The Cable TV Industry Is Getting Even Less Popular

May 25, 2017, 2:58 PM UTC

It seems nobody loves their cable TV or home Internet provider. Wireless carriers, however, are on the upswing.

That’s the news from the huge annual survey of 43 industries from the American Customer Satisfaction Index. In 2017, cable operators and ISP tied for last place, with an average customer satisfaction rating of just 64%. The wireless industry was still near the bottom of the rankings, in 38th place, just below the U.S. postal system. But its 73% score was up almost three percentage points from last year.

Many of the same companies, like Comcast and Verizon, dominate both fields, ACSI noted. And neither industry offers much choice to consumers, with most localities having only one or two cable and Internet providers. The cable industry’s rating slipped 1.5 percentage points from last year, while the rating for ISPs was unchanged.

“Customer service remains abysmal, and viewers are continuing to switch over to streaming services with much higher customer satisfaction,” Claes Fornell, ACSI Chairman, said in a statement accompanying the results. “More than half a million subscribers defected from cable and satellite providers during the first quarter—the largest loss in history.”

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Nearly at the bottom of the bottom-ranked industry was Comcast, whose Xfinity cable TV brand earned a satisfaction rating of 58%, down six percentage points from last year and worse than every other brand except Mediacom, which scored just 56%. The decline came despite Comcast (CMCSA) CEO Brian Roberts’ efforts to fix customer service problems with a $300 million improvement plan started in 2015. Verizon’s FiOS TV service was top-ranked in the industry at 71%.

Internet service providers have hurt their reputations by raising prices and offering slow or unreliable service in some parts of the country, ACSI said. Verizon’s FiOS service was top-ranked in the sector, but its 71% rating was down from 73% last year. Frontier (FTR) brought up the rear with a rating of 57%, down from 59% in 2016.

In the wireless industry, prepaid service TracFone Wireless had the highest rating of any carrier at 79%. The largest carriers were closely clustered, with Verizon (VZ) at a 74% rating, Sprint (S) and T-Mobile (TMUS) tied at 73%, and AT&T (T) rated 72%.

The top-ranked industries in this year’s survey were makers of television and video players at 87%, and soft drink makers at 84%. Breweries, food manufacturers, Internet retailers, and makers of personal care and cleaning products all tied at 83%. The index surveyed 36,194 randomly chosen consumers over the past year.