The Best Guide to Cable Packages and Alternatives

Cable TV Packages

The primary and original source of cable was cable television. On this page, we'll go through the various options for cable television, and help you find the best deal.

There are a number of things you should consider when purchasing a cable TV package. First, you should think carefully about exactly the extent of the cable television that you want for your home. Without that clear sense, you may end up purchasing many more channels than you really need. Second, you should consider how much commitment you are willing to put into a cable packages. Paying for more service upfront can save money, but would be a bad idea if you think you might be moving in the next couple of years. Third, you should think about flexibility. If you do buy a package, and then a child is born, how easy is it to pick up those children’s channels you missed the first time through. I will discuss the questions of bundling other services with able on the other pages.

The most important thing you can do is to plan ahead. Find out what everyone is offering before you are upsold anything you don’t need. You don’t need to buy anything until you’ve checked out all the options. Cable television comes in a number of tiers. I will discuss these various tiers and what kind of service comes with each of these varying tiers.

Basic Cable TV Packages

Basic cable packages are almost a historical accident. They arise from two things. First, the FCC was concerned to protect broadcast stations from being wiped out by the introduction of cable companies. Second, cable companies receive some federal funding, and the condition is that they offer basic cable. Basic cable includes all the channels that could be received by you in your local area through local broadcast. Because your cable is more powerful than your antenna, basic cable will generally include more channels than you could pick up on your own. Note, though, that if you were to buy an expensive antenna, the two might actually be about equivalent.

Basic cable is generally not very expensive. It can cost anywhere from $10-$20 per month, depending on your local area. The trick with basic cable is that companies don’t advertise that they sell it. They will admit they have it when asked (they are legally obliged to do so), however, they won’t put it on their websites or on any pamphlets. This is because they don’t make any money off of it. They are obliged to offer it, but they are not obliged to advertise for it, which is what leads to the odd situation. So, you need to know what to ask for. It is sometimes called “limited basic” or “basic basic” or just “basic”. They’re not allowed to deceive you about it, but they will try to upsell you.

One downside to basic cable is that, if you receive even a single extended service, you are no longer protected by the government’s laws enforcing basic cable. Therefore, there is a bit of a jump in price between this and the next tier.

Extended Cable TV Packages

The next tier of channels includes a wide selection of channels called “extended” channels. These channels are the ones that are not available through broadcast, but that support themselves through advertising. Many of the most popular ones today came into existence in the 1980s, such as CNN, ESPN, and Nickelodeon. The fee for these channels can run anywhere from about twenty cents each to almost four dollars (the sports channels tend to be the most expensive). Depending on what extended channels you are looking for, you can either add them on one at a time, or they may come in packages. For instance, there might be a “kids package” that includes Nickelodeon, the Disney Channel and the Cartoon Network. Similarly, there might be a “news package” including CNN and Fox News.

These packages can be quite a good deal. However, if you never watch some of the channels, you may actually be wasting money. Have a look at the package and decide whether they are channels you really want. If they are, you can get some real savings through an extended package. The other thing you may want to check is how binding the extended packages are. Sometimes, buying the channels individually can be done month-to-month, but the extended package is a year or two-year commitment. Don’t get trapped into a commitment you can’t use because of a lower price. If you move, you’ll end up losing a lot of money.

Premium Cable TV Packages

Finally, we get to the premium TV packages. These are the channels that support themselves entirely by cable fees, so they are more expensive than the extended channels. HBO is the most famous example of this, but it includes Showtime, Cinemax and many others. When making decisions about premium cable television, you should make sure that you will make use of the channels. Your premium channels can easily add up to $100 dollars per month if you’re not careful. If you really enjoy and will use some of these channels, though, they can be a great deal. Even if you watch only a single show weekly, you’ll only be spending a couple of dollars per episode on them, and some of these channelse (especially HBO) have some of the highest-rated shows on television, such as the Sopranos.

Pay-per-view is also a part of premium cable packages, and can be a great addition to your options, if you really like being able to choose films and sporting events. Be careful, though, that you aren’t paying much extra just for access to PPV. In that case, you’re actually paying for your shows twice over. Most packages, though, won’t charge you extra for pay-per-view, so long as you are buying at least one premium channel. Pay-per-view isn’t generally a deal over renting a movie, but it saves the inconvenience of going to the video store. It is great, though, for having live access to sporting events you might not otherwise be able to watch, so it is irreplaceable for many sports fans.