Today, there are many television content options for customers, with cable and satellite as two of the most popular selections. 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. Cable and satellite television companies curate content to offer a variety of channels, and they deliver this content to customers through a variety of technologies.

Top 10 Best Rated Cable & Satellite TV Providers

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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.

The ConsumerAffairs Research Team believes everyone deserves to make smart decisions. We aim to provide readers with the most up-to-date information available about today's consumer products and services.

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What features matter most?

Channel availability

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.

Reliability

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.

Cost

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.

Contract terms

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.

Additional services

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.

Packaged deals

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?

Basic

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.

Premium

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.

Basic plus

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.

Internet-based

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.

Businesses

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.

Company reviews

  • DIRECTV

    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.

    • Exceptional customer service: The company is rated #1 in customer service compared to other cable and satellite TV providers, according to the American Customer Satisfaction Index.
    • Never miss a game: The NFL Sunday Ticket ensures all subscribers can watch out-of-market games.
    • Expansive HD catalog: DIRECTV has 195 HD channels, including AMC HD, ABC Family HD, Hallmark Channel HD, among many, many others.
    • Record from any television: DIRECTV service comes with an HD Genie that records shows from up to eight televisions throughout a home or office.
    • Watch from anywhere: Customers can enjoy family favorites and recorded shows using a mobile device with an Internet connection.
    • Best for Television fans who watch a range of programs and customers with special interests.
  • Mediacom Cable

    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 Cable 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.

    • Service availability: Comcast has one of the largest service networks in the country, making it available in most areas of the US.
    • Produces exclusive content: As a sister corporation to Universal Pictures, Comcast has exclusive access to movies and other video content.
    • Intuitive on-demand menus: Comcast offers an intuitive menu system for on-demand service.
    • Service bundles available: The company bundles telephone and Internet services, and it offers customer discounts for purchasing service bundles.
    • Expansive channel listing: Comcast offers one of the largest channel selections of paid TV providers, with 260 channels.
    • Best for Television fans who watch a range of programs, businesses who provide entertainment to staff members and customers with special interests.
  • DISH Network

    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.

    • Flexible payment: DISH network accepts Bitcoin as a payment method for those who prefer the cyber currency.
    • Fantasy and reality: Subscribers can watch a game and look at their fantasy football stats to chart their team's progress, using DISH Network Hopper.
    • Watch from anywhere: DISH Network allows access to recorded shows from anywhere, as long as there is an Internet connection.
    • No up-charge on HD: DISH Network offers free HD channels, and it does not charge extra for the high-quality imaging.
    • Promotional offers available: DISH Network sign-up promotions allow customers to get extra channels with a 24-month contract commitment.
    • Best for Television fans who watch a range of programs and households on a budget.
  • Optimum IO Cable

    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.

    • Business and residential service: Optimum has a full range of telephone, Internet and TV products for the home and office, and it is a good choice for residential or commercial customers.
    • Better channel options: With more than 600 HD channels available, customers in the New York area can experience a variety of programming.
    • Unlimited plans: Customers can get unlimited cell phone, text and data usage, and premium TV services in one package.
    • Internet-based TV: Optimum offers a digital paid TV service.
    • Free package: After signing up for broadband Internet service, the company offers a 50-channel package for free.
    • 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.
  • Time Warner

    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.

    • Pay in store: Consumers who prefer to pay with cash can visit Time Warner retail locations.
    • Big on-demand catalog: More than 10,000 shows and movies are pre-loaded on the Time Warner on-demand service.
    • Mobile viewing: Customers can view programming on their smartphone or tablet.
    • Enjoy Internet access: With Time Warner, viewers get access to a network of more than 400,000 WiFi hotspot locations.
    • Bundled services: Time Warner also offers discounted Internet and phone service bundles.
    • Best for Television fans who watch a range of programs, households on a budget and businesses who provide entertainment to customers or staff members.
  • Cox Cable

    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.

    • Take control of more than just the TV: Cox offers the service, Homelife, which allows users to remotely set the thermostat, turn lights on and off, and lock or unlock doors.
    • Low-cost solutions: Cox offers television, telephone and Internet services bundled at comparably low prices.
    • 24/7 support: There is no scheduled downtime for Cox Cable technical support. Tech support is available day or night.
    • Custom programming bundles: Instead of paying for unwanted content, Cox allows subscribers to customize their channel bundles, which includes programming like extra movie content or in-depth sports coverage.
    • Bundle services: Cox bundles high-speed Internet, digital phone service and digital cable services.
    • Best for Businesses who provide entertainment to customers, households on a budget or staff members and customers with special interests.
  • Charter Communications

    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.

    • Tiered bundle pricing: Consumers can add extra channels to their package, as desired, with three tiered options along with bundled Internet and telephone service. Plans range from 125 to more than 200 channels.
    • Fiber available: Customers in select areas can use fiber connections for extra high-speed Internet.
    • No contracts: Consumers are not required to sign a contract for the company's bundled services, and they can stop using the service at any time.
    • Free HD: Customers receive access to more than 200 HD channels for free.
    • Large volume of on-demand programming: Charter offers a high volume of on-demand content, with more than 10,000 titles.
    • Best for Television fans who watch a range of programs, households on a budget and customers with special interests.
  • Cable ONE

    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.

    • Local office locations: Cable ONE has offices in each area it serves, allowing customers to troubleshoot equipment and replace broken machines in person.
    • Reliable digital cable: The company offers high speed and reliable Internet services.
    • Custom business solutions: Business customers can rely on Cable ONE for a comprehensive range of communications services.
    • Lifetime price lock: Cable ONE offers the option to lock in the cost of home telephone service for life, which prevents unexpected price hikes.
    • Budget cable options: The company is known for being an affordable option that allows customers access to the most popular channels at a low price.
    • Best for Households on a budget and businesses who provide entertainment to customers or staff members.
  • Broadstripe Cable

    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.

    • Large TV packages: Broadstripe offers a catalog of 195 channels, including commercial-free music stations.
    • Free HD programming: Broadstripe does not charge customers extra for HD channels.
    • DVR available: Digital video recording allows customers to save live TV shows for later enjoyment.
    • Parental controls: Parental controls let parents limit viewing of TV content based on their ratings and other content restrictions.
    • Bundled services: With Broadstripe Cable, customers can purchase high-speed Internet, telephone services and cable TV programming together.
    • Best for Television fans who watch a range of programs, households on a budget and businesses who provide entertainment to customers or staff members.

11 – 16 Best Rated Cable & Satellite TV Providers

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.
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.
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.
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.
DIRECTV offers satellite services throughout the country, including TV. They were voted number one in customer satisfaction for 15 years in a row, and their popular Genie DVR, which records up to 5 shows at one time, is free.
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