How to Choose a Cable Provider

At a glance

Home entertainment can go a long way to transform a house into a home. But many cable TV providers come with year-long contracts, so it’s best to be sure about your choice from the get-go.

The first step to your ideal cable TV plan is determining the providers available in your area—you’ll probably have only three or four providers to choose from. To get started and narrow down your choices, follow our five steps:

  1. Find all your options with CableTV.com’s zip code search tool
  2. Read cable TV provider reviews
  3. Ask your neighbors
  4. Search channel lineups
  5. Select plans with the best prices

We’ll help you through each task so you can find the best provider for your home television.

5 steps to choose a cable TV provider

This is Rachel Oaks dropping by from CableTV.com to help you get settled into your home with the thing I know best—TV. I’ve spent more than three years poring over TV and internet plans, and I want to give you a few quick tips so you don’t have to do the same.

1. Find all your options with CableTV.com’s zip code search tool

Sorry for the shameless self-promotion, but CableTV.com’s zip code search tool is super handy in finding the providers in your area. And CableTV.com doesn’t harvest or spread your info, so your location stays safe. (We don’t want stray cable providers knocking on your door any more than you do.)

Note your satellite TV providers

You’ll probably find that satellite TV providers DISH and DIRECTV are available in your area—they’re accessible almost everywhere in the US.

Keep in mind that DISH and DIRECTV don’t offer internet service, so you’ll need a separate internet provider. For info on finding an internet service provider, see our article “How to Find the Best Internet for Your New Home.”

Consider cable TV providers who offer internet

But unlike satellite TV providers, most cable TV services also provide internet. And if you bundle your TV and internet service with one provider, you can usually score a discount—not a bad way to save time and money while you’re settling into your new place. Check out step 5, “Select plans with the best prices,” to learn more.

Now that you’ve narrowed your choices from every TV provider down to the ones in your area, you can set about finding the best provider and TV plan for you.

2. Read reviews

Skip out on buyer’s remorse—learn the strengths and weaknesses of a cable provider before signing up. The chart below has some reviews to get you started.

CableTV.com reviews for Move.org

ServiceTV plan priceLearn more at CableTV.com
AT&T$55.00–$135.00/mo.View full review
Cox$25.00–$69.99/mo.View full review
DIRECTV$64.99–$134.99/mo.View full review
DISH$59.99–$94.99/mo.View full review
Optimum$74.99–$119.99/mo.*View full review
Sparklight (Cable ONE)$40.00–$84.00/mo.View full review
Suddenlink$54.99–$129.99/mo.*View full review
Verizon$50.00–$90.00/mo.View full review
TV plan price Learn more at CableTV.com
$55.00–$135.00/mo. View full review
$25.00–$69.99/mo. View full review
$64.99–$134.99/mo. View full review
$59.99–$94.99/mo. View full review
$74.99–$119.99/mo.* View full review
$40.00–$84.00/mo. View full review
$54.99–$129.99/mo.* View full review
$50.00–$90.00/mo. View full review

Data as of 08/21/20. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.
*Optimum TV and Suddenlink TV are available only in service bundles, so these price ranges may look more expensive than average.

As you’re looking at reviews, pay attention to prices, customer satisfaction, installation, and equipment. Note anything that strikes you as out of the ordinary, and make sure your TV provider lives up to your standards.

3. Ask your neighbors

Your new neighbors know the local cable TV landscape—see what they think. Whether you chat while grabbing the mail or reach out through the Nextdoor app, you can learn a lot by finding out what the locals think about their TV service.

Cable TV service relies on coaxial cords, which may be newer in some areas than others. Ask your neighbor if they find their service reliable—that is, if their service doesn’t have frequent blackouts or troublesome equipment. They may give you a more detailed picture of the local TV experience that most reviews can’t provide.

4. Review channel lineups

Even the most reliable TV service can be a bummer if it doesn’t have your favorite shows. Before you sign up with a TV provider, make sure to choose a plan with all your most crucial TV channels included.

Cable TV channel lineups

Even the most reliable TV service can be a bummer if it doesn’t have your favorite shows. Before you sign up with a TV provider, make sure to choose a plan with all your most crucial TV channels included.

Heads up exclamation

Why TV providers ask for your address

Why TV providers ask for your address

Heads up—some TV providers will ask for your zip code or address because channel lineups vary by area. If you share your location, you can get the most accurate information on local channels.

5. Find a good price

Once you’ve figured out your TV options, choose a plan that fits your budget. If you want all the details on what TV companies charge for different types of packages, we break down the prices in our article “How Much Does Cable TV Cost?”—but here’s a quick look below.

Average prices for cable TV plans

  • Tier 1 plans (125–190 channels)—$60/mo.
  • Tier 2 plans (175–300 channels)—$75/mo.
  • Tier 3 plans (200–425 channels)—$100/mo.

It can be tricky to identify precisely how TV plans compare to each other since there’s no industry standard. But if you’ve found two different plans with the channels you like, it’s reasonable to go with the cheaper of the two.

Orange exclamation mark

Insider’s tip: be wary of “basic” cable plans

Insider’s tip: be wary of “basic” cable plans

Some cable providers offer “basic” cable plans for around $20 to $25 per month. These cheap plans are usually limited to local channels—which is fine if you just want something you can turn on to tune out from time to time.

But you can pick up those same local broadcasts with a TV antenna, which is a one-time purchase of around $25. After that, you don’t need to worry about monthly payments at all.

If this sounds like a deal you’re interested in, head over to CableTV.com’s “Best Antennas for Cord-Cutters” article. You’ll find a bunch of cost-saving antennas and get help choosing the best one for you.

Bundling with internet

Many TV providers also offer internet, which provides you the convenience of getting only one bill for both services. But even better—these providers often discount your monthly payments if you get both services through them.

These discounts vary by provider, but it’s not unusual to find a deal for $20 off each month. Or your TV and internet provider could include free equipment, extra services, or other sorts of incentives.

Take these savings into consideration when you’re planning where to get your TV service from. You may find that while you like DISH’s and DIRECTV’s channel offerings, their lack of internet service means a bundle plan from a cable provider like Xfinity or Verizon FiOS will save you more in the long run.

Megaphone

Tips for first-time cable TV shoppers:

Tips for first-time cable TV shoppers:

The cable TV industry has a few oddities that can be pitfalls for new shoppers. Keep these tips in mind:

Most TV plans advertise “promotional pricing.” This is the lowest price available for new customers—your monthly bill will likely increase after your first year.
Most TV plans have one- to two-year contracts. If you cancel your TV service before completing your contract, you’ll have to pay an early termination fee.

If these limits are too troublesome for you, keep an eye out for price-for-life or no-contract plans. You may also consider streaming TV as a more flexible option. Read our article “Should I Get Cable or a Stream Service?” for help deciding which is best for you.

About Rachel Oaks

Rachel Oaks
Rachel has spent the past two years at CableTV.com writing articles that demystify hidden fees, DVRs, sound systems, and more. She makes door-to-door DISH and DIRECTV salespeople uncomfortable with her in-depth questions—but if that’s what it takes to get you the best TV experience, she’s happy to do it. In addition to writing for CableTV.com, Rachel’s work has been featured on Roku.com, TechGuySmartBuy.com, HowtoWatch.com, and SatelliteInternet.com.