How to switch TV service
Switching to a new TV service doesn’t have to be a pain. This guide will show you how to find a new TV provider, save money, and coordinate canceling your old service with installing your new service.
How to switch TV service
- Shop around for other TV providers
- Find out if you have to pay cancellation fees
- Negotiate a discount with your TV provider
- Sign up for a new TV service
- Install your new TV service
- Cancel your old TV service
- Return your old TV provider's equipment
High costs and poor customer service lead many people to consider changing TV providers. Switching to a new cable TV or satellite TV provider can help you get cheaper service or get a package with more channels. Cutting the cord entirely with streaming or an antenna is another great option for those on a budget. Follow the steps below to break free of your provider today.
1. Shop around for other TV providers
The best way to kick off the process of switching TV providers is to do research on all the other providers available at your address. When looking at cable and satellite TV providers, you’ll want to consider the total cost of the service, including the monthly price of the TV package, equipment and installation costs, and any promotional offers. Providers often give new customers extra channels or free installation, or they offer to buy you out of your current contract.
Streaming services can be a cheap alternative to a cable or satellite TV package. On-demand streaming services like Netflix, Apple TV, and Amazon Prime Video have hit shows, popular movies, and exclusive original content. Services like Disney+ and HBO Max have content from premium channels you know and love. It’s even possible to get live TV streaming with news and sports with services like Hulu + Live TV, Sling TV, and YouTube TV. Some cable and satellite providers also offer TV streaming services, like Xfinity Stream or DIRECTV STREAM, so you may not have to leave your current TV service provider entirely.
There are other ways to save on your TV bill, like free streaming services. You can also get live TV for free using an antenna. Digital antennas cost about the same as a month of basic cable and give you access to your local broadcast television channels.
Helpful resources for researching TV providers
To help you in your research, we’ve created guides to the best overall TV providers and the best overall streaming providers. Households with specific needs, like sports fans and kids, should check out our other guides as well:
- Best TV and streaming services for sports
- Best cheap TV provider
- Best cable TV provider
- Best streaming service for families
- Best streaming service for news
2. Find out if you have to pay cancellation fees
Before you switch, make sure it’s worth the cost of canceling. If you have a contract with your cable or satellite TV provider, you may have to pay an early termination fee (ETF) when you cancel before the end of the term. Cancellation fees vary, but usually depend on how many months are left on your contract and can add up to hundreds of dollars. If you don’t have a contract, you can cancel without a fee anytime.
Cable or satellite TV service is often bundled with home internet service. You may no longer be eligible to receive a promotional price for bundling both services after canceling your TV service. Check with your provider to find out if the monthly price of your internet service will go up before you cancel.
3. Negotiate a discount with your TV provider
If the cost of your current TV service is your reason for wanting to switch, you can ask your provider for a discount. Once you’ve researched your options, call the customer service number of your cable or satellite company. Let them know you’ve found a better deal with one of their competitors and ask if they’re able to give you a better price so you can stay. If they can’t keep the price within your budget without downgrading your TV package, they might offer you extra channels. If they don’t budge, let them know you’ll be calling back to cancel soon.
4. Sign up for a new TV service
When you’re ready to make the switch to a new TV provider, the signup process is straightforward, but you should keep an eye out for unexpected costs and opportunities to save.
Cable companies and satellite TV providers both offer competitive promotions to entice people to switch. New customers can often save money through promo pricing and bundle deals or get extra channels added to their package for free. You may have to sign a contract that otherwise wouldn’t be required in order to get the best deal. Before agreeing to any terms, ask your new provider about the contract length and cancellation fees, the price for renting or purchasing equipment, and whether they can waive their equipment deposits, installation costs, or activation fees.
Streaming services have simpler terms, and signing up online is easy. You will usually have a choice between a monthly plan or a discounted annual plan, which you’ll have to pay for up front. If you’re ready to do away with traditional TV completely, check out our guide to cutting the cord.
5. Install your new TV service
If you’re switching cable companies or satellite companies, you’re likely to have two options for installing your new TV service: self-installation and professional installation. With either option, your new TV service can be installed and activated within days of signup. Self-installation is a convenient option for cable TV if your home is already wired up, but it’s best to have a professional technician take care of more advanced installations that require new wiring or mounting a satellite dish. Before installation, be sure to set aside your old equipment so it’s out of the way and ready to be returned to your old provider later.
Streaming services are easy to set up to use with your TV as long as you have a device that supports it. You’ll need to either sign into the streaming service through a smart TV or a separate device that connects through the HDMI port of your traditional TV (like Amazon Fire TV Stick, Chromecast with Google TV, or Roku).
6. Cancel your old TV service
The best time to cancel your old TV service is after you have an installation date set for your new service. This allows you to coordinate the deactivation date with the installation date to avoid having a gap between the services. If you’re moving to a new home, it’s ideal to cancel on your move-out date. Call your provider to let them know when you’d like your service to be canceled and be sure to ask about the process for returning their equipment.
7. Return your old TV provider's equipment
The last step of switching TV providers is returning your old provider’s equipment. You’ll have to give back any cable boxes, DVRs, remotes, or other rented devices within a certain time frame. Usually, you’ll have 30 days to return the items to avoid being charged a fee. Check with your provider to find out how much time you have and whether you can ship the items, drop them off in person, or have a technician come pick them up.
Frequently asked questions
Do I need to cancel my cable TV service before switching?
No, don’t have to cancel your TV service prior to signing up with a new provider. You can sign up for a new TV service, schedule the installation, and then ask your old provider to cancel your service after the installation date. This will ensure you won’t have to go without TV during the switch.
How can I get rid of cable and still watch TV?
You can ditch cable or satellite TV service and continue watching TV with streaming services or an antenna. Digital antennas allow you to watch local live TV at no cost. Streaming services let you watch TV shows from some of your favorite channels, and some services even offer live TV and news.
Brittany is a Contributing Writer for Switchful with over five years of experience writing about technology in the US and Europe. Her primary focus is on mobile and internet topics. She is passionate about helping people choose the right tech for their needs at the right price.
Bri Field has a background in academia, research writing, and brand marketing. She has edited scientific publications, conference papers, digital content, and technical communications. As Assigning Editor, she enjoys ensuring all content is accurate, clear, and helpful. In her free time, you can find her in the kitchen trying a new recipe, out on a hike, or working through her massive TBR list.