Comcast, TWC hit rock bottom in customer satisfaction index
Michelle Clancy
| 22 May 2014
Subscription TV providers have once again found themselves at the bottom of the American Customer Satisfaction Index in its annual measure of communications industries. The report found that customer satisfaction is deteriorating for all of the largest pay-TV providers, but cable fares the worst.

According to the latest ACSI results, subscription TV has fallen 4.4% to 65 on a 100-point scale, with only ISPs faring worse (that segment dropped 3.1% to a score of 63). The two industries of course include many of the same companies.

"The Internet has been a disruptor for many industries, and subscription TV and ISPs are no exception," said Claes Fornell, ACSI chairman and founder. "Over-the-top video services, like Netflix and Hulu, threaten subscription TV providers and also put pressure on ISP network infrastructure. Customers question the value proposition of both, as consumers pay for more than they need in terms of subscription TV and get less than they want in terms of Internet speeds and reliability."

Though both companies saw drop in customer satisfaction, DirecTV (-4%) and AT&T (-3%) are tied for the lead with ACSI scores of 69. Verizon Communications FiOS (68) and DISH Network (67) follow.

Viewers are much more dissatisfied with cable TV service than IPTV and satellite service (60 vs. 68). DISH Network may be the lowest-scoring satellite TV company, but it is better than the top-scoring cable company, which is Cox Communications (-3% to 63).

As they wait to gain approval for a merger, cable giants Comcast (No 1 MSO) and Time Warner Cable (No 2 MSO) have the most dissatisfied customers. Comcast falls 5% to 60, while Time Warner registers the biggest loss and plunges 7% to 56, its lowest score to date. That's perhaps unsurprising after a month-long black out last summer that saw poor headlines, churn and lawsuits from subscribers.

"Comcast and Time Warner assert that their proposed merger will not reduce competition because there is little overlap in their service territories," said David VanAmburg, ACSI director. "Still, it's a concern whenever two poor-performing service providers combine operations. ACSI data consistently show that mergers in service industries usually result in lower customer satisfaction, at least in the short term. It's hard to see how combining two negatives will be a positive for consumers."

Interestingly, customers rate Comcast (-8% to 57) and Time Warner Cable (-14% to 54) even lower for Internet service than for their TV service. In both industries, the two providers have the weakest customer satisfaction.