Cable TV For Seniors: A Buyer’s Guide

Whether you're catching up on the latest news, having a movie night with the grandkids, or binge-watching the newest season of your favorite show, TV keeps us connected and entertained. In this guide, we'll take a look at everything you need to know before buying a cable TV package, including our top picks for providers, how to get the best deal, and more!

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How we watch TV has changed a lot over the past ten years, but its purpose hasn't changed. Watching television provides entertainment, keeps us informed, and helps us feel connected.

Whether you're looking to switch cable providers or purchase cable for the first time, we can help. We know just how tricky choosing a cable provider or package can be. We also know that seniors love cable.

As of May 2020, seniors age 65+ are in the age group most likely to be cable customers.1 Seniors also watch more traditional TV than any other age group: an average of six hours and 13 minutes per day during the first three months of 2020.2 Luckily, many cable TV providers are offering senior-friendly packages to meet the needs of those in their golden years. But how do you choose the right provider and package?

This guide will walk you through the basics of buying cable as a senior, tips for saving on cable TV, and our recommendations for the best senior-friendly providers.

The Average Cost of Cable TV for Seniors

If you haven't shopped for cable TV in a while, you're probably wondering just how much it costs.

Every couple of years, the Federal Communication Commission (FCCS) surveys cable providers and writes up a report on prices for the cable TV industry.3 The 2018 report showed the following average prices that subscribers paid:

  • Basic cable service: $25.40 per month
  • Expanded basic service: $71.37 per month
  • Next most popular service plan: $84.91 per month

Okay, but what exactly do those categories mean? A basic cable service plan includes local TV channels and some of the major TV networks. An expanded basic service plan often includes local channels, all major TV networks, and maybe extra features like DVR storage. Plans above that typically add in premium channels like HBO, on-demand access, and more genre-specific channels.

With cable, the actual price you'll pay depends a lot on your personal preferences and the company you choose. Take a look at the prices and categories above to get a better feel for the type of package you want. Do you want lots of channels? Do you want premium channels like HBO or Showtime? Kids' shows for the grandchildren? Are you a sports fan who wants access to all of the Nascar races or MLB games? The more channels you want, the more you can expect to pay, especially for premium or sports channels.

Ways to Save on Cable TV

Unless you go with a basic package, cable TV can get pricey. Fortunately, there are many ways for seniors to save money as they negotiate a cable TV plan. Let's take a look at how seniors can get the most bang for their buck.

Consider a Bundle Deal

Do you want senior-friendly internet service along with your cable TV? Cable companies typically offer cable and internet bundles, which will save you money compared to buying each service separately. Plus, purchasing a bundled deal often comes with added perks like a free streaming service subscription, premium channels, installation, or DVR equipment. Saving money and getting free stuff? Talk about a win-win!

Depending on the company, bundles could also include phone service and home security. We'd recommend looking into bundles if you already use one or more of those services. You could save a bundle!

Negotiate with Your Provider

If you want a lower rate, call the provider's customer service line, or use the online chat feature on the provider's website. New customers should ask for the best new customer discounts while existing customers should ask to speak with the customer loyalty or customer retention department. Managers in those departments might be able to give you a deal that's not advertised elsewhere. If at first, you don't succeed, call, call again! The discount or deal you receive will be worth it.

Look for Promotions in the Mail & Online

Deciding on a company is only one part of your research; you also want to find the company's best deal. Cable providers that serve your area often send out mailers with their latest deals. Compare those providers, and then compare any mailed deals you get with offers advertised online.

Do a Google search for “best *name of provider* cable TV deals.” You'll find websites where users talk about the best deals they've scored. Sometimes, an individual will write out step-by-step instructions for how to get a cheap deal.

Ask About Senior Citizen or Veterans Discounts

Some cable companies give senior citizens or veterans special rates. Look on the provider's website or call their customer service line to ask. Many providers also offer discounted rates to low-income customers, so some seniors may qualify for those discounts as well.

Know the Fine Print Before You Buy

Buying cable can be tricky, especially when you're using a promotional discount. We know reading through the terms and conditions can be a real eyesore. Here are some things you should look for before signing up for service.

Long-Term Contracts

Many cable companies require you to sign a long-term contract for service, which means you need to continue using their services until that contract expires. A contract might range from six months to two years. If you're a senior living at home who plans on moving into an assisted living community shortly, locking yourself into a long-term contract doesn't make sense. If you don't want a commitment, make sure that you're allowed to cancel service at any time without penalty. On the other hand, if you plan to keep the same cable TV package for a year or two and a long-term contract gets you the best deal, go for it!

Early Termination Fees

If you do need to end your cable service while you're still under a long-term contract, you could end up paying an early termination fee. For example, Xfinity charges $10 for every month left on your contract. AT&T charges a $180 flat fee or $15 for every month left in your contract for some of their plans. Talk about a dent in your wallet. However, this should only concern you if you plan to move or switch providers in a few months. If you plan to stick it out for the length of your contract, you'll never have to worry about those fees.

If breaking your contract is unavoidable, talking to customer service might help you avoid an early termination fee or get your fee reduced. It's not guaranteed, though. That's why it's best to know the fee structure ahead of time.

Price Hikes After Promotional Rates

Cable companies are notorious for welcoming you in with a discounted rate for a period of six months to two years. However, after that promo rate expires, your monthly price will go up. The new price could be as much as double what you're paying during the promotional period. For seniors on a fixed income, that could break your budget.
Find out how much your rates will rise after the promo period. One service might look a lot cheaper initially but, if their rates go up higher than a competitor after the promo period, you could be better off choosing the slightly more expensive option upfront.

Installation Fees

Along with a monthly service fee, you can expect to pay an installation fee. A company representative will bring the equipment to your home, install it, show you how to use it, and answer your questions. This is great for technology-averse seniors who'd like an extra helping hand getting everything set up.

Installation fees can vary significantly between providers but expect to pay something in the range of $50 to $100. Even if you're tech-savvy, some companies like Cox still charge a fee to install the equipment yourself. However, more and more companies are offering affordable and simple self-installation options, especially during the COVID-19 era. Know what the fees are ahead of time so that you're prepared.

The Top Cable TV Providers for Seniors

If you're ready to switch cable TV providers or get cable for the first time, let us help kickstart your research! We analyzed all of the major cable providers out there, narrowing down our top cable TV picks for seniors. Xfinity, Cox, Spectrum TV®, and Mediacom offer affordable cable packages with plenty of channel options and senior-friendly features. We'll take a closer look at each provider below the chart!

Provider Xfinity Cox Spectrum TV Mediacom
Nationwide Coverage 39 states 18 states 37 states 22 states
Number of Channel Packages 5 3 3 4
TV Starting at $49.99 per month $25 per month $44.99 per month $49.98 per month (includes internet)
Why They're Great for Seniors · Voice remote
· Enhanced text readability
· Enhanced Closed Captioning
· Best prices
· Straightforward packages
· Vast resource library with how-to videos
· Excellent customer service
· No contracts
· Affordable bundles
· Flexible installation window

Xfinity

Xfinity is the country's largest cable company. Its digital cable service called X1 includes hundreds of channels, 4K Ultra HD, and optional DVR storage. Plus, you can watch free shows and movies On Demand, stream music and videos from your favorite apps, and watch content from Peacock Premium, NBC's streaming service. If your favorite channels don't come with the basic X1 package, just add on whatever you need. AMC Premiere, Showtime, HBO, MLB Network, Nascar, international programming, and more can easily be added to your package for an extra fee. We're all about customization and getting exactly what you want, so this is a great perk!

Xfinity

Xfinity also gives you a TV remote with voice control that we think is excellent for seniors. No more dealing with small buttons. Simply press the microphone button and then speak to navigate the TV with your voice. Turn on your favorite station without having to know the channel number. You can also use your voice to access the guide, search for a movie, or open a video on an app like Netflix or YouTube.
Like many cable providers, Xfinity also offers several high-speed internet packages. We'd recommend bundling with Xfinity internet to save on both services.

Cox

Cox is currently only available in 18 states, but we'd highly recommend their cable TV service if it's offered in your area. This company has a 75+ channel cable package starting at just $25 per month for seniors who just want a basic, affordable package. Talk about a deal! You can enjoy popular channels like ABC, NBC, FOX, CBS, and The CW at a price that's doable if you're on a fixed income. You can also add DVR service for an extra fee if you're afraid of missing out on your favorite shows. For seniors who want a premium package, Cox offers other TV packages and bundles with up to 250 channels. Let the channel surfing commence!

Cox Logo

Seniors looking to bundle home security, internet, TV, and phone together can do so with Cox. Choose from five plans that bundle all four together, starting at $129.99 per month. Or, you can just bundle Cox internet and cable starting at $54.99 per month.

Spectrum TV

Remember those bundles we talked about above? Well, Spectrum is known for bundling internet and cable together, so we'd recommend it for seniors who want both services, as you'll get the best deal. Or, if you're just looking for a TV package with up to 200 channels, they've got plenty of standalone options as well.

Spectrum_Logo

Seniors who aren't sure what they want are in luck. Spectrum is known for its excellent customer service. No matter how uncomfortable you feel with technology, Spectrum’s team can help you out. They'll even buy you out of an existing cable contract with another provider if you choose their Triple Play* bundle. It bundles Spectrum Internet, Spectrum TV, and Spectrum Voice service together for a discounted rate. Plus, with Spectrum TV, you don't need to worry about getting locked into a contract. That's a feature we love!

Mediacom

Mediacom only provides bundles, so if you're looking for internet and cable, give them a try! Unsure if you want Wi-Fi? With Mediacom, you could get Wi-Fi and cable for the same price as just cable from Xfinity. Plus, your grandkids will love it when they come to visit.

MediaCom-Logo

Mediacom's cheapest bundle, the Local PLUS TV plan, includes high-speed internet and basic TV channels like NBC, ABC, and The CW. And, if you want to watch sports or movies, or to have kids channels for your grandchildren, you don't have to upgrade your plan. Just purchase the channels you want with an add-on genre package.
Although Mediacom offers excellent bundle deals, their customer service department needs some work. If you go with this company, keep track of your billing statements to make sure they deliver any promised deals.

Should Seniors Cut the Cord on Cable TV?

Many Americans, especially younger Americans, have stopped paying for cable TV. Instead, they use different subscription streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, and Disney+. These services start at around $10 per month, and they come with their own unique library of shows and movies. Others choose an internet-based television service like Hulu+ Live TV or Sling TV, which offer live channels paired with a library of on-demand content. This is called “cutting the cord,” and it's becoming more and more popular.
Depending on how comfortable you feel with technology, you might consider cutting the cord too. Let's take a look at the pros and cons of cutting the cord and traditional cable.

Pros and Cons of Cable TV and Cutting the Cord

Traditional Cable TV Cutting the Cord
Pros
  • Channel surfing
  • Watching shows, movies, and news live
  • No need to learn new
  • Larger on-demand libraries of old and new programming
  • Can be cheaper than cable
  • No long-term contract
Cons
  • Some providers lock you into a long-term contract
  • Installation fees
  • Paying for channels that you don't watch
  • Prices often increase after a promotional period ends
  • The content you have access to changes
  • Limited access to live TV
  • Can be more expensive depending on how many streaming services you want
  • Need wireless internet at home
  • Need a smart TV or a streaming device like a Roku or Amazon Firestick
  • Navigating streaming services can be confusing

Who is Cord Cutting Best For?

You might consider cutting the cord and subscribing to a streaming service if:

  • You're on a fixed income, and your budget is limited.
  • You just want to be entertained and don't care if you'll miss out on specific shows.
  • You already have fast internet that can handle streaming.
  • Your grandchildren spend time at your house.
  • You travel a lot and want to watch TV and movies wherever you go.
  • You're comfortable with technology.

Who Is Cable TV Best For?

Cable TV, especially our top picks for seniors above, is an excellent idea for seniors who:

  • Enjoy watching scheduled television programs and movies.
  • Love to watch live sports.
  • Like to channel surf.
  • Want to stay up to date on the news but don't use a computer.
  • Live in the same place year-round.
  • Don't have Wi-Fi at home.
  • Are spending more time at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Written By

Taylor Shuman

Senior Tech Expert & Editor

For over five years, Taylor has been writing, editing, and researching products and services covering topics such as senior care and technology, Internet and the digital divide, TV, and entertainment, and education. Her research on media consumption and consumer behavior has been… Learn More About Taylor Shuman