Cable TV Guide | Pros & Cons of Cable TV Service

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Cable TV TV via Fiber optics or cable to your home

Pros to Cable TV

  • Bundle and save money with home internet
  • Most reliable feed, compared to satellite or streaming TV
  • Widest selection of local channels
  • Straight forward technology you might be more comfortable using

Convenience of Bundling

Cable TV is losing a large market share of TV watchers to cord-cutting services, but a vast majority of people in the U.S. still have cable and haven't switched for a reason. Perhaps several reasons, primary among them is the convenience of bundling home internet (and home phone) into their cable bill, along with subscriptions to premium movie channels like HBO and Showtime, and all their sports channels too, both local, regional and national.

It's no trivial thing to be able to setup auto-pay once for a single bill and get everything you need for home entertainment and internet productivity all in one go, from the same provider.

With cable TV you still do need a setup box and a cable installer to come to your home and setup service. But more providers are doing better by giving you the option to setup service yourself, a fairly simple task, eliminating the annoyance of having to waste a day on a representative to show up in some random appointment window.

The cable setup box is getting better and smarter too. DVR options are advancing with every passing year so your ability to record live TV has never been better, more customizable or easier, as long as you are willing to pay extra for the added equipment rental fees.

Most Reliable Feed, Best Local Lineup & Simple-to-use Tech

And being that cable TV provides you broadcasts via fiber optic and coax cables, this remains the single most reliable TV feed on the market -- satellite TV is notorius for having issues in rough weather, and streaming services (ie popular cord-cutting options) are hopelessly reliant on your internet connection and come with streaming issues and buffering headaches you thankfully never have to deal with using traditional cable.

The last few pros to using cable TV over the competition is you get a wider selection of local channels. Cable TV is less of a 'one size fits all' national TV lineup, and much more of a regional and local, tailor made experience. So you'll see more local channels in your TV guide comparatively. And finally, the tech is just more familiar as its been around so long; you don't have to worry about downloading apps and logging into XYZ this or that. Just pick up your remote and start channel surfing; zero learning curve.

Cable TV Plans (Last verified 08/27/20)

Cons to Cable TV

  • Expensive bills with hidden fees that really add up
  • Equipment you have to pay for monthly, setup boxes and DVRs
  • Long term contracts, or you sometimes have to pay extra to go month-to-month
  • Paying for dozens or hundreds of channels you never watch
  • Most areas have limited options; cable TV lacks local competition

Sky High Bills

Far and away the biggest con to cable television is how expensive your monthly bill can get, once it's all said and done. At the end of 2019, the average cable bill in the U.S. was $217.42/month! And that's just the average, many pay far more than that.

And what are those subscribers really getting for their money? An in-depth examination shows expensive rental fees for setup boxes and/or DVRs, per room, regulatory and other random looking fees that feel very 'hidden', unwarranted and unnecessary. Every little feature you get with most cable providers seems to come at a premium cost; this is why cord-cutting is catching on in such a big way.

To the credit of the national providers like Comcast, Verizon, Spectrum and others they are starting to reverse this trend, promising to offer more inclusive pricing, free of add-ons that turn an advertised price into something comically high once the real bill comes in. But however you look at it, if you want premium service from cable TV you can certainly get it, and certainly pay a premium for it.

Long Term Contracts

Another knock on cable TV is the long term contracts you have to sign up for. They typically ask you to sign up for 6 months to 2 years, and give you an introductory offer that expires sometimes before your contract is even up, leaving you the task of calling in and trying to renegotiate a better deal. Many are stuck in a contract with an expired intro rate, paying far more than they are comfortable with, waiting for the day they can cut the cord for good.

Cable providers are aware of this, and some have started to offer month-to-month plans. But be aware they will charge extra (in some cases) for the luxury of not committing, usually around another $10/month.

Too Many Channels

The classic con most have heard of is having hundreds and hundreds of TV channels at your disposable, and paying a lot of money for that lineup monthly, when you really only watch a handful of channels. Be leery of being seduced by a plan that offers 400+ channels; their isn't enough time in the day to ever consume that much media. You are better off looking for a cheaper plan, more tailored to your interests.

Lack of Competition

And the final con to cable TV is the technology itself. Being that it requires physical equipment, needing to be hooked up to physical cables in your home you are limited to cable provider options in your local area that are setup to service you. While there are many, many cable providers spread out across the U.S., when it comes to those that service your exact address you are typically left choosing between 1-3 options.

This lack of competition doesn't breed competitive pricing, and cable providers are less incentivized to compete for your business as they know you don't really have much of a choice if you want cable and internet bundled together. Customer service suffers from this same lack of competition - there's less a need to worry about retention when a customer has less options and has already signed a long term contract.