Why Everyone Hates Their Cable Company Even More This Year

May 23, 2018, 4:54 PM UTC

Every year, the survey wizards at the American Customer Satisfaction Index poll tens of thousands of customers of almost 400 leading companies to uncover how satisfied they are across a variety of key indicators. And for many years, the cable TV industry and its side-business of providing Internet service have come up dead last in customer satisfaction.

This year was no different, though the dissatisfaction is worsening. Cable TV companies averaged a score of 62 on the ACSI’s 100 point scale, down 3% from last year and the lowest rating for the industry in 11 years. Cable TV tied for the lowest average score among the 46 different industry groups in the survey, with Internet service providers ranking equally poorly. Not surprisingly, many of the same companies, such as Comcast and Frontier Communications, are in both groups. The top-ranked companies in 2018 were TV set makers, with an average score of 85; breweries, which averaged 84; and soft drink makers, also scoring an average of 84.

Cable companies fared poorly in the 2018 American Customer Satisfaction Index.
Credit: Cable companies fared poorly in the 2018 American Customer Satisfaction Index

The poor results for cable come amid an acceleration of cord cutting, the phenomenon of people dropping cable or never subscribing in the first place. The rise of Internet video services like Netflix and Amazon Prime has raised customer expectations, ACSI managing director David VanAmburg explains.

The Internet video services offer greater personalization, better user interfaces, and a lower price, he says. Meanwhile, cable bills are up 53% over the past 10 years to an average of over $100 a month. “As a result, cable and satellite television customers think they are paying higher prices for lesser value and receiving poor service to boot,” VanAmburg wrote in a blog post accompanying the 2018 report.

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Digging into the results, cable industry customers were increasingly dissatisfied compared to 2017 with picture quality, helpfulness of staff, frequency of service interruptions, and call center assistance.

Mediacom Communications, the fifth-largest cable operator, ranked dead last in the survey with a rating of just 55. It also ranked last as an ISP with a rating of 53. By comparison, Netflix (NFLX) got a rating of 78 in its Internet video industry category. Mediacom said it expects to improve its score as it nears completion of a three-year, $1 billion effort to bring 1 gigabit-per-second Internet speeds to its customers. “We believe this is the type of transformative change that will greatly improve the customer experience moving forward,” the company said in a statement.

Frontier Communications ranked second to last as a cable TV provider with a score of 56; it scored 54 as an ISP. The company has been struggling mightily with debt from its 2015 purchase of customers from Verizon in California, Florida, and Texas. Frontier (FTR) did not respond to a request for comment.

Cable giant Comcast, the largest cable provider, ranked third from the bottom in its industry with a score of 57. Comcast (CMCSA) did a little better as an ISP, ranking in a tie for 6th out of 12 with a score of 60. The company declined to comment on the ACSI report.

The top-ranked cable TV companies were AT&T’s (T) U-Verse, with a score of 70; Verizon’s (VZ) Fios, with a score of 68; and Dish Network (DISH), with a score of 67.

(Update: This story was corrected on May 23 to note that Comcast finished in a tie for 6th place in the ISP rankings, instead of finishing 7th.)

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