The Best TV Service – 2018 Buyers Guide

Best for Sports
4.2 out of 5 overall
Best Pricing
4.5 out of 5 overall
Best Cable Provider
3 out of 5 overall
Best Customer Service
3.5 out of 5 overall
Best Budget Streaming
4 out of 5 overall

The Best TV Service – 2018 Buyers Guide

Product Recommended Rating
DIRECTV Best for Sports 4.2 / 5
DISH Network Best Pricing 4.5 / 5
Xfinity_SecGraph_Retailer_BlkBox_rgb Best Cable Provider 3 / 5
Verizon Fios Wordmark Best Customer Service 3.5 / 5
Sling TV Best Budget Streaming 4 / 5
Recent Updates: Less than 6 months
We've reevaluated our top recommendations to consider new TV options such as live TV streaming. You'll see lots of classic options and few new ones, but we've tried to include options for all.

OVERVIEW

The TV industry is changing. We, the viewers, have demanded a more customizable experience for how we consume our favorite sports, shows, and series—and rightfully so. We like what we like, and we want it available for a reasonable price.

2018 top TV service providers breakdown

ProviderService typeAdvertised price range*ChannelsAvailable Offers
DIRECTVSatellite$35–$110/mo.330+View Plans
DISHSatellite$59.99–$89.99/mo.290+View Plans
XfinityCable$49.99–$104.99/mo.260+View Plans
SpectrumCable$64.99–$104.99/mo.200+View Plans
CoxCable$64.99/mo.140+View Plans
Verizon FiosFiber-optic$64.99–$89.99/mo.425+View plans
Sling TVLive streaming$20–$40/mo. 50+View plans
DIRECTV NOWLive streaming$35–$70/mo.120+View plans
PlayStation VueLive streaming$39.99–$74.99/mo.90+View plans
fuboTVLive streaming$14.99–$39.99/mo.70+View plans

Data effective 3/28/2018. Pricing and channel counts are subject to change. Not all offers available in all areas.
* TV providers change their prices more often than we change the channel during commercial breaks. Check out our “Understanding the contract” section below for more information on second-year price hikes, hidden fees, and more.

In response to our outcry, satellite providers, cable TV companies, and internet streaming services have given us more choices than ever before. Congratulations! We did it!

The best TV service providers overall:

  • DIRECTV – Best for sports
  • DISH – Best pricing
  • Xfinity – Best all-around
  • Verizon Fios TV – Best customer service
  • Sling TV – Best budget streaming

Find the best TV providers in your area.

But with all those sweet, sweet choices comes a different kind of problem: sifting through them. It’s a job that can get confusing and overwhelming really quickly when you start to dive into channel selections, availability, and pricing options.

To help you comb through your options, we’ve put together this overview of 2018’s best TV providers and based it on our individual, in-depth reviews of each company. We know that not everyone wants the same thing from their TV provider, so we broke it down by satellite, cable, fiber-optic, and streaming providers. We encourage you to use this as a quick comparison, and dive into our individual reviews for a more thorough rundown of the companies that catch your eye.

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.

The best satellite TV for sports: DIRECTV

DirecTV logoPricingChannelsDetails
SELECT$35/mo. 155+View plan
ENTERTAINMENT$40/mo.160+View plan
CHOICE$45/mo.185+View plan
XTRA$55/mo.235+View plan
ULTIMATE$60/mo.250+View plan
PREMIER$110/mo.330+View plan

The good

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

In the world of live TV, 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 where it’s at if you’re a sports fan. 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, and 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.

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Did you know?

Did you know?

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 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

  • Increased prices 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. That $40 per month you were paying for the ENTERTAINMENT package suddenly increases to $90 per month during year two.

We’re torn on this policy. On the 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 review.

The best satellite TV for pricing: DISH

PricingChannelsDetails
America's Top 120$59.99/mo. 190View Plan
America's Top 120 Plus$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

The good

  • Up-front pricing and cost-effective packages
  • Hopper 3 Smart DVR
  • Amazon Alexa integration

If sports aren’t your first priority, you might be better off with DISH. 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.

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BTW

BTW

DISH’s most basic package includes ESPN, and you don’t have to upgrade like DIRECTV.

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 review for more information on channel selection, Hopper capabilities, and set-up process with DISH.

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. We’re steering clear of the bundled prices for this review and comparing just the cable TV service options as standalones.

Across the board, cable TV providers suffer from poor customer service reviews, so we’re grading on a curve and pitting the companies against each other when it comes to what kind of experience they offer.

The best all-around cable provider: Xfinity

PricingChannelsDetails
Digital Starter$59.99/mo. 190View Plan
Digital Preferred$69.99/mo.190+View Plan
Digital Premier$79.99/mo.240+View Plan

*Xfinity pricing varies by region

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.

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FYI

FYI

The Xfinity X1 DVR can record up to six shows at once and holds up to 100 hours of recorded HD content.

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 this 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 our experience over the phone. Unfortunately, these stores aren’t available in all areas.

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.

Cable TV with no contract at all: Spectrum

Spectrum logoPricingChannelsDetails
Spectrum Select TV$64.99/mo. 125+View Plan
Spectrum Silver TV$84.99/mo.175+View Plan
Spectrum Gold TV$104.99/mo.200+View Plan

The good

  • No-contract service
  • Good bargain for premium channels

After Charter Spectrum combined with Time Warner Cable to create the super cable company Spectrum, we were a little worried that the no-contract option might go down like a goat in a Tyrannosaur paddock. Luckily, Spectrum kept its most redeeming feature, and you can still sign up without being locked into a long-term commitment.

As far as content goes, Spectrum is relatively expensive for what it offers with one key exception. The Silver TV package gives you access to premium channels like HBO, SHOWTIME, and Cinemax for a better entry price than any other competitor ($84.99 per month). So if you’re really into premium channels, Spectrum might be your go-to for the best bargain.

The bad

  • Lack of DVR choice

When we went through the ordering process for Spectrum and got all the way to the check-out, we realized we never got to choose which DVR we wanted. Spectrum offers both Motorola and Cisco DVRs (neither of which stand out from competitor DVRs like the Genie or Hopper 3), and as far as we can tell, you get whichever one Spectrum decides to send you.

Spectrum’s DVR service also records only up to 21 hours of HD footage and can record only two shows at once.

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

Cable TV with more customization options: Cox

Cox Communications LogoPricingChannelsDetails
Contour TV$64.99/mo. 140+View Plan

The good

  • Customizable packages

Cox takes a different approach to cable TV packaging with its “Paks” options. Contour TV gives you a preselected channel base (and your choice of one premium channel like HBO, SHOWTIME, STARZ, or Cinemax). 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.

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 ($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, 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 review.

Best fiber-optic TV service provider: Verizon Fios

PricingChannelsDetails
Custom TV$64.99/mo. Choose your ownView Plan
Preferred HD$74.99/mo.280+View Plan
Extreme HD$79.99/mo.355+View Plan
Ultimate HD$89.99/mo.440+View Plan

The good

  • Fiber-optic connection
  • No annual contract options
  • Good customer service

Technically, Verizon Fios TV uses a fiber-optic connection, which isn’t the same as traditional cable. It looks and feels a lot like normal cable, but it’s actually a faster service—and it’s great if you’re connecting multiple devices and bundling your TV and internet together.

Like Xfinity, Verizon Fios TV offers no annual contract options. 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.

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What is Custom TV?

What is Custom TV?

Verizon offers a Custom TV package that lets you 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 in the realm of TV providers. We were impressed by how helpful and knowledgeable each representative was when we called Verizon’s customer support line. We’ll back up ACSI reporting that says Verizon has some of the best customer service of all TV service providers.

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. You’ll pay an extra $13, $18, or $26 per month for a Fios DVR depending on which box you choose.

Check out more details on what Verizon Fios has to offer in our full review.

*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

  • Sling TV
  • DIRECTV NOW
  • fuboTV
  • PlayStation Vue

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. 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.

The best overall streaming service: Sling

Sling TVPricingChannelsDetails
Sling Orange$20/mo. 25+View Plan
Sling Blue$25/mo.45+View Plan
Orange + Blue$40/mo.50+View Plan

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 $20 per month, the Sling Orange package provides the best bargain around. The closest competitor (PS Vue) costs $10 more for its base package. Granted, Sling TV’s channel selection is smaller, but it also goes for quality over quantity.

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.

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Heads up

Heads up

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 fubo TV 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.

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 full review.

The best streaming service for movies: DIRECTV NOW

PricingChannelsDetails
Live a Little$35/mo. 60+View Plan
Just Right$50/mo.80+View Plan
Go Big$60/mo.100+View Plan
Gotta Have It$70/mo.120+View Plan

The good

  • Bargain-priced premium movie channels
  • No contracts

DIRECTV NOW offers premium movie channel add-ons for ridiculously low prices—lower than the individual channels themselves, in fact.  

DIRECTV NOW add-on price for premium movie channels

  • HBO — $5/mo.
  • Cinemax — $5/mo.
  • SHOWTIME — $8/mo.
  • STARZ — $8/mo.

Five bucks a month to watch the Mother of Dragons lay waste to all of Westeros? Yes, please! DIRECTV NOW is a cord-cutting premium-channel lover’s dream.

Perhaps the biggest selling point for DIRECTV NOW is that you get a DIRECTV experience without the contract or setup fees. There’s no need to install a satellite dish, so you don’t have to pay for that, and though the streaming service isn’t quite as robust as its satellite counterpart, you don’t have to sign a contract. It really makes it easier to stomach some of the higher-priced packages from DIRECTV NOW because, guess what? You can cancel anytime.

The bad

  • No DVR (cloud DVR forthcoming)
  • Inconsistent, sometimes buggy user experience

You can stream, sure, but can your record your shows? The answer: not yet. DIRECTV NOW is reportedly coming out with a cloud DVR later this year. So we’re keeping our popcorn-buttered fingers crossed that it happens, and we anticipate this becoming a point in DIRECTV NOW’s favor. But for now, you still can stream only live TV or watch on demand.

We ran into a weird issue when we tried pausing a live stream. It let us pause our show (because when you gotta go, you gotta go), but when we tried to resume and pushed play, the app skipped us ahead to the live stream. We ran into this problem only with live streams and not with on-demand shows and movies, We’re hoping this issue goes away when the cloud DVR feature launches, We’ll see. Right now it makes for a somewhat buggy experience.

For a more in-depth breakdown of DIRECTV NOW’s pricing, channel selection, and user experience, check out our full review.

The best streaming service for sports: fuboTV

FuboTVPricingChannelsDetails
fubo Premier$34.99/mo. 62+View Plan
fubo Latino$14.99/mo.13+View Plan
fubo Português$19.99/mo.6+View Plan

The good

  • Lots of sports (especially soccer—that is, fútbol)
  • Latino and Português package options
  • Best cloud DVR

For all-around TV, fubo 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). fubo especially caters to soccer (fútbol) fans with channels like Fox Soccer Plus, FS1, FS2, Fox Deportes, ESPN Deportes, beIN SPORTS, NBCSN Telemundo, and Univison.

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The more you know

The more you know

One of our favorite stand-outs for fubo is that it offers both a Latino package and Português package for Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking audiences.

fubo also boasts the best cloud DVR out of all our recommended live TV streaming services. DVR service is included in fubo’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, fubo is pretty average when it comes to other TV offerings, and you’ll probably get more non-sports for the price with another service.

fubo’s minimalist interface leaves something to be desired. Playback timelines for live streams 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 full review.

The best streaming service interface: PlayStation Vue

PlayStation Vue logoPricingChannelsDetails
Access$39.99/mo. 43+View Plan
Core$44.99/mo.55+View Plan
Elite$54.99/mo.78+View Plan
Ultra$74.99/mo. 90+View Plan

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.

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Pro tip

Pro tip

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 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 5-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 review.

Best TV service providers recap

  • DIRECTV reigns supreme for sports fans and HD content.
  • DISH has the best pricing and a killer DVR in the Hopper 3.
  • Xfinity offers the best all-around service with affordable pricing, no-contract options, and the X1 DVR. It struggles with customer service, though.
  • Spectrum has good bargain pricing on premium movie channels,
  • Cox’s customizable packages feels almost like à-la-carte cable.
  • Verizon Fios TV is definitely not cable. Fiber-optic technology gives a fast, reliable network for both TV and internet.
  • DIRECTV NOW offers low-cost premium movie channels and no-contract DIRECTV content.
  • Sling TV is the best overall streaming service that channels the true spirit of cord-cutting with its low entry prices and sweet cloud DVR.
  • fuboTV is the clear streaming leader for sports fans and Spanish- or Portuguese-language content.
  • PlayStation Vue is the closest thing to traditional satellite or cable, both in terms of user interface and price.

What you should know about TV service

What is a TV service provider?

TV service providers are companies that make it possible for you to get television programming in your home. Whether you like sports, movies, or other entertainment, you need some sort of connection to access your favorite content.

Types of TV service

  • Satellite
  • Cable
  • Fiber optic
  • Digital streaming (requires internet connection)

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.

Satellite vs. cable vs. live streaming

Satellite, cable, and live streaming 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.

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 you have to have a satellite dish installed on your roof, which can mean extra installation fees. And 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 football 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, cable.

And even though the monthly price generally starts off higher than satellite, you won’t see the same kind of second-year price hikes with cable. This makes it easier to budget for up front since you won’t be falling for sweet promotional deals that come back to haunt your bank account in 12 months. Also, because cable doesn’t require contracts, you have a lot more flexibility than satellite. Unfortunately, if you live in a rural area, you may not have cable as an option.

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.

The big downside to livestreaming so far is simply that your channels and options are more limited with streaming services. 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 also 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, streaming services might not be an option for you. Internet service is separate from the cost you pay for your livestreaming service.

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, the consumers, 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 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, DIRECTV charges $20 a month 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 cool $180 plus a $15 deactivation 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 a higher price than expected.

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.

Cheapest TV provider

Here’s a list of our recommended TV providers ranked from cheapest to most expensive per month.

  • fuboTV — Live streaming ($14.99–$39.99 per month)
  • Sling TV — Live streaming ($20–$40 per month)
  • DIRECTV NOW — Live streaming ($35–$70 per month)
  • DIRECTV — Satellite ($35–$110 per month)
  • PlayStation Vue — Live streaming ($39.99–$74.99 per month)
  • Xfinity — Cable ($49.99–$104.99 per month)
  • DISH — Satellite ($59.99–$89.99 per month)
  • Cox — Cable ($64.99 per month)
  • Verizon Fios — Fiber-optic ($64.99–$89.99 per month)
  • Spectrum — Cable ($64.99–$104.99 per month)

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.)

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 we should add to our comparison.

Sources:

1.     American Customer Satisfaction Index,  “Wireless Competition Boosts Customer Satisfaction While Pay TV Fades

  • 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.