Best Cable TV Services

Updated September 2020
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

10 Models Considered
8 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
523 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Choosing the best cable TV service

Last Updated September 2020

Today, over 73% of residences in the United States have access to a cable television service. And dedicated television service is offered by more than just “traditional” cable franchises: viewers can often choose to subscribe to cable channels through a fiber optic provider or a satellite TV company operating in the same region as the cable company.

In short, it’s a great time to be a cable TV subscriber.

Those looking for a cable TV service may have a huge array of options available to them even when they only have one provider in their area. How do you pick the right service and get exactly the channels that you want? Read on for our guide to choosing the best cable TV service and enter the fray ready to get the best deal on the right bundle for your needs.

Customer satisfaction ratings do matter when it comes to cable TV services. Check ratings from independent services to see which cable service does a better job at helping their customers.

Researching cable TV services

In large metropolitan areas, more than one cable TV service may be available to residents and businesses. That’s a good thing when it comes to price because the services are competing with each other for subscribers.

Small towns and rural areas, on the other hand, may have only one cable TV service operating in their region. This can limit the amount a subscriber will save on cable service because prices for that service are pretty much set.

Find out what cable TV services are in your area

An online search is the fastest way to find out which cable TV providers are operating in your area. If you don’t yet have internet service hooked up, however, you’ll need to find available providers in a couple of other ways. Use your smartphone to look up providers or contact the local library or city hall.

Getting a list of providers will give you a good idea of the options available in your area.

Always consider a bundle

To stay competitive, cable TV providers try to add offerings that stand out from rivals. The most common of these offerings is the bundle: a selection of cable channels that are geared toward viewers’ specific interests, combined with internet service and landline phone service. The introductory price of a bundle is often the same or lower than the price of cable TV service alone. This is typically called a triple play bundle, and for first-time customers it can be a great deal, giving them fast internet speeds of 25 to 50 megabits per second (Mbps) and a home phone line.

Bundles typically have different channel options — you may want all of the sports channels available in your region, for example. Or perhaps you want to watch Spanish-language television, or a family member wants to see news from India. Maybe you want to save money and only need to watch local news and prime-time shows.

You can also select different internet speeds, adding to or subtracting from the cost of a bundle.

Triple play — or quad play?

Some cable services throw in other bundle options, such as home security monitoring, or value-added specials, such as on-screen caller ID, for little to no extra cost. You may even be able to subscribe to a wireless plan through a cable TV service and pay for it all on the same bill, a feature sometimes called quad play.

All these options are great, and the bundle is the best way to experience them. There are a few catches, however, which we’ll cover below.

A sports channel package may include access to a regional sports network (RSN), which focuses on specific pro sports franchises or collegiate conferences like the Pac-12.

Common mistakes to avoid

Mistake #1: You don’t review all the bundles before buying

Doing just a quick scan of available channels in a package can lead to annoying and costly mistakes. For example, you may see two or three sports channels listed in a lineup and think that this is the right bundle, but then you miss the sports-specific channel bundle farther down the list, the one that has ten or more sports channels! It’s the same with international channels: you may see a couple of Spanish-language channels in the standard lineup, but the cable TV service may offer an international package with channels from all over Latin America, Korea, India, and more.

Mistake #2: You forget when the contract or introductory period ends

Cable TV bundles are a really great deal, especially in areas where there is a lot of competition from multiple providers. The catch is that after the introductory period ends — anywhere from a few months to a couple years — those cost savings are removed and your cable bill can double or triple instantly. Mark the final month of your introductory period or contract and set a reminder to contact the cable provider — or its competitor — and negotiate a new service contract.

Mistake #3: You don’t shop around

If you fail to check the cable TV service rates and bundle prices from every available provider in your area, you may miss out on some great pricing deals. In fact, it’s possible to see a bundle offer by one competitor and bring that price to the cable TV service you really like to see if they’ll match or beat it.

Mistake #4: You purchase options you don’t need

Getting the cable channels you want is the ideal goal when buying cable TV service. But you can easily subscribe to far more channels than you actually need. Adding several premium channels that you don’t watch regularly can cause the cost of a subscription to jump $45 or more.

Be cautious with triple- and quad-play options, too. Most home users don’t need 100 Mbps internet service; 50 Mbps is plenty of bandwidth for most surfing and WiFi demand. If you’ve already got a home security service from a separate provider, you probably don’t need the same service from a cable company. If you like the wireless company you’re currently subscribed to, there’s no need to try out a new service.

DID YOU KNOW?

Cable TV services have upgraded their technology to deliver fast broadband internet speeds, up to 200 Mbps, alongside the TV signal.

DID YOU KNOW?

High-definition (HD) channels are the default option for cable TV services, while 4K channels may cost more, if available.

Tips

  • Ask for any specials or deals being offered by a cable TV service provider.
  • Check your mail for special offers. These are regularly sent out by competing cable companies. Ask the cable provider if they’ll match a competitor’s offer.
  • Don’t pay extra for 4K channels if you don’t have a 4K/HDR-compatible TV.
  • Take advantage of the cable company’s streaming app. It may allow you to view TV channels and on-demand movies even when traveling.
  • Speak to a customer retention representative when negotiating a new TV package. This person can offer a better range of packages and deals than a customer service rep.
  • Consider purchasing your own cable modem. It can save you quite a bit of money in equipment rental fees if you don’t rent a modem from the cable TV provider.
  • Don’t be afraid to lock into a contract term of a year or two. This is the way to access the best pricing deals on cable TV.
  • Select a package with your favorite channels. Most US subscribers get over 200 channels but only watch about 20. Resist the temptation to pay for the largest channel package.
A big bonus in having cable TV service is that the subscription gives you access to streaming apps from many of the broadcasters and cable channels, accessible on your tablet or smartphone, at no extra cost.

FAQ

Q. Can I get local access channels through a cable TV service?
A.
Cable TV providers are required to provide local access channels in their service area. These are the community access TV stations you may see listed in your local paper or promoted at city hall. Until recently, when online video streaming became popular, these stations were only available through cable TV services. They’re a good resource for watching city council meetings from home, along with lots of random citizen-generated broadcasts.


Q. I’m already on an introductory contract, but I found a channel bundle that has more of the channels I want to watch. Can I change without a penalty?
A.
Many cable TV services today will allow you to shift to a different channel bundle without a penalty. Make sure to ask them to keep the pricing within the introductory rate and have them confirm the monthly price before you commit to any changes.


Q. What if I want to cancel a cable TV service contract?
A.
If you’re still under a specific contract term for special pricing, you will probably pay a penalty for canceling or switching to a new cable TV service. The penalty varies by provider and may be higher if you cancel early in the contract. (In many states, however, you have a set period of at least three days after signing a contract to cancel it without penalty.) Check the terms and conditions of canceling. They’re available online, or the cable TV provider will email them to you or even read them over the phone to you if needed.


Q. What is TV Everywhere?
A.
TV Everywhere is a pretty cool offering that you can get from almost every cable TV service in the US. Through an app installed on your smartphone or tablet, you can watch many of the same cable channels on a mobile device that you get on your TV at home. There’s usually a good selection of on-demand content, too. It’s included in most packages at no extra cost.

The team that worked on this review
  • Bronwyn
    Bronwyn
    Editor
  • Ciera
    Ciera
    Digital Content Producer
  • Jennifer
    Jennifer
    Writer
  • Melinda
    Melinda
    Web Producer

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