The good

  • Fiber-optic connection
  • No-contract options (with Fios Double Play bundle)
  • Good customer service

Verizon Fios TV uses a fiber-optic connection, which is actually a faster connection than traditional cable—and it’s great if you’re connecting multiple devices and bundling your TV and internet together.

Like Xfinity, Verizon Fios TV offers no-contract options, though you do need to bundle it with internet. This contributes to the higher pricing (see “The bad” section below), but it’s nice not to be tied down if you need to cancel your service.

Price Tag icon
Custom TV packages
You can choose your channel packs according to taste. Keep in mind, however, that most channels that come in the Custom TV package are Standard Definition (not HD).

Verizon Fios TV also has pretty good customer service compared to other TV providers. We were impressed by how helpful and knowledgeable each representative was when we called Verizon’s customer support line (especially after talking to Xfinity).

The bad

  • High prices and additional fees*

Like we said, Verizon Fios TV offers contract-free TV, but that also means its monthly prices are some of the highest around. Verizon also has a lot of additional fees (because of course it does—pretty much all TV providers do).

You’ll pay an extra $13, $18, or $26 per month for a Fios DVR depending on which box you choose. We also uncovered a “one-time charge of $179.99 (plus tax)” deep in the fine print3.

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

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

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.

2019 Top TV streaming providers breakdown
ProviderAdvertised price range*ChannelsDetails
YouTube TV logoYouTube TV$49.99/mo.70+View Plans
hulu logoHulu with Live TV$44.99/mo.
65+View Plans
Sling TVSling TV$25–$40/mo.50+View Plans
FuboTVfuboTV$44.99/mo.70+View Plans
att tv now logoAT&T TV NOW$50–$135/mo.125+View Plans
PlayStation Vue logoPlayStation Vue$44.99–$79.99/mo.95+View Plans

Data effective 11/14/19. Pricing and channel counts are subject to change. Not all offers available in all areas.

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
YouTube TV channel package
PackagesPricingChannelsDetaiils
YouTube TV$49.99/mo.70+View Channels

The good

  • Unlimited cloud DVR
  • Tons of channels

Are you the type of person who never watches anything live?

First of all, good for you. Life is too short to watch commercials all the time. That’s the advantage of YouTube TV. You get unlimited cloud DVR with your subscription, which means you can go record literally anything and everything you want. You should never have to watch another State Farm commercial again.

As for YouTube TV channels, you get a ton to choose from for $49.99 a month. You even get more niche, single-sport channels like NBA TV and the MLB Network.

When you combine the powers of unlimited cloud DVR storage and a strong channel lineup, YouTube is easily one of the best streaming services available. Check out all the other details in our YouTube TV review.

The bad

  • Missing a few key channels
  • Occasionally weird interface

Just the other night, my wife was frantically searching for RuPaul’s Drag Race and what did we discover? YouTube TV doesn’t carry VH1. Needless to say, the household became much more somber after that moment.

Most other streaming services do carry VH1, though, so you can be prepared for when a new episode of Drag Race drops.

And about that cloud DVR. Yes, it’s very cool that’s it’s unlimited, but the recording function can actually be kind of a pain. YouTube TV’s guide only shows what’s currently on and what directly follows, so it can be tricky recording future events.

Hulu with Live TV: Best for binge-watching

hulu logo
Hulu with Live TV channel package
PackagesPricingChannelsDetails
Hulu with Live TV$44.99/mo.65+View Channels

The good

  • Massive on-demand streaming catalog
  • No contracts

Hulu with 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 The Handmaid’s Tale, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, 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, check out our Hulu with Live TV review.

The bad

  • No channel upgrade options
  • Limited cloud DVR

Like YouTube TV, there ain’t much in terms of channel upgrades. It’s a “what you see is what you get” kind of deal. Make sure you like all the Hulu Live channels, because you can’t just add more willy-nilly.

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 Game of Thrones would be enough to fill your storage to the brim. You can upgrade to 200 hours of storage, but it’ll cost you another $14.99 a month. No thank you.

Sling TV: Best value streaming service

Sling TV
Sling TV packages
PackagesPricingChannelsDetails
Sling Orange$25/mo.25+View Channels
Sling Blue$25/mo.45+View Channels
Orange + Blue$40/mo.50+View Channels

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 $25 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.

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 paying just as much as DIRECTV NOW or YouTube TV.

And here’s a hint: those other two streaming services offer more channels and cloud DVR storage than Sling TV. The magic of Sling TV is in the small channel packages (and in your heart).

For $5 more per month, Sling will let you record up to 50 hours of content, but it works only on select devices. Still, this is better than competitors like DIRECTV NOW, which don’t offer livestream recording yet.

Heads Up icon
You can't record everything
Not all channels allow you to record livestreaming. ESPN and Disney content cannot be recorded using Sling’s Cloud DVR.

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 DIRECTV NOW or fuboTV than with Sling.

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 our experience with Sling TV, such as which devices work with Sling, and answer a bunch of FAQ’s in our Sling TV review.

fuboTV: Best streaming service for soccer fans

fuboTV channel package
PackagesPricingChannelsDetails
fubo$44.99/mo.70+View Channels

The good

  • Lots of sports (especially soccer—that is, fútbol)
  • Spanish-speaking and Portuguese-speaking package options
  • Best cloud DVR

For all-around TV, fuboTV is pretty average, but it towers over the competition when it comes to sports—think Patrick Ewing over Muggsy Bogues (yes, that’s a Space Jam reference).

fuboTV especially caters to soccer (fútbol) fans with channels like Fox Soccer Plus, FS1, FS2, Fox Deportes, ESPN Deportes, beIN SPORTS, NBCSN Telemundo, and Univision.

Bullhorn icon
International channel packages
One of our favorite stand-outs for fuboTV is that it offers both a “Latino” package and a “Português” package for Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking audiences.

fuboTV also boasts one of the best cloud DVRs out of all our recommended live TV streaming services. DVR service is included in fuboTV’s monthly price, unlike Sling TV ($5 add-on). The free version allows for only 30 hours of recorded content, but you can upgrade for $10 a month and get up to 500 hours.

The bad

  • Sports-heavy content isn’t for everyone
  • Minimalist interface

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 price with another service.

fuboTV’s minimalist interface leaves something to be desired. Playback timelines for livestreams aren’t always available, so if you haven’t set your stream to record already, you won’t be able to rewind and play back that amazing golazo.

We talk about fuboTV in detail, covering channel add-ons, equipment, pricing, and more, in our fuboTV review.

AT&T TV NOW (formerly DIRECTV NOW): Best overall streaming service

att tv now logo
AT&T TV NOW channel packages
PackagesPricingChannelsDetails
PLUS$50/mo.45+
View Plans
MAX$70/mo.60+View Plans
ENTERTAINMENT$93/mo.65+View Plans
CHOICE$110/mo.85+View Plans
XTRA$124/mo.105+View Plans
ULTIMATE$135/mo.125+View Plans
OPTIMO MÁS$86/mo.90+View Plans

The good

  • Included premium channels on some plans
  • No contracts

AT&T TV NOW offers premium movie channels on the PLUS and MAX packages. Prices for the individual channels on other packages have returned to normal.

AT&T TV NOW add-on price for premium movie channels
HBOCinemaxSHOWTIMESTARZ
$15/mo.$11/mo.$11/mo.$11/mo.

AT&T TV NOW (formerly DIRECTV NOW) is basically DIRECTV over the internet. It offers the most “traditional” tv experience of any live TV streaming option.

Perhaps the biggest selling point for AT&T TV NOW is that you get a full TV experience without the contract or setup fees.

No satellite dish? Check.

No long-term contract? Also, check.

It really makes it easier to stomach some of the higher-priced packages from AT&T TV NOW, because guess what? You can cancel anytime.

The bad

  • Super expensive
  • Limited cloud DVR
  • Inconsistent user experience

Look. AT&T TV NOW offers a ton of content, but it’s not the option you want if you’re looking to save money by cutting the cord. It’s just not. You’ll pay just as much for regular DIRECTV. The only difference is that you’ll get your TV through your internet connection instead of a satellite dish.

AT&T TV NOW has a cloud DVR with 20 hours of storage, which really isn’t much.

We ran into a weird issue when we tried pausing a livestream. It let us pause our show (because when you gotta go, you gotta go), but when we tried to resume, the app skipped us ahead to the livestream.

We ran into this problem only with livestreams and not with on-demand shows and movies.

For a more in-depth breakdown of AT&T TV NOW ’s pricing (formerly DIRECTV NOW), channel selection, and user experience, check out our full review.

PlayStation Vue: Best streaming service interface

PlayStation Vue logo
PlayStation Vue channel packages
PackagesPricingChannelsDetails
Access$44.99/mo.43+View Channels
Core$49.99/mo.55+View Channels
Elite$59.99/mo.78+View Channels
Ultra$79.99/mo.90+View Channels

The good

  • Best user interface
  • Closest feel to satellite or cable

PlayStation Vue’s interface feels much smoother than any other streaming service we’ve tested. It really starts with the attention to detail. PlayStation Vue clearly labels channels and “On Demand” content up in the top right-hand corner of the screen.

This makes it easier to differentiate live content vs. on-demand content and surf for other shows that particular network has to offer.

Pin icon
Don't have a PlayStation?
PlayStation Vue does not require a PlayStation console to use. You can sign up for the service using other set-top boxes like Apple TV and Roku.

We like that you can add shows and networks to your “favorites” by simply clicking the check mark next to the other icons in the top right corner.

It’s these little things, plus the channel offerings, that make PlayStation Vue feel more like a traditional TV service (even though it’s not). You also get free DVR service with PlayStation Vue and can store an unlimited number of shows for up to a month before they get automatically deleted.

We really like the recording features that PlayStation Vue offers, but the downside is that you can only record one show at a time.

The bad

  • High prices
  • Use limited to your in-home network

PlayStation Vue plans aren’t that much cheaper than traditional cable or satellite, so it’s probably not the best option if you‘re cutting the cord to save money. It does offer a 7-day free trial, so you can test it out (two days shorter than any other streaming service), but make sure to cancel by day five or you‘ll be charged for the whole month.

One of the biggest bummers for PlayStation Vue is that it’s limited to your in-home network. PlayStation tracks your IP address and won’t let you sign in from any other IP, so you can forget signing in at your friend’s house for a watch party.

You’ll have to do those dishes after all and host the party yourself.

To get the full rundown on PlayStation Vue, check out or in-depth Playstation Vue review.

Satellite vs. cable vs. livestreaming

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.

Satellite

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.

Money icon
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 downside is that A) you have to have a satellite dish installed on your roof, which can mean extra installation fees, and B) 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

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 generally starts 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.

Livestreaming

Livestreaming, TV’s new kid on the block, has a lot going for it. It’s a more à-la-carte-style approach, so you can pick the programming and price point that fit you best. Live TV streaming provides some of the lowest prices out there while still offering you a lot of the programming you’re looking for.

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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.

Livestreaming 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. Let’s do this together.

Early termination fees

For services like cable and livestreaming 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

  • DIRECTV reigns supreme for NFL fans and HD content. ($35–$110/mo.)
  • DISH has the best pricing and a killer DVR in the Hopper 3. ($59.99–$89.99/mo.)
  • Xfinity offers the best all-around service with affordable pricing, no-contract options, and the X1 DVR. It struggles with customer service, though. ($49.99–$114.99/mo.)
  • Spectrum has good bargain pricing on premium movie channels. ($44.99–$139.99/mo.)
  • Cox’s customizable packages feels almost like à-la-carte cable. ($64.99/mo.)
  • Verizon Fios TV is definitely not cable. Fiber-optic technology gives a fast, reliable network for both TV and internet. ($64.99–$89.99/mo.)
  • YouTube TV has unlimited DVR storage and provides access to a ton of sports and YouTube content. ($49.99/mo.)
  • Hulu with Live TV combines on-demand content, live television, and original content better than anyone. ($44.99/mo.)
  • Sling TV is the best budget streaming service that channels the true spirit of cord-cutting with its low entry prices and sweet cloud DVR. ($25–$40/mo.)
  • fuboTV is the clear streaming leader for sports fans and Spanish- or Portuguese-language content. ($44.99/mo.)
  • AT&T TV NOW offers low-cost premium movie channels and no-contract DIRECTV content. ($50–$135/mo.)
  • PlayStation Vue is the closest thing to traditional satellite or cable, both in terms of user interface and price. ($44.99–$79.99/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 what you’d like us to review in future posts or which TV brands we should add to our comparison.

Sources

Additional contributors

Tyler Abbott, Trevor Wheelwright, Erin Tanner

  • 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.