Cox Communications is one of the most expensive cable TV providers on the market, especially when you consider all the hidden costs. But if you want sports and premium channels, have only one TV, and bundle with internet and other services, this provider could make sense for you.
You can get your minimalist, cord-cutting groove on with Sparklight’s no-frills plans, but you’ll pay for the privilege. You’re probably better off with a simple HD antenna, a live TV streaming service, or a traditional cable TV company.
Cox has some of the best channel line-ups we've seen, with more to watch for just about everyone. Family-friendly entertainment is Cox's weakest link, but it's still better than a lot of competitors.
Cox has a great local lineup, including staples like NBC, CBS, ABC, FOX, PBS, and The CW. It also includes some great Spanish-language locals like Univision, Telemundo, Unimas, and Estrella. However, it's missing Ion, Cozi, and Comet.
Cox cable TV includes a great sports lineup in its Preferred (mid-tier) and Ultimate (top tier) plans. ESPN, ESPN2, Fox Sports, and the Golf channel are all included in a Preferred plan, and the Ultimate plan adds NFL Network, NFL Red Zone, the Tennis Channel, and the elusive MLB channel. Most competitors typically offer these last three as expensive add-ons, so Cox is ahead of the game here.
Family and education: 3.5/5
Cox has some decent family entertainment, especially when it comes to educational content. You'll get Animal Planet, Discovery Channel, History, National Geographic, and the Science Channel, but you'll miss out on Nat Geo Wild and Smithsonian. The kids will love Cartoon Network, Disney, Nickelodeon, and Nick Jr., but the little ones won't get to enjoy Disney Junior.
News and politics: 4.5/5
Cox has excellent news coverage and politics content. Not only do you get the local news shows, you get most of the big national news channels too. You get C-SPAN, CNBC, MSNBC, CNN, Fox News, Newsmax, and The Weather Channel. Our biggest gripe is that you'll miss out on the international perspective of BBC America.
Entertainment and lifestyle: 4/5
Cox has some decent entertainment options, including Comedy Central, Bravo, CMT, AMC, FX and FXX, two Hallmarks, and Sundance. It's missing some lifestyle channels though, like HGTV and The Cooking Channel, but it has the Food Network and TLC. But what makes Cox stand out is how many premium channels it includes in its top-tier plan. If you spring for the Ultimate plan, you’ll get ten HBO, eleven Cinemax, five SHOWTIME, and nine STARZ channels—at no extra charge.
Sparklight has a decent channel lineup, and people who love watching the news or enjoying a wildlife documentary with the family will get most of what they want. Unfortunately, sports content is lacking, and so is Spanish-language content.
Sparklight does a good job of delivering local channels for most viewers, but it doesn’t provide any Spanish-language locals. So you’ll get ABC, The CW, NBC, PBS, CBS, FOX, and more, but don’t expect Telemundo, Univision, or Estrella.
Sparklight brings you a variety of sports staples like both ESPNs, Fox Sports 1, TBS, TNT, and USA. You’ll get a couple of sport-specific channels like Golf and Motor Trend, but you’ll have to do without MLB, NBA TV, and NFL Network. And since you won’t have Spanish-language channels, you’ll be missing some great international soccer coverage too.
Family and education: 3.5/5
Sparklight has something for the entire family, but there are a few odd choices in its lineup. Most providers offer at least one Nickelodeon channel, and Sparklight doesn’t. Instead, you’ll get both National Geographic channels, which is also uncommon. You’ll get most everything else you expect, like Disney, History, Discovery, Animal Planet, and Cartoon Network, but be ready to go without the Science and Smithsonian channels.
News and politics: 4/5
Sparklight has better news coverage than a lot of TV providers—at least, for English speakers. You’ll get lots of local news, CNN, Fox News, HLN, MSNBC, CNBC, C-SPAN, BBC America, and even the Weather Channel. However, you’ll miss out on Newsmax and any Spanish-language news sources.
Entertainment and lifestyle: 3/5
Sparklight has less variety than we’d like in its entertainment lineup. Your life will have fewer laughs and less music than you’re used to because it's missing Comedy Central, Laff, CMT, MTV, and VH1. You’ll have plenty of feel-good movies from all three Hallmark channels, Lifetime, OWN, and Oxygen, as well as action and westerns from FX, FXX, Grit, and INSP. And enjoy great tastes from both HGTV and the Food Network, but not the Cooking Channel.
Although it looks like Cox has a ton of channels, its lineup (which varies by plan and location) is padded with up to 50 music channels. (1) Other than that, Cox delivers a great channel lineup, especially in its top-tier plan. However, it’ll cost you more than other companies.
You’ll get the most bang for your buck (and some sweet premium channels) with the Ultimate plan, but a Premium plan has plenty of channels for most people and the option to add inexpensive premium channels à la carte, which range from $5–$15 per. We don’t generally recommend the Starter plan because you can get most of its channels for free with an HD antenna, though that signal is less reliable than what Cox provides.
Cox Communications has two types of plans. Cox TV includes live TV and on-demand TV. Cox Contour adds the ability to connect streaming apps like Netflix and Amazon Prime to your TV and search their content using a remote. All plans come with a one- or two-year contract, after which you’ll be on month-to-month pricing, which is around $15/month more.
Sparklight sounds like a company for cord-cutters—people who don’t want a traditional cable TV service at traditional cable TV prices. But when it comes down to it, you probably won’t save with Sparklight. If you want the same level of entertainment as a traditional cable company, you’ll pay more for it. If you want a minimal, no-frills plan, you’d be better off with a live TV streaming service like Sling or fuboTV.
Sparklight has just two plan levels. Economy Cable is barebones, giving you just 20 channels, while Standard Cable gives you 100—around what most competitors’ low-tier plans deliver. Unfortunately, you’ll pay mid-tier prices for low-tier service with Sparklight. While Sparklight has a decent (albeit short) channel lineup, many of the top-tier sports channels, like NFL Network and NFL Red Zone, are add-ons—at an additional cost.
When it comes to equipment and features, Cox is ahead of the pack. From a great app to exceptional DVR features to a search remote that simultaneously searches streaming apps and cable TV, using Cox is a top-notch experience.
Ability to watch: Great
Cox offers some solid features that make for a great entertainment experience. Cox TV uses cable infrastructure to keep you reliably binging your favorite shows. Your first Contour box is free, and every additional one is $8.50/month, which is cheaper than average. Plus, it has the Cox Contour app, so if you have smart TVs and don't need DVR on all of them, you don't need additional boxes. On the down side, the Cox Contour App has low ratings for both iOS and Android, so you might want to opt for more Contour boxes anyway.
Ability to record: Excellent
The Cox DVR service uses cloud storage so you can access recorded shows anywhere with the Cox Contour app. The Contour app also lets you download on-demand content to watch offline from anywhere.
How much storage you get (50–1,000 HD hours) and how many shows you can record at a time (1 to a whopping 24!) depends on which DVR package you buy. Or you can skip DVR altogether to avoid the additional cost.
Ability to find: Great
While at home with your TV, you’ll use a voice remote to sort through your shows—even the ones on streaming apps like Netflix and Hulu. You don't have to remember which app your show is on to find it, which we loved. It made our entire watching experience—not just our live TV experience—a delight.
Sparklight won’t be winning any awards for equipment and features anytime soon, but you should be able to watch, record, and find your shows just fine.
Ability to watch: Fine
To get started with Sparklight, you’ll need at least $10 for a modem. You’ll also need at least one streaming device like a phone or tablet, smart TV, Apple TV, or Amazon Firestick. Unlike other TV providers, Sparklight leans on its TV Everywhere app to let you stream your shows on the internet instead of over cable or satellite.
Ability to record: Fine
Unfortunately, Sparklight doesn’t come with DVR service either—unless you add TV Plus to your Economy or Standard plan for around $12 per month. If you do cough up the extra cash for this service (which is typically free with other providers), you’ll get a decent 200 hours of cloud storage and the TiVo app.
Ability to find: Good
While Sparklight's TV everywhere app lets you search live, recorded, and on-demand content all at the same time, how you’ll find your shows depends heavily on the streaming device you’re using. You’ll use the remote that comes with that device, so factor that into your choice when buying gear. We recommend using a device with a voice remote for the best experience.
In short, Sparklight doesn’t provide much of an experience, but you can choose your own adventure depending on the devices you use. While it does offer parental controls, you can block content only by rating, not by channel or individual show.
Most customers report that Cox has solid customer service, and that's been our experience too. Cox also has some good self-help content on its website. We liked having the option to save money by signing a contract or skip the commitment altogether. However, Cox could work on its transparency. It has some hidden fees that you can't see until after you supply personal information. We'd love the ability to build a cart and see what our bill will be before sharing that.
Installation is generally fast and priced about average. If your house is already wired with cable jacks for all your TVs, self-install is a free, easy option. Professional installation varies by location but will run you around $75, which is pretty inexpensive. Learn how to choose between self installation or professional installation.
Getting started with Sparklight is a bit pricey. Professional installation is $90. You can opt for self-setup, but that’ll cost you $30 (free with most providers). But professional installation might be the better choice. If you end up wanting a refund later, a technician will have to come out and attempt a professional installation or troubleshooting anyway. If the problem isn’t Sparklight’s fault (or your home isn’t wired properly), you’ll be out $90 for the visit and you won’t get your refund.
Sparklight relies on a cable-fiber hybrid infrastructure that makes it more reliable than satellite TV providers. However, Reddit is peppered with customers complaining about outages. Sparklight’s TV service uses Wi-Fi internet, which can sometimes slow your binge-watching due to interference from other devices, competing networks, and well, walls. That said, Sparklight promises great Wi-Fi (and a money-back guarantee).