Here is my take on this. I have had Comcast, Charter Cable and currently DirecTV.
If you don't have High Def, then I don't think it matters much…go for the cheapest package that has the channels you want. If you have High Def, then you have all types of other problems to consider. The number 1 issue is HDLite (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HD_Lite
). This is most apparent from the satellite companies, Dish Network especially. Because the HD channels take up so much more bandwidth then regular, these companies have gotten away with compressing or shrinking the resolution so that you are technically lower then High Def. Cable companies can do this but I don't think any do other then Time Warner. They are more guilty of compression (Charter).
First off, support. It sucks across the board for all cable and satellite companies.
So, assuming you have a High Def television, here are my pros and cons for each:
DirecTV (and Dish):
-more channels for cheaper
-NFL Sunday Ticket
-better overall picture
-more HD channels
-Post install support friendly and helpful if you know the right number to call
-HD Lite on some HD channels
-Installation setup and support is atrocious (missed appointments, no call backs, etc)
-Dish is unsightly (HD dish is huge)
-No On Demand service!
-No direct Internet offering
Charter Cable (Michigan):
-On Demand service is decent
-Support is ok
-5mb Cable Internet service
-TV picture highly compressed (looks terrible in HD)
-No NFL Network
Comcast (Michigan and Pittsburgh)
-Great HD picture (little or no compression)
-pricing ok if you get a deal and combine with Internet
-On Demand service is fantastic
-Support is lousy
-Limited HD channel bandwidth
-not available in all areas
SO...it all depends on where you are.
I can only get Charter Cable where I live because of the monopolistic cable laws. So, I think DirecTV is the obvious choice for NFL fans and the HD picture is better.
The AVS forum is a great source of info on services in your area and quality. www.avsforum.com