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Find the Best TV Service for You
More people are staying home lately because of various COVID-19 stay-at-home mandates, leaving people all over the U.S. with a lot more time to catch up on their favorite TV series. If you don't already have TV service or are looking to upgrade, this guide provides an introduction to the best TV providers near you, including information on the TV packages and features they offer, to help you choose the best TV service for your home.
Types of TV Service
There are so many different connection types for TV service these days, including cable TV, satellite TV, fiber TV and Internet Protocol TV (IPTV). Let's take a look at each connection type, along with their advantages and disadvantages.
In the post-antenna world, cable became a popular way to get TV into your home. It requires buried cables to connect to your house, so it isn’t available everywhere, but it’s a common option in more built-up areas. You can customize your cable service based on the channels you want available.
Because signals travel from satellites that orbit the earth, satellite TV is available just about anywhere. All you need is a dish installed on your house to receive the signals. Like cable, you build out your service by selecting channel packages. The downside to satellite is that the signals can be interrupted during bad weather, making it somewhat less reliable than cable.
A sister technology to cable, fiber TV is brought to you through cables that run underground. But it’s a step up from cable or satellite TV because fiber cables transmit superior digital images and sound. However, in order to receive fiber service, you need to live in an area where cables have been installed.
A newer option in the mix, IPTV stands for Internet Protocol TV and comes to you however you get your internet. While most people are familiar with streaming services like Netflix and Disney+, IPTV actually allows you to watch current episodes of your favorite shows on demand (as opposed to only syndicated shows and movies), as well as live TV. IPTV is available to anyone who has a high-speed internet connection, regardless of the provider or internet type.
You can access high-definition (HD) programming with IPTV, but you may have to purchase a separate antenna. Another downside is that IPTV may provide fewer channels.
Summary of the Best TV Providers
|PROVIDER||PRICE RANGE||TV CHANNEL RANGE||CONNECTION TYPE|
|$49.99 – $89.99/mo.||125-425+||Fiber|
What Providers Offer Cheap TV Service?
Television providers are often required to provide a basic service option before any additional programming is added. Here are a few of the cheapest TV service options available:
- Sling TV service is available as low as $30/mo. for either its Orange or Blue package options.
- Cox’s TV Starter package, which includes over 10 channels, costs $25/mo.
- Orby TV offers satellite packages starting at $40/mo., with no contract required.
Additional TV Provider Details
- One year of HBO
- NFL SUNDAY TICKET with Choice and Ultimate packages
Prices subject to change.
- Features: Get a year of HBO included in your TV package, and even get NFL Sunday Ticket when you sign up for the Choice and Ultimate packages.
- Additional costs: The Choice package includes 85 HD channels, while the Ultimate package offers 115, making DIRECTV a popular option for sports fans. That said, you’ll need to pay $10 extra to get regional sports.
- Best for: Sports fans who are okay with paying a bit extra to get premiere access to all of their favorite regional sports.
- Our take: DIRECTV’s packages are reasonably priced, but prices do tend to creep up when you add up the extras. The low-end package for basic cable channels is available for $49.99, but with movie streaming services and regional sports packages on top, you could easily end up spending over $70, even for the basic TV channels with standard definition. DIRECTV also requires two-year agreements, with advertised prices increasing after the first year.
- DVR and Google Voice Remote
- 30 premium channels in first three months
Prices subject to change.
- Features: DISH offers a good range of packages starting at $60. With DISH, you can also take your live, recorded or on-demand channels with you anywhere through your laptop, tablet or smartphone.
- Additional costs: You can add TV Outdoors to your current package for $7/mo. and get an HD receiver and satellite antenna for taking TV on the road.
- Best for: DISH is a great service for TV fans who don't want to miss any of their favorite shows since its Hopper 3 DVR lets you record 16 shows at once, or take the game with you in the car, so you never miss a touchdown.
- Our take: DISH gets a lot of mileage out of its DVR box, the Hopper 3, which powers most of the special features DISH can offer. However, it takes a backseat in terms of sheer volume of channels.
- 4K HD
- Multi-room DVR with voice control
Prices subject to change.
- Features: Verizon says fiber-optic service brings in a picture with four times the details of HD, as well as broader and deeper ranges of color in 4K HD. Beyond that, Verizon comes equipped with multi-room DVR with voice control, and you can access YouTube and Netflix content from the channel guide. Users can access content remotely through the Fios TV mobile app.
- Additional fees: It’ll cost you $99 in setup fees. The first set-top box is included with the top two tiers of service. Below that, you have to pay $12/mo. for the set-top box and $15/mo. for the router.
- Best for: Anyone who can access fiber.
- Our take: Fiber-optic TV is still a pretty new game, but Verizon seems to do it well. A superior channel offering at a reasonable price sets these guys apart already, and beyond that, they let you test drive the full gamut of channels for 60 days while you decide which ones you’d prefer.
- Contour TV
Price subject to change.
- Features: Cox is a cable TV provider that offers basic cable starting at $25, which includes 10+ channels. From there, you can add on channel packages that suit you, or get Contour TV, a cable box that offers over 140 live and on-demand channels for $69.99.
- Additional costs: The DVR costs between $12.99 to $29.99, in addition to the cost of your cable package, and 4K and HD receivers are an extra $4 to $10. Even if you have your own DVR, using it with Cox will cost you $2.99/mo.
- Best for: People that want a basic, no-frills TV service, since 10 channels for $25/mo. is a good option. Techies and cinephiles alike will love the capabilities of the all-in-one Contour service.
- Our take: Contour brings all your shows available through your streaming apps and live TV into one place (rather than having to toggle between apps), and then finds the show you want through voice command.
- 50+ channels
- Premium Pass includes Showtime, STARZ and EPIX
Prices subject to change.
- Features: Sling TV offers two packages of channels: Sling Blue and Sling Orange. Both of the channel sets include 50+ channels worth of TV, and both cost $30/mo., but they feature different channels. Orange has specialty channels like ESPN and Disney, while Blue features more news options and local channels. If you decide you need both Orange and Blue, you’ll pay $45/mo.
- Additional costs: You can also add on the Premium Pass for $24/mo., which includes Showtime, STARZ and EPIX. If you’re watching on your computer or smart TV, you don’t need any accessories to watch Sling, you just download the app or watch online. You may need an adapter to watch it on your TV.
- Best for: Cord cutters who are looking for a month-to-month service free from contracts will appreciate the options available with Sling.
- Our take: Sling is part of the IPTV revolution that’s set to change the way we watch TV. As internet connections become faster and more common, people don’t need to rely on satellite and cable to bring entertainment into their homes. Streaming services like Netflix and Disney+ have been offering cheap access to many series, some of them even just a week after the date they air on TV, giving many subscribers the impetus they needed to cut the cable cord for good. But IPTV offers something on demand can’t: live TV content, including sports and newscasts.
Alternatives to Traditional TV Providers
You don't have to sign up with one of these TV companies to watch TV — there are other ways to watch if you're willing to be inventive with how you access content.
Pick up a cheap antenna and play with different locations inside your home to see which picks up the channels you want. Some antennas can even pick up HD channels.
Live TV streaming
Sling TV is an example of live streaming TV, but it’s not the only one. Check out offerings on YouTube TV, Amazon Prime Video and Hulu to see which works for you. Some networks also put your favorite shows online for your viewing pleasure, like NBC does with its free app.
The best known on-demand option is Netflix — you can access tons of on-demand movies and series by signing up for a monthly subscription. Amazon Prime Video and Disney+ are two other popular options.
Frequently Asked Questions About TV Providers
- What TV providers are in my area? On-demand and streaming TV are available anywhere you live inside the U.S., as long as you have an internet connection. Cable, satellite and fiber-optic options will depend on which providers are active in your area. To find out your options for TV providers, enter your ZIP code here.
- What is the best alternative to cable TV? There are lots of alternatives to cable TV. Fiber TV may offer better picture and sound than your cable offering, but it isn’t available everywhere. If you’re interested in a lighter package with less commitment, check out your IPTV options like Hulu or Sling.
- How can I get basic TV for free? Depending on where you live, you may be able to pick up some channels using just an antenna, which will cost you nothing after the original purchase. Some people even make antennas at home using things from around the house. You can also check out your favorite network's website to find all kinds of content you can stream for free.
- How do I choose a TV provider? Check out all the options based in your area and compare channel offerings, bundling promos and package prices to choose what will work best for you.