The Best Guide to Cable Packages and Alternatives

Compare Cable Packages

On this site, I have discussed a number of different cable companies, but on this page, I will compare them directly.


Winner: Basic Cable
Second Place: AT&T
Third Place: Verizon
Fourth Place: Time-Warner

Far and away the winner in terms of price is the basic cable package. This must be offered by every cable company, though they are not obliged to ask for it. It is mandated by the federal government, and so it simply lies outside the normal mechanisms of supply and demand. What you need to do is ask explicitly about basic cable when you speak to the company on the phone.

AT&T and Verizon are actually about tied in cost, but Verizon has a horrible habit of trying to upsell you and create complicated packages. Verizon, in theory, can be cheaper, if you can figure out their fine print and put together a bundle that has good savings, but AT&T will give you less of a headache.

Time-Warner is the most expensive cable company because they focus more on quality service and reliability. In effect, they aren’t really competing to provide the lowest price, but to provide a reasonable price with some extra service that you pay for.


Winner: Verizon
Second Place: Time-Warner
Third Place: AT&T

Verizon provides just about any mixed-and-matched channels that you could possibly want, making them the most flexible company by a wide margin. The way that their pricing works is that you pay less per channel for each channel that you purchase, so you are encouraged to purchase more. However, you could just pick your favorite three channels and purchase those if you wished.

Time-Warner and AT&T are fairly close in flexibility, but with some differences. Time-Warner allows you to pick pre-packaged bundles or to add a few extra channels of their own. They also have dedicated a lot of effort into their On Demand video, which is a kind of flexibility in its own right. AT&T still uses mostly the old model from the 1990s, in which you purchase tiers of service, each of which is more expensive than the last. It saves money and hassles, but isn’t very flexible.

Customer Service

Winner: Time-Warner
Second Place: AT&T
Third Place: Verizon

Time-Warner quite simply blows the other two companies out of the water when it comes to customer service. Basically, AT&T and Verizon have an old-fashioned telecommunications corporate culture, while Time-Warner comes from media production. As a result, they will actually help you if you call and won’t just send you into a maze.

AT&T used to be the same company, and you can tell. AT&T provides somewhat better service because, while they are often slow, you won’t often have the feeling that they are constantly trying to upsell you. Verizon loses points on customer service because of their upselling, something of which the other companies are not so guilty.


So, in conclusion, if you are looking for:

  • Price: Any Basic Cable
  • Flexibility: Verizon
  • Customer Service: Time-Warner

AT&T is a good option as well, falling in the middle of many of the categories.