Cox has cable systems spread across the United States, as do their cable TV brethren Charter cableand Comcast. The largest concentration of Cox cable systems are in Arizona, California, and Virginia. In these areas, Cox has a large presence in Phoenix and Tucson areas, as well as Orange County, San Diego, Santa Barbara and Oceanside.
In Virginia, Cox is the cable operator in Roanoke, Fairfax, Fredericksburg, and Hampton Roads. In addition, Cox is big in Las Vegas Nevada, Cleveland Ohio, Baton Rouge Louisiana and New Orleans Louisiana. Smaller Cox cable franchises are in Nebraska, Arkansas, Idaho, Oklahoma, Kansas and Florida. So as you can see, Cox cable is certainly a force to be reckoned with when comparing their services with satellite TV companies Dish Network and DIRECTV. So how does Cox cable compare to satellite TV?
Cox cable of course uses a different delivery method in that they are using last mile technology to deliver signal to the areas they serve. Upgrading and maintaining such a network requires quite a bit of capital, thus usually means higher prices. Cox is fairly competitive price-wise, but is generally a little more expensive monthly that Dish Network and DirecTV. Cox cable certainly has their own point of view, listing several satellite TV myths which they say prove the superiority of their service.
Cox has several levels of cable TV programming, including Cox basic cable, Cox expanded basic cable, and Cox digital cable. The following rates are based on Cox cable pricing in Arizona, one of their largest markets. Basic cable is $21.95 per month, which sounds cheap, but this is the package that only has about 20 channels, and many of those are local or Spanish channels.
The real basic cable from Cox is titled “Expanded cable” and this is currently $47.95 per month in Arizona. Here you will find about 75 channels including popular networks like ESPN, TNT, TBS and CNN. This package will give you service throughout your home for an unlimited amount of television sets, but is not digital cable. This package is comparable to the America’s Top 100 package by Dish Network, or the DIRECTV Choice package.
For digital cable, expect to pay about $5 more in Arizona, or $52.95 for Cox digital cable. This package offers 250 channels, though that number is highly inflated by pay-per-view and music channels. Of course this is for connection to the first television set, expect to pay around $5-6 more for each addition television set where you want to receive digital cable.
In addition, Cox cable of course has premium movie packages available in addition to either basic or digital cable. You can add packages that include multiple channels of HBO, Cinemax, Starz, and Cinemax. Pricing varies based on your state and cable package, so check with Cox cable directly to get a rate quote on premium movie package. A quick review of their premium channels shows the prices to be fairly affordable, so this is an advantage over satellite TV prices for these channels.
The next two areas for comparison are traditional satellite TV strongholds, those being DVR service and HD, or high definition content. Lets first look at the Cox cable DVR.
The Cox digital video recorder will do pretty much the same thing that a DIRECTV DVR will do. If you’re not familiar with DVR’s, you certainly will enjoy it once you start using it. A digital video recorder does everything a VCR does, but faster, quicker, and with additional functionality. You can record programs easily, and then play them back at your convenience. Skip commercials and rewind the program, all without the hassle of dealing with videotape, as everything is saved on a hard drive within the unit.
Additionally, you can pause live TV at any time, and then resume watching the show when you are ready. Cox provides both standard and HD-DVR technology, depending on what kind of TV you have. You do have to subscribe to the Cox digital cable package in order to use their DVR. It is not compatible with Cox basic cable. Reviews of the actual DVR boxes are mixed, with some Cox customers reporting problems with Cox DVR service, while others are quite happy with it.
If you are comparing to satellite TV, Dish Network is recognized as having the best DVR on the market today, with their ViP722 model. DIRECTV’s DVR is rated in the good to average range by most DVR aficionados.
One thing you will find with Cox DVR service is a high price. This is similar to other cable providers like Comcast, Verizon FiOS or AT&T U-Verse, where they take the opportunity to charge a higher rate for DVR service. Cox cable currently charges in the area of $12-14 dollars a month for DVR service, this being in addition to the digital cable box rental fee. With DIRECTV and DISH, you will find several packages that include DVR service, or a fee of around $6 per month for packages that don’t have DVR service included.
Cox cable HD is the next area to consider. Like all cable TV companies such as Time Warner cable and Charter communications, Cox is struggling to keep up with Direct TV and Dish Network when it comes to high definition programming. This is due to the bandwidth restrictions that are a part of any last mile network. Cox cable of course recognizes that HD content is extremely important to customers today, as they want all of the content possible for their new HDTV’s. Unfortunately, if you live in an area served by Cox cable, you may be disappointed with the number of HD channels available.
In most areas served by Cox cable, you can expect anywhere from 40 to 60 channels currently. The variance is due to the fact that Cox cannot roll out HD channels nationally, like DIRECTVand Dish Network. Each area has to have the network capacity on order to carry HD channels, thus oftentimes the physical network has to be upgraded before a significant number of HD channels can be added. If you compare Cox vs DIRECTV when it comes to HD, and the competition isn’t even close. Both satellite TV companies now have 130 national HD channels, as well as local HD in all major and mid-sized cities. Dish Network and DIRECTV are targeting 150 HD channels in the near future, while Cox is struggling to even get to 100. Cox cable in San Diego was called out recently by the well respected website tvpredictions.com, for their hyping of minimal content HD on Demand channels.
So if a DVR or HD is your top priority, satellite TV providers Dish Network and DIRECTV compare favorably to Cox cable. If you want HD only, check out Dish Network Turbo HD, which offers several HD only packages.
A final area to consider with Cox cable is the availability of On-demand programming. Video on demand, or VOD is a new technology that allows the subscriber the ability to tune in to literally thousands of different programs at any given time. While DIRECTV and Dish Network have recently deployed their own VOD alternative, the service pales in comparison to Cox, Time Warner Cable and other cable TV providers.
Cox on demand allows the user to search for shows based on several different filtering options. You can use a menu to select from movies, TV shows, music, kids etc. Or you can select by a particular network. The nice thing is that Cox on demand is free with your Cox cable service, no need to subscribe or pay extra monthly for the service. The Cox Movies on demand is the exception to this, because it is like pay per view. The nice thing being you can order a movie anytime and start watching it, you don’t have to wait for a specific start time.
The reason Cox on demand and other cable on demand systems are superior to DIRECTV and Dish Network VOD options are due to the delivery method. While Cox has a network of servers available to meet on-demand request at any given time, satellite TV on demand relies on a customer owned internet connection in most cases. The internet connection must be high speed to support the on-demand systems with satellite.
Cox cable also has the ability to bundle multiple services in order to provide the customer with the so called “triple play”. With a Cox bundle, a customer will get not only Cox cable, but also Cox high speed internet and Cox telephone service. Cox bundles and Cox packages are fairly flexible, with the subscriber getting the option of selecting from several different levels of service. First of course, you would select the cable TV package you want, such as Cox basic cable or Cox digital cable.
Next, you would select from the different high speed internet packages. The high speed choices are the Cox value service (1.5 Mbps), the Cox Preferred high speed (Up to 12 Mbps), or the Cox Premier Service (up to 20 Mbps). These higher speed packages are with PowerBoost, meaning they are not always that fast. Cox security suite is also included.
Then you would add your Cox preferred home phone service. Cox starts with a basic phone line, then you can add in features like voice mail, or a package of other features like caller ID and call waiting. Cox long distance packages are also available for domestic and international calling.
Picking and choosing from these services will give you one of the Cox bundles. The Cox basic bundle, the Cox standard bundle, the Cox Preferred bundle, or the Cox Ultimate bundles are the varying packages. San Diego pricing on these bundles ranges from $89.99 per month, up to $129.99 per month for the Ultimate bundle. The fine print on the Cox website says these prices are guaranteed to July of 2009, so a smart shopper should inquire if these prices are promotional only, as there is plenty of fine print to consider here.
So thank you for considering a few facts about Cox cable and how their services compare to DIRECTV and DISH Network. Educating yourself on satellite TV and cable TVbefore jumping in is certainly important before spending any of your hard earned money.