A growing number of people are cutting the cords, freeing themselves of their traditional, high-cost television packages. In fact, an estimated 33 million people cut the cord in 2018 alone, showing that the cable- and satellite-television exodus continues as people have begun to favor less expensive streaming television providers.
But that doesn’t mean there aren’t compelling reasons to forego the cord-cutting. On the contrary, the fact that so many people are canceling their cable packages have provoked many TV providers to offer some of their best deals yet.
So as it turns out, it’s actually a great time to be on the lookout for the best cable package. Because whether you value a cheap bundle, tons of sports channels, or the most high-tech DVR around, there are several TV providers that are certainly worth considering.
Without further ado, this is our list of the top TV providers in 2019.
How Did We Choose?
The biggest obstacle to creating a best-of list is the fact that quality is subjective. After all, you probably value different things than I value, and that’s especially true when it comes to cable television. So we had to come up with a different way to gauge the top players in cable television so we could identify the ones that are most worthy of your hard-earned dollars.
Our approach was to break this list into categories. Instead of subjectively ranking TV providers based on arbitrary criteria, we decided to highlight the best TV providers based on each provider’s greatest strength(s).
What Are the Best TV Providers of 2019?
It’s inherently difficult to say that one specific TV provider is objectively better than all the rest because every person values something different. Therefore, we’ve highlighted the top TV providers based on what unique value each provider offers. So if you’re looking for a TV provider that offers a great sports package, you’ll probably want to go with DIRECTV. But if you prefer a cheap TV provider that offers great bundles, you should probably take a look at AT&T.
For our list, we have compiled five TV providers that are either (1) best for most people, (2) best for bundling, (3) best for DVR, (4) best for customer service, or (5) best for sports.
Our list of the best TV providers in 2019 goes as follows:
- Best for Most People: Comcast XFINITY
- Best for Bundling: AT&T
- Best for DVR: DISH Network
- Best Customer Service: Verizon
- Best for Sports: DIRECTV
Best for Most People: Comcast XFINITY
When it comes to cable television services, Comcast XFINITY continues to be a staple in the United States. Covering nearly 28 percent of the American population, XFINITY is also one of the most accessible TV providers.
XFINITY is the best TV provider for most people for a few key reasons. First, XFINITY offers a variety of different television plans, so you can easily find a plan that fits your specific budget or that offers the channels you want.
Another benefit to XFINITY is the other services offered, allowing for flexible bundling of multiple services. Currently, XFINITY offers high-speed internet, VoIP landlines, and even mobile plans for your wireless devices that can be bundled with a television package. This gives subscribers the ability to pick and choose services to bundle with XFINITY cable television, which consolidates multiple services into a single monthly bill.
As well, XFINITY cable television is generally quite affordable, particularly if you sign an (optional) one- or two-year contract.
The entry-level cable plan — called Digital Starter, which includes 140 digital channels — costs $59.99 per month; however, signing a one- or two-year contract will reduce the monthly cost by up to $10 for the duration of the contract.
Other plan options include Digital Preferred and Digital Premier: Digital Preferred offers over 200 channels — including Starz, Encore, and TCM — for $69.99 per month before contract discount. Meanwhile, the Digital Premier plan includes over 260 channels with HBO, Cinemax, Showtime, and Starz for $119.99 per month before contract discount. Best of all, when the company’s other services are bundled with the television plan, you can end up paying considerably less than for a television package alone.
Although Comcast XFINITY tends to be a great choice for most people, it’s not without its drawbacks. In particular, subscribers often complain that XFINITY has extremely poor customer support. Additionally, some have expressed disappointment with the unpredictability of their monthly bills, which can fluctuate due to inexplicable charges and price changes.
- Available in 40 states
- Flexible bundle options
- Variety of package options
- Frequent discounts & promotions
- Bill inconsistency
- Poor customer support
If Comcast XFINITY isn’t offered in your area, there are other cable television providers you could consider; however, Charter has the second-widest coverage area after Comcast in addition to very competitive pricing. Cox is another candidate for cable television provider.
Best for Bundling: AT&T
Until recently, AT&T was associated with landline and mobile phones; however, due mostly to acquisitions, the company has recently expanded its service offerings to include home broadband and TV. This makes AT&T arguably the best TV provider for bundling.
The main reason why AT&T is a great TV provider for bundling is because the company offers a few different technologies to choose from. In other words, you’re not restricted to a single type of television package like you would be with a satellite or cable TV provider. Instead, AT&T offers three different types of TV service: AT&T U-Verse TV, DIRECTV, and DIRECTV NOW.
AT&T U-Verse is an internet-based television service, meaning that it requires access to the internet to work. DIRECTV NOW is similarly an internet-based service; however, U-Verse requires a set-top box to work while DIRECTV NOW runs off an app that can be downloaded on supported devices.
Then there’s DIRECTV, which is a conventional satellite television service. This means that you’d need to have a satellite dish and receiver installed in your home to gain access to the DIRECTV television service.
Since there are several different TV services available from AT&T, pricing can vary considerably, especially if you bundle the TV service with one of AT&T’s other services. However, if you’re just looking for TV service, the lowest-cost TV package from AT&T is the entry-level U-Verse plan, which is called U-Basic TV; this package includes 25 channels for just $19 per month. Of course, this doesn’t take equipment and installation fees — which start at $199 and increase based on the number of receivers installed — into consideration.
DIRECTV NOW has a higher starting price than U-Verse at $50 per month. This plan offers over 40 channels and doesn’t have any associated installation or equipment fees. However, all DIRECTV NOW plans include HBO, a premium network that usually incurs an added cost.
Then there’s regular DIRECTV, which requires satellite installation. Depending on the promotion currently available, you can get an entry-level DIRECTV plan for around $49.99 per month; however, since expensive equipment is necessary for you to gain access to DIRECTV television, there’s almost always a contract required.
As you can see, there’s lots of flexibility when you choose AT&T as your TV provider. While you won’t be getting the cheapest TV provider, you’ll certainly have the flexibility that comes with having multiple different TV technologies to choose from and the ability to bundle your TV service with other services. On the other hand, AT&T’s TV services tend to have a higher starting cost than other providers.
Why is AT&T the Best for Bundling?
- Multiple TV services to choose from
- Strong customer service
- Flexible bundle options
- Both contract and contract-free options
Drawbacks to AT&T
- More expensive
- Less bang for your buck
If you’re drawn to AT&T as a TV provider, you’re probably interested in bundling. However, if AT&T’s TV service isn’t available in your area, there are some other bundle-friendly providers you could choose from, especially Verizon and XFINITY continues to offer DSL internet to much of its network.
Best for DVR: DISH Network
The days of TiVo being the only DVR name in town are long gone. Nowadays, every major television provider offers DVR services, freeing us from the shackles of scheduled live television. Instead, we can simply record all our favorite shows and have them stored on our set-top boxes, ready for us whenever we decide to watch them.
But isn’t all DVR the same? Well, not exactly. Though the idea of recording what airs on live TV is the same for all providers’ DVR services, the details vary. In particular, how much content can you record? What’s the quality? Can you stream your recorded shows remotely from your mobile devices, or can you only watch on the television connected to the actual DVR? When it comes to these types of questions, most would agree that DISH Network, a top satellite television provider in the US, has seriously raised the bar in the DVR department.
DISH Network’s “Hopper” line of DVR-capable set-top boxes is the crème de la crème of DVR because of a number of exciting features: First, DISH’s Hopper DVRs can support up to seven TVs, meaning that what you record on one Hopper DVR can be potentially be accessed on any TV in your home. Additionally, the Hopper can record up to 16 different shows… at the same time! Then there’s the fact that the Hopper has built-in technology that makes skipping commercials as easy as pressing a button.
If that wasn’t impressive enough, there’s more. For instance, Multi-View mode lets you watch up to four different shows or recordings at once. The included voice remote makes it extremely easy to find the content you want with just a few spoken words; in other words, no more typing out searches with an on-screen keyboard. With up to 3 terabytes of on-board storage, Hopper can record and store up to 2,000 hours of television, and if you still find it difficult to find something to watch, there’s Netflix and YouTube on the Hopper, too.
Now for the important question: What’s a DVR this high-tech cost? As it turns out, Hopper is actually pretty affordable, especially considering what you get for the price. DISH Network’s entry-level plan is $59.99 per month, which includes 190 channels, a voice remote, and a software-based DVR. However, the Hopper DVR is separate from the software-based DVR that’s included in the plan and runs an additional $15 per month. So if you get the base plan with Hopper DVR, you’re looking at a starting monthly cost of just $74.99. And if you want the top-tier plan — which includes over 290 channels — the base cost is $89.99, or $104.99 with the Hopper.
There aren’t a ton of drawbacks to DISH Network. With an exceptional DVR service, DISH is fairly solid in most other categories, from pricing to customer service. However, one of the chief complaints people have is the lack of flexibility and selection when it comes to plans and channel options.
Why is DISH Network Best for DVR?
- Industry-leading DVR experience
- Reasonable pricing
- Available almost anywhere
- Strong customer service
Drawbacks to DISH Network
- Fewer package and channel options
If an amazing DVR experience is your priority, DISH Network offers great DVR for arguably the cheapest price of all satellite providers. However, if you like DVR but don’t find it to be the most important thing, you might consider comparing some of DISH’s plans to those offered by DIRECTV, a competing satellite television provider.
Best Customer Service: Verizon
Verizon is practically synonymous with great customer service. In fact, Verizon has 22 customer experience awards in a row from J.D. Power & Associates, and has an entire page on the company website dedicated to awards and recognition. So when you subscribe to Verizon’s TV service, you can expect it to be a very pleasant experience. But is that enough to choose Verizon over providers with exceptional DVRs or great sports packages? What else does Verizon have to offer?
Verizon’s TV service, which is called Fios TV, runs on the provider’s fiber optic network, which makes for a great viewing experience with a crystal-clear, high-resolution picture. Especially on high-def channels playing on a 4K television, programming almost has that reach-out-and-touch-it quality. Additionally, Verizon offers what the company refers to as Fios TV Test Drive. Basically, Test Drive is a unique feature that provides all 425 channels that Verizon offers for 60 days, then tells you which channels you watched the most via an accompanying app so you can choose the right package.
The main drawback to Verizon Fios TV is the limited availability. Since it operates on Verizon’s fiber optic network, Fios TV is only available in a limited market, spanning just 10 states and less than 10 percent of the US population.
Why is Verizon the Best for Customer Service?
- Countless awards for customer service and experience
- Variety of bundle options
- Fiber optic network (high resolution)
- Fios TV Test Drive helps you pick the right plan
Drawbacks to Verizon
- Limited availability
If Verizon Fios TV isn’t offered in your area but you prefer a provider with strong customer support, both AT&T and DISH Network are considered to have above-average customer service.
Best for Sports: DIRECTV
I know what you’re thinking… “Wasn’t AT&T already on this list? Isn’t this like giving DIRECTV two slots instead of one?” Sort of. But there are two ways to be a DIRECTV subscriber: directly through DIRECTV, or through AT&T. The latter allows you to bundle AT&T’s other services — i.e. mobile service, home landlines, home broadband — with your DIRECTV service.
Since it launched in the 1990s, DIRECTV has been the biggest name in satellite television. This is in no small part due to the fact that DIRECTV is available in all 50 states, making it the most accessible of the major TV providers. While it has many commendable features — DVR service included with all plans, strong customer service, lots of bundle and packages options — arguably the defining feature of DIRECTV is the impressive sports packages the provider offers.
If you’ve ever been to a sports bar or grille that played sports of their televisions, there’s a good chance that those TVs were playing DIRECTV broadcasting. In particular, the NFL Sunday Ticket is quite popular during football season; however, there’s so much more than just football since the DIRECTV sports package includes more than 50 different sports channels, or substantially more than other providers offer. In fact, some of DIRECTV’s competitors have such limited sports packages then their subscribers must resort to third-party streaming services to compensate for the channels they lack.
Best of all, DIRECTV includes DVR with all plans; much like DISH Network has the “Hopper,” DIRECTV has “the Genie,” which can record up to five different shows or sporting events. Then there’s the fact that DIRECTV has the same reputation for strong customer support that parent company AT&T has had. Additionally, DIRECTV is known for offering a decent variety of plans and packages, which allows subscribers to choose only the channels they need.
The main downside to DIRECTV, at least according to some, is that the price can become somewhat high, particularly if you want to bundle DIRECTV with parent company AT&T’s other services. As well, getting DIRECTV service requires professional installation, which can result in fairly substantially installation fees.
Why is DIRECTV the Best for Sports?
- Available nationwide
- More than 50 sports channels
- Strong customer support
- DVR included in all plans
Drawbacks to DIRECTV
- Expensive installation fees
Although DIRECTV is the top satellite TV provider in the US when it comes to volume of subscribers, there are some other options available. In particular, DISH Network is a strong contender with what is objectively the best DVR service of all in the Hopper.
Ready to Choose a TV Provider?
Choosing a TV provider can be difficult. With so many options available, each with its own benefits and limitations, it can feel like taking shots in the dark. But not any more.
We’re here to help you get the most bang for your buck by helping you to pick the TV provider that best meets your needs. So if you’d like to learn more about any of the providers we’ve covered here, or for information about any other TV providers, contact us today.