Basic tv: Basic Cable Channels and Package Guide 2023

Basic Cable Channels and Package Guide 2023

How do you get basic cable?

You don’t have to pay a premium for cable. State-approved local franchising authorities (LFAs) require cable companies to offer low-priced basic cable packages with only local broadcast channels and subchannels. In this article, we highlight some of the best basic cable plans from Cox, Xfinity, Optimum, and Sparklight.

But you can do better than basic cable—especially if you’re looking to save money. You can get all of the same channels with an over-the-air (OTA) antenna. They’re easy to install and much more affordable at a one-time cost of $25–$60—compared to $20–$60 a month.

Not only that, but streaming services are a reasonably cheap alternative to basic cable, with more live cable channels and loads of on-demand content.

Is basic cable worth it?

We don’t think basic cable TV is worth it because basic cable deals come with only local channels and (maybe) a few cable TV favorites, and they cost $20–$60 per month.

Also, be cautious of any fees attached to your basic cable plan. Providers may waive these fees on their (otherwise more expensive) advertised plans, but leave them on basic plans.

Basically (pardon the pun), basic cable isn’t the only way to get cheap. Some streaming TV services are free (but they don’t include local channels). And, again, you pay for an over-the-air (OTA) TV antenna only once—and basic cable as a monthly payment.

Basic cable pros and cons

  • Cheap prices
  • Local channels
  • Few—if any—extended cable channels
  • Monthly bill
  • Hidden fees

Jump to:

  • Basic cable packages
  • Basic cable channels
  • Basic cable alternatives

Type in your zip code below, and we’ll pull up your local TV providers and a phone number to talk to those companies’ reps about basic packages.

Best basic cable packages

Data effective as of publish date. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.
** Plans and pricing vary by Xfinity region.
‡ Wired connection speeds. WiFi speeds may vary. Plus taxes, fees, and other charges. Includes Auto Pay and Paperless Billing.

Basic cable TV packages will include ABC, CBS, FOX, PBS, and other public-access local channels. Some expanded plans come with fancy cable channels—like Disney Channel, ESPN, MTV, or Fox News Channel—but they’re still stripped down compared to advertised cable packages.

Again, we don’t recommend basic cable TV plans—but you’ll find brief editorial opinions of each basic plans mentioned in this article. To read more about any of these providers, click the review link in the box.

Cox Contour TV Starter

Editorial rating (3.4/5)





Data effective as of publish date. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

At first, 75+ channels in a basic cable package might seem pretty generous. You can get pretty much the same channels with an over-the-air (OTA) antenna and you’ll pay only once as opposed to monthly, which is just bad.

Xfinity Choice TV


Editorial rating (3.7/5)





Data effective as of publish date. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

Xfinity’s basic cable channel count is 10+. If we don’t see why anyone would pay any amount monthly for Cox’s 75+ channels, imagine how shocked we are by Xfinity’s handful of channels. As with Cox above, we’re recommending the OTA antenna over this Xfinity package.

Note: We list a range of prices for Xfinity basic cable packages because Xfinity pricing is different in each of its three regions. If you’re unsure which Xfinity region you’re in, read our Xfinity TV review—you’ll be directed to the page for your area. If you’re using a VPN, you’ll need to turn it off to be redirected.

Optimum Internet 300 and Basic TV

Cheap bundle

Editorial rating (3.7/5)





Max download speed:

300 Mbps

Data effective as of publish date. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.
‡ Wired connection speeds. WiFi speeds may vary. Plus taxes, fees, and other charges. Includes Auto Pay and Paperless Billing.

This Optimum internet-and-TV bundle might seem like a better deal than the usual basic cable package, but it’s really not. Optimum no longer offers its 100 Mbps plan, so if you want basic cable, you have to bundle it with 300 Mbps internet. Instead of getting this bundle, we suggest just getting that standalone internet plan (Optimum 300, $40.00 a month for 12 months) and using an OTA antenna for TV.

Sparklight Economy Cable

Editorial rating (3/5)


$42. 00/mo.


Up to 20

Data effective as of publish date. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

Sparklight’s Economy Cable plan is yet another barebones TV package. You’ll get your local channels, and that’s it. Can you imagine paying $42 a month for this TV plan when you can pay the same amount for an OTA antenna once and never pay for TV service again?

Yeah, that boggles our minds too.

Basic cable TV channels

Basic cable channel lineup

  • ABC
  • CBS
  • FOX
  • PBS
  • Telemundo
  • Univision
  • Additional government and public-access channels

Expanded basic cable channel lineup

  • Disney Channel
  • ESPN
  • MTV
  • Food Network
  • FOX News Channel

Like we said before, you’ll get different channels based on where you live and the cable company you choose. Keep in mind that most basic cable packages do not include actual cable channels, just local over-the-air channels.

Basic cable vs. starter cable TV plans

Cable TV providers would rather sell you on their starter packages—a step up from basic. Starter plans usually cost around $60 per month, and they have a ton more channels than basic cable plans.

And since your cable provider will want you to choose a starter plan (or one of the even more expensive plans), it’s not as likely to have as many hidden fees. Slink back to whatever hole you crawled out of, U-Basic.

In the end, a year of a starter plan, sans basic plan hidden fees, could end up being less expensive than a year of basic cable.

Starter cable TV plans pros and cons

  • TV favorites like Disney Channel and ESPN
  • Fewer hidden fees
  • Higher monthly payments than basic plans
  • Contracts that can last a year or more

Get a better deal on cable

Enter your zip code below to see top TV providers in your neighborhood.

Basic cable vs.

streaming services

If you love a lot of different channels, you might want to try out streaming TV instead of basic cable. You’re probably familiar with on-demand streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, but you can stream live TV with services like Sling TV.

On-demand services usually cost between $5 and $20 per month, and live TV streaming services can be anywhere from $25 to a whopping $135 per month. If you want to save, Philo is the aforementioned snazzy $25-per-month plan—just keep in mind it doesn’t have any sports channels.

These services work on a lot of devices, which makes on-the-go viewing a natural part of the experience. Just make sure there’s Wi-Fi at your on-the-go locations, since you’ll need internet to support your streaming.

Streaming pros and cons

  • Available on many devices
  • Provides more channel lineup options
  • Requires internet connection
  • Can cost as much as cable TV

Basic cable vs.

OTA TV antennas

All these cable TV plans and streaming alternatives come with monthly payments. If you want to keep things simple—local channel access for a one-time fee—over-the-air (OTA) TV is the way to go.

TV antennas look a little different now than the rabbit ears of yesteryear, with flat wall panels or little set-top boxes. Sure, they’re missing the charm of dressing your TV up to look like an alien, but they also don’t take up much space or throw off your interior decor.

You can pick OTA TV antennas up on Amazon and install them yourself. Most antennas cost $25–$60—we recommend the $60 Mohu Leaf.

Be careful to choose an antenna that will pick up all your locally broadcasted channels. The FCC has a handy dandy map to help you locate how far different TV towers are from your home so you can make the best choice for you.

OTA antenna pros and cons

  • Small, single payment
  • All your local channels in HD
  • No cable channels

View antennas on Amazon

Remember, if you’re looking for a cheap TV package that has more than just basic cable TV channels, we have more recommendations for you.

  • Read our guide to Free and Low-Cost Cable TV Options for plans that cost as much as some basic cable plans but give you so much more—including internet service.
  • Check out our review of Spectrum TV Choice, which has 40+ live channels for $24.99 a month. And you can add HBO®, SHOWTIME®, STARZ®, STARZ ENCORE, and THE MOVIE CHANNEL for only $15 more per month.

Final take: Is basic cable worth it?

If you don’t want much out of your cable TV service, and you don’t want to pay a lot for it, basic cable might be the right fit for you.

But before you sign a contract, be sure to check out your other options. If your primary goal is saving money, a TV antenna could be what you need.

Still, if you’ve set your heart on basic cable, go ahead and give your local cable TV provider a call. Just type in your zip code below, and we’ll hook you up with the TV folks in your area.

Basic cable TV FAQ


At CableTV. com, we’re experts on getting the most bang for your buck. Our experts have spent thousands of hours researching every basic cable plan and OTA antenna to bring you the most accurate and honest information about accessing local channels. For more information on our process, head over to How We Rank.

Related articles

  • Best TV Service Providers
  • Best Live TV Streaming Services
  • Best Antennas for Cord-Cutters

What Is Basic Cable and How Do I Get It?

By Mike Strayer
Edited By Mikayla Rivera

Share | Aug 1, 2022

What is basic cable?

“Basic cable” refers to a cheap TV package with a local channel lineup available from a cable provider. Basic cable usually costs $20–$50 per month for roughly 40–70 local channels.

But you don’t have to pay a cable company monthly to get basic cable channels. An over-the-air (OTA) TV antenna costs only $25–$60 (a one-time payment), takes only 10 minutes to install and set up, and picks up the same channels.  But if you happen to live in a rural area with poor reception, a cable TV provider’s basic cable packages might be your only option.

Jump to:

  • Basic cable channels
  • How to get basic cable
  • TV antennas
  • Live TV streaming
  • Methodology

Interested in basic cable?

Enter your zip code to see what cable providers are available in your area.

Basic cable channels

Basic cable channels include local affiliate stations of nationwide networks like ABC, CBS, The CW, NBC, and PBS. Locally owned, independent channels are usually included in basic cable packages as well.

Because of US government regulations, all cable TV companies must provide these local broadcast channels for a lower rate than they usually charge for cable and premium channels like ESPN and HBO.

Basically (pardon the pun), any channel you’d get with an HD antenna with good reception, you’d get with a basic cable package.

So why would you pay a monthly subscription fee for basic cable when you can pay a reasonable one-time fee for an HD antenna?

Good question. If it’s hard to get antenna reception where you live because of tall buildings or hills, then basic cable might be right for you.

If you’re not sold on basic cable or an HD antenna but still want cable, we recommend getting a standard cable package instead.

With a standard cable package, you’d get all the local channels you’d get with basic cable and popular cable channels like ESPN and Hallmark for about $40–$90 per month.

Related articles

  • Best TV Service Providers
  • Basic Cable Packages and Channels Guide
  • Find the Best TV Providers in Your Area

How to get basic cable

Getting basic cable is super easy—all you have to do is follow these four steps.

  1. Pick a cable provider
  2. Call the cable provider
  3. Tell your sales rep you want basic cable
  4. Schedule your basic cable installation

Easy, right? We recommend calling because most cable providers don’t let you purchase basic cable packages online.

After you sign up, you’ll need a cable box from your TV provider to unscramble the cable signal.

Once you get your cable box in the mail, all you’ll need to do is connect it with a coaxial cable to a compatible wall outlet and then use another coaxial cable to connect it to your TV.

It’s a pretty basic process, you might say, which is part of the appeal of basic cable. Of course, if you feel like self-installation isn’t for you, you can always have a pro from the cable company do it for you.

Alternatives to basic cable

As we hinted at earlier, there are a couple of solid alternatives to basic cable that can save you money and hassles over the long haul: HD antennas and live TV streaming services.

TV antennas vs. basic cable

One cheap alternative to basic cable is a reliable HD antenna. HD antennas start at about $20 and usually increase in price as their range increases.

HD antennas are easy to install and look nothing like the rabbit ears of days of yore. In fact, most HD antennas are flat, plastic squares that take up little or no space.

Like we said before, HD antennas usually give you the same channels as a basic cable package would. That’s why, if you can get good reception in your home, we always recommend an HD antenna over basic cable.

Related articles

  • What Is Over-the-Air (OTA) TV?
  • Best Antennas for Cord-Cutters
  • Mohu Leaf 50 Antenna Review

Live TV streaming vs. basic cable

Another affordable alternative to basic cable is live TV streaming. What is live TV streaming you might ask? Live TV streaming is TV broadcast over the internet.

So, if you have cable or fiber internet, you can get dozens of live TV channels from anywhere between $25–$185 per month. For context, most live TV streaming services cost around $50 per month.

Truth be told, most of the staff at use streaming services to get our cable fix because they are affordable and have month-to-month contracts.

For example, my favorite live TV streaming service is fuboTV because it has pretty much every sports channel you can think of and a ton of entertainment channels like Hallmark and Lifetime.


Throughout the year,’s experts research and test TV services in order to bring you the most current information on plans, pricing, channels lineups, features, and functionality. To learn more about our process, see our How We Rank page.

Related articles

  • Best Streaming Services
  • Best Streaming Services for Sports
  • Best Internet for Streaming

Basic cable FAQ

SVG Icons

how to look for a simple TV without Smart TV

Imagine some Sony (Samsung, Panasonic, Sharp, etc.) at the age of about 10-15 years, and its owner, who plans to replace the “old man” with a new one but simple TV. Why no Smart TV?

Well, for example, because this owner mainly watches cable, plus he is used to using external Android set-top boxes, which, in his opinion, are much cheaper to upgrade than buying a new smart TV.

It would seem that manufacturing companies, knowing about the existence of such a category of potential buyers, have already launched the production of relatively inexpensive TVs with high-quality HD panels, a large set of HDMI ports and the option of quickly switching between them using the remote control.

However, in stores we are offered only smart TVs, and it is not so easy to find ordinary TVs without additional hassle. The author of these lines, by the way, started his search with Nomi LED-24h20 .

But as an advanced western user says, “any smart TV becomes an ordinary TV in two years.”

The trouble with all smart models is that even the most modern of them have pre-installed applications that look noticeably “clumsier” in comparison with analogues for smartphones and tablets. And in 2-3 years they will look even worse.

Of course, some manufacturers are trying to somehow, if not solve, then at least simplify this problem. Samsung, for example, has started offering a modular upgrade system for its smart TVs, but without much success.

On the other hand, manufacturers at every opportunity promise that TV set-top boxes will soon be forgotten. And they still don’t go anywhere. And they won’t get away. Why? And therefore, the life of the TV is 8-10 years, and the life of its smart functions is only 2-3 years, after which they become hopelessly outdated.

On the other hand, today a new simple TV (that is, without Smart TV), as a rule, technically loses to a more fashionable smart TV, which is initially equipped with a more efficient processor and a better panel. Simple TVs, on the other hand, are positioned by those manufacturers that still produce them as “entry-level” models and are also bundled “in an initial way” in order to attract a buyer with a lower price. However,..

you can also find a good TV without Smart TV

These are models that are equipped with one or a pair of Freeview tuners and do not have any webOS, Android or other operating systems, as well as pre-installed applications. But manufacturers are more interested in selling us smart 4K TVs , which are expensive. And simple TVs are few and hard to find. Including because in most online stores even the filter “Without Smart Functions” is not provided.

Therefore, it is better to look for ordinary models using the standard price filter “from cheap to expensive”. Then at the top of the list you will get SATURNs, BRAVISs and NOMIs in the assortment, and a little lower (and more expensive) models of Samsung, LG and Toshiba. All with a diagonal of 19 ″-32 ″ and, with rare exceptions, with a resolution of 1366×768 pixels. Models with FullHD panels with a diagonal of 40″-48″ and without smart TV are not that rare, but there are very few of them in the product line of any manufacturer.

And if only TVs equipped with 3 or 4 HDMI ports are selected among them, then the number of options will be drastically reduced to 5-7 models. Among them, perhaps, there will be a 42-inch 4K Ultra Seiki, a 43-inch Philips 4K Ultra and a 40-inch Sony Bravia KDL40RD453BU in non-smart TV versions, as well as a couple of other brands, if they are lucky somewhere. find.

And there will definitely be SAMSUNG, UE40J5100, UE48J5100 and UE55K5100. But if you don’t bother with large screens, then a simple TV with a diagonal of less than 40 ″, a brightness of at least 500 cd / m2 (by the way, it is because of the brightness of the TV that it is better than a monitor) and in a decent configuration (more than 2 HDMI) is a little easier to find .

What else?

You’ll also likely need a stand or wall mount, extra cables, and of course the Smart Soundbar , since you can no longer count on a good audio system in a simple TV. An HDMI switch would also help.

This thing is extremely useful not only because it increases the number of available HDMI ports , it also allows you to switch between inputs using the remote control, which is very convenient. But an HDMI switch costs money, at least not much. In addition, you should choose a model that supports the desired image resolution, can work with streaming video, as well as with players and game consoles that you may connect to it in the future. Something like that.

[irp posts=”35108″ name=”HDR: what to do when the TV starts hitting your eyes””]

How to connect a TV without Smart TV to the Internet?

In this article I will give a detailed and simple answer to a very popular question. It sounds something like this: “I have a regular TV, without Smart TV, how to connect it to the Internet?”. Or like this: “My TV does not have Wi-Fi and LAN-port, can I connect it to the Internet?”. The questions seem to be different, but strongly related. In this article I will explain why. I’ll also tell you if it’s possible to turn an old TV that does not have the Smart TV function into a “smart” TV and access the Internet from it, watch online video, YouTube, TV channels via the Internet, etc.

This whole Smart TV theme is very popular. Now it is probably difficult to find a new TV without the Smart TV function. This is understandable, since such a TV provides much more opportunities for entertainment and viewing different content. We do not need any flash drives, players, set-top boxes, etc., we just connect the TV to the Internet, open the program on the TV and watch the video. You can watch YouTube (I only use my TV for this), movies, series, even TV channels through some kind of online cinema. Subscription, or even free.

What if the TV without Smart TV?

TV without Smart TV cannot be connected to the Internet. This is not necessary and makes no sense. It is the Smart TV function that provides Internet access and the operation of all these programs on the TV. If there is no Smart TV, there is no Internet access. This TV does not need an Internet connection.

If you know for sure that you have a TV without Smart – good. If in doubt, check. Here are detailed instructions: Smart TV function on TV: yes or no, how to check?

If there is no Smart TV, then there is no Wi-Fi and LAN?

Not always so. I explain. If the TV does not have Smart functions, then it definitely does not have built-in Wi-Fi (I have not seen such TVs, wherever it is). I have already written on this topic, you can read it if you are interested: Is there Wi-Fi on the TV? How to know where to look?

But such a TV may have a LAN port. Why is it needed? It is needed to connect to a local network (not to the Internet!). DLNA technology works over the local network, and this TV most likely supports it (see specifications). I wrote about this in more detail in the article why a LAN connector on a TV.

Briefly about DLNA: a technology that allows you to broadcast videos, photos and music to your TV from other devices that are connected to the same local area network. For example: PC and TV are connected to the same router. You can output a movie from a PC to a TV (not online, but start viewing the file). For example: DLNA server in Windows 10. Setting up, output to TV.

It happens that a TV with Smart TV, but without Wi-Fi. This means that it can only be connected to the Internet via a cable (or via an external Wi-Fi adapter, if it supports them). Or use the method from this article: how to connect a TV without Wi-Fi to the Internet via Wi-Fi.

How to make Smart TV on a regular TV?

The solution is to buy and connect a set-top box to your Smart TV. This is a one-stop solution. Suitable for both ordinary old and not very old TVs without Smart TV, as well as for outdated TVs with Smart TV function (when most programs do not work, everything loads very slowly, freezes, etc.).

There are a lot of such consoles (another name – media players) on the market. How to choose them, which ones are better, etc. – this is a topic for a separate article.

Almost all Smart set-top boxes work on the regular Android operating system (which is installed on phones and tablets), or on Android TV (this is the same Android, but it is optimized specifically for TVs and Smart TV boxes). There is also an Apple TV set-top box from Apple. It runs on the tvOS operating system.

Most popular set-top boxes: Xiaomi Mi Box S, Xiaomi Mi TV Stick, MAG 425A, DUNE HD RealBox, Rombica Smart Box, X96 Android TV Box. There are a lot of them. The choice is huge. I have, for example, Xiaomi Mi Box S.

Smart set-top box connects to TV via HDMI. Even older TVs usually have an HDMI input. If the TV is very old, then you can connect it via the RCA connector (tulip). There are consoles with such an output, or you can use an adapter.

Menu (home screen) Smart set-top box looks something like this (on Android TV):

By connecting such a set-top box to a simple TV (which initially does not have a built-in Smart TV function), we get the ability to connect to the Internet via Wi-Fi and LAN (to connect via cable, some set-top boxes require an apron, and on some models it is only possible to connect via Wi -fi). To understand how all this looks and works, I recommend that you look at my instructions for connecting and setting up the Xiaomi Mi Box S.

All programs and features available on Smart TVs will be available. You can watch YouTube, movies and series through different programs, install programs and games from the application store.