If you’re a tech fan who wants a traditional TV service with some new technology perks . . . then Charter’s Spectrum TV isn’t for you.
Spectrum is for people who don’t like contracts, don’t need a lot of cool extras from their cable provider, and want only a few premium channels included in their package. If all you care about is watching Game of Thrones and maybe catching Iron Chef once in a while, then Spectrum will give you that without making you sign on for two years.
Prices and packages for Spectrum TV
Expect to pay more per channel than with similar providers.
If you want to skip the classic cable TV contract, you might have to pay a little extra. Expect to pay more per channel with Spectrum than you would with other providers. For example, you’ll pay as little as $0.25 per channel with AT&T U-verse’s base package, whereas Spectrum’s base TV-only package will cost you $0.52 per channel (for advertised channels, anyway. Actual number of channels depends on where you live).
Think of it as the price you pay for not being locked into an agreement. And sometimes, with persistence, you can negotiate a better cable package overall, which could lower your per-channel cost and make Spectrum more appealing.
Spectrum TV packages
|Spectrum TV Select||$64.99/mo.||125+||View Plan|
|Spectrum TV Silver||$84.99/mo.||175+||View Plan|
|Spectrum TV Gold||$104.99/mo.||200+||View Plan|
We also want to note that although Spectrum’s cost is higher per channel, your total monthly bill will probably be lower than with other providers. Most other providers require a 24-month contract—sometimes with price hikes in the middle—and if you cancel early, you have to pay termination fees that can cost over $100.
For example, AT&T U-verse charges termination fees up to $180. Competitor DISH charges termination fees as high as $460. At least with Spectrum, you avoid the contract hassle.
Plus, Spectrum includes HBO, Showtime, and Cinemax in its Spectrum TV Silver package, which makes it a pretty good deal. You can always get premium channels as add-ons with other providers, but most don’t start including premium channels in their packages until much higher price points, if at all. Charter Spectrum gives you some premium content at a lower package price point.
|Spectrum (Charter)||Spectrum TV Silver||$84.99/mo.||HBO, Showtime, Cinemax|
|DIRECTV||PREMIER||$125/mo.||HBO, Showtime, Cinemax, STARZ|
|Comcast Xfinity||Digital Premier||$104.99/mo.||HBO, Showtime, Cinemax, STARZ|
Charter Spectrum channel lineup
First up, we want to emphasize that Spectrum channel offers vary by location. In the address we used for Spectrum service, we discovered the Spectrum TV Silver package listed 232 channels, even though the advertised number is 175+. So you might be pleasantly surprised with what you get.
Another perk: HD channels come free with Spectrum, and it offers 1,500 options, which is more than any other provider. So if you’re all about that high definition life, you might appreciate the broader range.
Almost all the popular channels
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If you already have a contract with a TV service provider and want out, Spectrum has a deal. Spectrum is currently offering a contract buyout of up to $500 when you buy qualifying Triple Play or Double Play bundles. That 500 bucks will cover most termination fees.
All Charter Spectrum packages include the most popular cable channels, with the exception of Adult Swim, which other providers like Comcast and DISH do include.
We’re sad to say you’ll have to watch Rick and Morty somewhere else. Charter’s packages also don’t include popular Spanish language programming, such as Univision and Telemundo. It does offer a “Latino View” package for an extra $7.99 per month if you want to get your telenovela on.
The DVR is extra
Spectrum does not include DVRs in its package pricing. (Spectrum’s biggest competitor, AT&T U-verse, does.) Expect to pay an extra $11.99 per month for a single DVR receiver. Want two receivers? That’ll be $19.99 per month. After that though, the price stays steady for up to four receivers. So if you have four TVs, you can get a receiver for each one and still pay only $19.99 per month.
Equipment & features
Really invested in your DVR equipment? Spectrum may seem limited.
If you’re looking for an area in which Charter Spectrum really shines, surprise! DVR is not it. Spectrum offers basic DVR equipment with either Motorola or Cisco/Scientific Atlantic receivers. Which one will you get? Who knows. Charter doesn’t advertise it, and you don’t get to choose.
|DVR||HD recording hours||# of recording streams|
|Spectrum Motorola DVR||21||2|
|DISH Hopper 3||500||16|
|TiVo Bolt Plus||450||6|
Plus, you get up to only 100 digital hours of recording, and it might be less than that depending on which DVR model you get. Charter comes off looking pretty sad when you compare its DVR stats to our favorite DVR, the Hopper 3, which has 2,000 hours of standard definition (SD) recording. If you compare hours of HD recording, the comparison looks even worse, with the DISH Hopper 3 offering 500 hours and Spectrum’s Motorola DVR capping out at 21.
If you need more storage than Spectrum’s meager 100 hours (max), you’ll have to order an external hard drive and set it up. But quite frankly, that seems too complicated to us when alternative DVRs offer so much more without you having to add extra hardware.
Call in to find out if there are installation discounts in your area. We’ve seen $15 discounts in many locations.
If you still want to go with Spectrum’s DVR, we suggest you get some extra DVR receivers to record additional shows. We would say it depends on how many shows you want to record at once, but Spectrum’s standard DVR allows only two simultaneous show recordings. That is unimpressive at best.
Other than its disappointing DVR situation, Spectrum is a standard cable TV service. It does charge an installation fee of $49.99, which is common with cable providers. However, you wouldn’t pay an installation fee at all with satellite providers DISH and DIRECTV. (See our in-depth comparison of satellite vs. cable service to see more pros and cons of each.)
Check out our full DVR comparison for more details.
Spectrum offers below-average customer service.
The tough truth is, we have yet to encounter a cable TV provider that offers awesome customer service. Every company’s customer service is pretty “meh,” and Charter is no exception. Our favorite source of unbiased customer service scores, the American Customer Service Index (ACSI), ranks Spectrum pretty low.
According to the ACSI index, Spectrum customer service is lackluster, even by TV service provider standards. It ranks just above Comcast, but far below AT&T’s U-verse, as well as satellite providers DIRECTV and DISH1.
Spectrum does at least offer a service arrival guarantee, which might give you a better installation experience. Cable TV providers are notorious for making customers wait around all day for installation technicians who never seem to show.
Spectrum promises your installation technician will show up within the designated window, and if they don’t, you get a $20 statement credit. So at least if you take the morning off work and end up waiting around all afternoon, you’ll get a $20 credit on next month’s bill for the trouble.
The bottom line—should you consider Spectrum?
Spectrum TV works best for people who want basic service with no contract.
However, Spectrum is great for people who don’t want to be locked into a contract. It doesn’t require a 24-month commitment from you in order to get TV service. And Charter Spectrum packages are simple, so you can get the channels you want without a hassle. If you just want basic cable service without a ton of bells and whistles and with no binding commitments, then Spectrum could work for you.
Recommended package: Spectrum TV Silver
If you want to give Spectrum TV a shot, we recommend the Spectrum TV Silver package. You get at least 175 channels, including all the most popular ones (minus Adult Swim), plus premium channels HBO, Cinemax, and STARZ.
Recommended alternative: Sling TV
If you don’t want to sign a contract but still don’t think Spectrum sounds like a good fit for you, consider streaming services like Sling TV. Sling is a live TV streaming service from DISH and allows you to watch popular channels through a monthly subscription, similar to the way Netflix and Hulu work. And you can watch on basically every device.
Tell us what you think
Do you have Spectrum service? How has your experience been? We’d love to hear from you!
1. American Customer Service Index, “ACSI Telecommunications Report 2017”