Cable and satellite companies curate content to offer a variety of channels, and they deliver this content to customers through a variety of technologies. Cable television services are delivered using cable strung along power lines or buried underground, while satellite TV service is beamed to a satellite dish located on the property, which then sends content to the television set.
Where you live and which types of programs you prefer to watch are important factors to consider when deciding between cable and satellite TV. Save money by looking for locked-in rates and/or by bundling your TV with Internet and/or home phone service.
Top 10 Best Rated Cable & Satellite TV Providers
Mediacom has been serving small town America since 1996 offering 200+ HD channels, internet, in-home WiFi & innovative technology like TiVo®. You can get TV, internet & phone service bundled together, on 1 bill from 1 provider.
|Read 1344 Reviews|
MetroNet is a provider of fiber optic communication services headquartered in Evansville, Ind. They bring high-speed internet and other fiber services to communities across the state with online and local stores.
|Read 11 Reviews|
DIRECTV is one of the most well-known satellite TV providers. It currently offers almost 200 HD channels to consumers throughout the United States and Latin America, and has outranked cable TV in customer service for 14 years.
|Read 13793 Reviews|
Founded in 1973, Cablevision offers advanced digital television among their line-up of services to residents and businesses of the greater New York area. Cablevision also has news channels formatted for New York viewers.
|Read 416 Reviews|
RCN offers digital programming for homeowners as well as a wide range of business networking services. Its home entertainment services include video on demand, as well as Internet, video streaming and digital television services.
|Read 101 Reviews|
Cable ONE is one of the oldest cable companies in the United States, offering its services since 1986. Today, it serves customers in 19 states from its Arizona corporate headquarters and sends out monthly customer service surveys.
|Read 177 Reviews|
Cox is one of the largest cable companies in the United States. It considers itself an ethical company and offers a code of ethics on its website so that customers can understand the values it is founded on and carries out.
|Read 811 Reviews|
Comcast Cable, also known as Xfinity, offers a wide variety of services including cable television, Internet, smart home and home protection. Customers can purchase bundled services or select only several services as they require.
|Read 4476 Reviews|
Founded in 1996, WOW! is a digital cable provider operating in the Southeast and Midwest United States. By using customer feedback, WOW! offers a smaller lineup of channels that most customers will actually watch.
|Read 129 Reviews|
Broadstripe is a smaller cable service that provides local service to consumers in Anne Arundel County in Maryland. Services include cable television, Internet and phone for both residential and business customers.
|Read 81 Reviews|
What features matter most?
Cable companies offer a large selection of channels and programs for customers. Companies must make arrangements with individual broadcast networks to gain access and curate deliverable content for their subscribers.
- Standard channel packages: Different service providers contract with different networks, and customers should make sure to get a package that covers the standard television channels they enjoy, including the traditional network channels.
- On-Demand availability: Most paid television service providers include on-demand content as part of their package. Customers can choose to pay extra and gain access to a variety of television shows and movies when they want to enjoy the entertainment.
- Movie exclusives: After movies leave the theater, and before they hit DVD release, they may show up on a provider's pay-per-view option. Customers should check out the title selection on these streaming rentals to find exclusive access to popular new movies.
The surrounding weather and the number of customers using a company's internet or cable feed can have an impact on reliability. Blank TV channels and slow connections can shape the reputation for a company's reliability.
- Weather interference: Both cable and satellite television services can falter during bad weather, although it is more common with satellite providers.
- Equipment failure: Some providers routinely use refurbished equipment, which can cause more frequent service outages.
- High-quality service: Some cable and satellite providers provide high-quality service and equipment that will not falter, regardless of the weather or how many people use the provider feed.
Cable and satellite TV providers provide a range of services and packages, and thus, the cost of television for customers can vary. Many companies are known for providing budget services, while others offer premium content at a higher price.
- Locked-in pricing: Some providers offer a price guarantee that offers new subscribers the ability to lock in their price for the duration of an extended contract.
- Pricing tiers: Most providers have levels of service that include different channels based on price, and customers have the ability to choose the tier that best suits their budget and watching needs.
- Service bundles: New subscribers can often nab a discount on TV service if it is part of an order that includes Internet and/or phone service from a partner or the same provider.
The majority of cable and satellite TV providers offer customers packaged deal pricing on a contract basis. Generally, rates are locked in for two or more years, although companies may include an increase in cost after six or 12 months. Customers should ensure they do research about their contract and what it entails before locking in service with one company.
- No-contract service: Some service providers don't make customers sign a contract, but service pricing is subject to change when the company decides to alter prices.
- Standard contract service: TV contracts typically run for at least a year, although some offer multi-year contracts with pricing guarantees.
- Equipment costs: In addition to contracts that lock in television pricing and plan time length, contacts may also including information about the cost or price of other related equipment and services, like installation costs or equipment rental fees.
Many cable and satellite TV providers also offer extra services; for instance, they may offer television and music channels in addition to the basic package.
- Foreign language channels: The major players in the premium television space may offer content in a variety of different languages, especially Spanish.
- Live recording services: In addition to on-demand services, most premium TV providers also offer equipment that allows subscribers to record shows for later playback.
- Sports packages: Major networks play the most popular games, but they may not necessarily air programming on college sports, women's leagues or international sports unless subscribers pay for the premium sports package.
Cable and satellite TV companies often package these related services together in bundles. Consumers can save by subscribing to TV and Internet through the same company, for instance.
- TV plus Internet: This is the most common package deal, since premium television services often depend on a broadband Internet connection to deliver channels.
- TV plus telephone: Some companies offer a package of television and Internet service together, which provides users a home phone line and cable television.
- TV plus telephone plus Internet: Combining all three telecommunications services through one provider could net viewers a discount.
What are different types of cable and satellite TV?
Originally designed for rural households, basic cable offers standard network channels and a few add-ons that are not available on analog antennas. Basic cable is a good choice for customers on a budget because the price is minimal, although the channel selection is smaller than many other services.
With premium television, there are many additional channels available to customers, but the price of this service is higher. Customers who choose to purchase premium cable or satellite television receive special, exclusive channels like Showtime or HBO.
For companies that provide extended basic television service, customers receive a selection of channels in addition to the basic network stations. Expanded basic includes some of the most popular cable networks, such as USA, Bravo, Lifetime, Discovery, Nickelodeon, Disney and more.
Broadband Internet connections allows viewers to buy TV service through the Internet. These providers may offer a la carte options or packages similar to traditional cable or satellite TV.
Who's it for?
Television fans who watch a range of programs
These viewers power on the TV as soon as they walk in the door. They never miss episodes of their favorite shows, and they are always searching for new content.
Households on a budget
Families who budget their expenses, particularly for entertainment, may look for a certain cable or satellite television service to match their budgetary needs. Paying a subscription fee for TV can be less expensive that buying other entertainment.
Some businesses may take advantage of cable and satellite provider services. Office break rooms may provide televisions for staff to watch, while restaurants and hotels are often expected to offer programming for guests and paying customers.
Customers with special interests
Customers, like film buffs or sports aficionados, can take advantage of cable and satellite television to find programs particularly tailored to their interests. Special channel packages offer specialty content that is not available through basic network television.
With more than 39 million customers, DIRECTV is one of the largest providers of paid TV services. The company is headquartered in El Segundo, California, and it provides programming to customers through satellite transmissions.
- Best for Television fans who watch a range of programs and customers with special interests.
Mediacom specializes in bringing the same high level of digital services that residents of major metropolitan areas enjoy to small towns and cities across the United States. They currently serve over 1,500 communities in 22 states.
- Find your local office: Find out if Mediacom is available in your state and locate your nearest office on Mediacom’s website. If there isn’t yet availability in your area, Mediacom can find your local provider for you.
- Xtream: Mediacom’s Xtream home service combines the fastest available in-home Wi-fi with a TiVo® DVR, which allows you to record up to five shows at a time, watch your shows in any room of the house and on any device and set your DVR remotely.
- No contracts: Sign up for service from Mediacom without signing a contract. You can cancel at anytime without paying high early cancellation fees.
- Speed Boost: Supercharge your Internet by adding 100 or 150 Mbps to your Internet for only $10 or $20 per month.
- Free HD: Mediacom’s extensive HD lineup is available for customers to enjoy at no extra charge. In addition, if you already own an HDTV set, then Mediacom will automatically upgrade your Mediacom receiver to an HD receiver.
- Best for Mediacom is best for families and individuals who live in rural areas where Mediacom offers service.
Comcast Corporation operates two major media companies: Comcast Cable and NBCUniversal. The company has grown into the largest residential paid TV service provider in America, and it provides a choice of cable packages and services for customers with a range of tastes and interests.
- Best for Television fans who watch a range of programs, businesses who provide entertainment to staff members and customers with special interests.
Founded in 1980, DISH Network now provides paid TV to almost 14 million subscribers. The company, headquartered in Meridian, Colorado, is the second-largest satellite TV provider in the United States.
- Best for Television fans who watch a range of programs and households on a budget.
Founded in 1973 under the name Cablevision Systems Corporation, Optimum continues to serve millions of customers in the New York area. The company offers television, Internet and cable services.
- Best for Television fans who watch a range of programs, businesses who provide entertainment to customers,, households on a budget or staff members and customers with special interests.
In 1989 when Time, Inc. and Warner Communications merged, the first seeds were planted for what would become one of the nation's largest cable television networks. Time Warner is headquartered in New York City.
- Best for Television fans who watch a range of programs, households on a budget and businesses who provide entertainment to customers or staff members.
Founded in 1962, Cox Cable serves more than 6.2 million residential customers each year. As the first cable company to offer business-centric products, it also offers businesses paid TV, telephone and Internet services.
- Best for Businesses who provide entertainment to customers, households on a budget or staff members and customers with special interests.
Founded in 1993, Charter became a Fortune 500 company in 2001 and serves more than 6 million customers nationwide. The company is headquartered in St. Louis, Missouri.
- Best for Television fans who watch a range of programs, households on a budget and customers with special interests.
Serving 730,000 customers in 19 states, Cable ONE has grown to be the 10th largest cable television provider in the United States. The company was founded in 1986.
- Best for Households on a budget and businesses who provide entertainment to customers or staff members.
Broadstripe Cable was founded in 1998 and bought by Anne Arundel Broadband in 2012. The company offers telecommunications services to residential and business customers in Maryland.
- Best for Television fans who watch a range of programs, households on a budget and businesses who provide entertainment to customers or staff members.
Information in this guide is general in nature and is intended for informational purposes only; it is not legal, health, investment or tax advice. ConsumerAffairs.com makes no representation as to the accuracy of the information provided and assumes no liability for any damages or loss arising from its use.
11 – 15 Best Rated Cable & Satellite TV Providers
Time Warner Cable is the second largest cable television provider in the United States. It has provided services since the early 1970s, and today offers high speed Internet and data services in addition to entertainment services.
|Read 2271 Reviews|
DISH Network is one of the largest satellite television providers in the world. It began offering television service to remote locations in the 1980s using just one dish, and has grown into an international Fortune 250 company.
|Read 5107 Reviews|
Charter has been offering cable television services since 1993. It currently provides service to over 6 million customers in 28 states. It offers residential phone services in addition to TV and Internet services.
|Read 1639 Reviews|
Frontier Communications offers solutions for residential, small business and enterprise customers. Unlike many other providers, their prices are guaranteed for three years, and customers aren't forced to sign a contract.
|Read 3153 Reviews|
Optimum offers cable television services through Cablevision as well as Internet services. It began as a local Long Island company with 1,500 customers and now offers local news channels in that area and throughout America.
|Read 232 Reviews|