Jeff Kagan: TWC, Comcast Most Unpopular says ACSI

Jeff Kagan |

The two most unpopular companies in America today are Time Warner Cable, Inc. (TWC) and Comcast (CMCSA) according to the latest edition of the American Consumer Satisfaction Index. So is the problem with the companies or the entire cable TV industry?

If it was just one company we could think it’s just that company's problem. However since it’s the top two players in the cable television industry we must assume it’s the entire industry. These companies have the majority of customers in the USA. Based on this, other cable TV companies would probably join them on the list if they had larger customer bases.

Don’t get me wrong, nothing would make me happier than to report to you how good the cable television industry is doing - how customers love them, how they innovate and inspire, how quickly they are growing, how they are leading the way toward change. Unfortunately that’s not the case, and the fault can be laid directly at the feet of the cable television companies themselves. They have only themselves to blame for their troubles today.

Let’s pull the camera back and look at this from a longer-term historic perspective. Let’s see where the problem really lies and what can be done about it.

I have been writing about all the flaws in the cable television industry model for years. About the skyrocketing prices and the lack of concern for the customers desires to reduce costs. About how all care is for the investor, not the customer. I had been telling the industry to take better care of the customer because this day was coming quicker than they think. About how customers would have a choice and would leave them. About how these transitionary eras can quickly change an entire industry.

As an example of just how quickly things can change, take a look at the smartphone sector. Once upon a time it was led by Blackberry Limited (BBRY) , but today Apple Inc. (AAPL) , Google Inc. (GOOG)  and Samsung (SSNLF) lead. Today, Blackberry has a tiny market share. And all this change happened over just the last three years. Four years ago, Blackberry was still roaring.

Something similar is starting to happen to the traditional cable television world as well. They realize this, but don’t know how to avoid the problem. In years past, cable television had a monopoly of sorts, so customers had no other place to go. The cable television companies focused on the investor, and let the customer whither in the wind without care or respect.

Cable TV Customers Not Happy

So in cable TV, investors were happy while customers were not. While that was never a problem for the industry in years past, now with new tech and new competition, it is becoming a real problem, and it is impacting the entire cable television industry. It seems the leaders of this industry don’t understand how to fix this problem and grow once again.

I think the problem is with the entire cable television industry. The model is broken. Over the last year or two, cable TV is losing market share for the first time to new competitors like AT&T (T) Uverse, Verizon (VZ) FiOS and CenturyLink (CTL) Prism.

These companies are selling IPTV, which is like cable television over the Internet. This is a much more efficient model and opens up all sorts of new and innovative possibilities. Customers seem to love the quality, service and innovation of television from telephone companies.

In fact, IPTV seems to be so much better than traditional cable television that companies like Comcast are trying to work with it, as well as with Xfinity. Digitizing the signal and sending it over the Internet let’s companies provide television service beyond the customer's home and offer new and better experiences wherever the customer happens to be right now.

Today, because of the Internet, television can follow the customer wherever they go. It can be watched not only at home on TV, but it can also be watched wirelessly using a smartphone, smart watch, tablet, laptop and whatever else will come next. Plus, it can be watched anyplace in the country where there is a wireless signal. Today, users can move their televisions and remain connected wirelessly.

This is a radical shift in the television world. And more changes will continue to occur. In fact, industry after industry is jumping on board very quickly. Just look at healthcare, automotive, retail, sales and so many others.

The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas this week will be a great place to witness so much of what is changing and what it coming. That changes the old and traditional cable television model. The cable television industry would prefer everything stay the way it always has been with them in control. Yet, that’s not the real world. You can’t stop progress. Just ask Blackberry.

This is the new world that the traditional cable television companies are having a tough time competing in. This is why they are losing market share. This is why traditional cable television must update their technology and their customer relationships.

So how will Cable television survive going forward?

  • Cable TV must improve their customer relationships.
  • Cable TV must update their brand in the customer mind. Today the brand is negative in the customer mind. The reason being that cable TV never cared about this before. Suddenly, they do, so their brand must be updated and their service improved and communicated in the marketplace.
  • Cable TV sees competition and new technology rewriting the rules of their industry. They want to lead the change in that space. They want changes to occur on their timeframe.

This is where they are having trouble because of the path they are on. The path they took of their own choosing over the last few decades. The path where they didn’t take care of customers. So today, customers don’t like them, and don’t trust them.

Customers Don’t Like or Trust their Cable TV Provider Today

So cable TV needs to be improved upon. It can be improved, but it will take time. There is no quick fix. They are trying to focus on improving the customer experience and attitude toward them. The time to start is now. There is no time to waste.

Remember the telephone companies were also disliked decades ago, but they saw the writing on the wall and started to care about the customer. So after a while they won this battle. Today customers actually like their telephone company. Unfortunately, cable television's behavior toward the customer over the last few decades is the real problem. They just shot themselves in the foot time after time. The reason was they never cared because they had nothing to lose. Until now, that is.

Customers are smarter than that. Customers remember. And that’s the real problem for the cable television industry today.

I hope they can recover over time because I would like nothing more than to write good stories about cable television going forward. About how they are improving, and about how customers are starting to like them for the first time ever.

This could happen immediately if the cable television industry decided this was the strategy for growth going forward. Today, when I talk about cable television in speeches, you can hear the groans from the audiences. That’s not good for the industry. I want to hear cheers.

There are good things to talk about today. Unfortunately, these things are being overshadowed by real problems that customers still wrestle with. It will take time. I’ll keep watching and reporting on any improvement or changes in this space. Let’s hope for the best. Let’s hope the cable television industry can make this a happy new year indeed.


DISCLOSURE: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors, and do not represent the views of Readers should not consider statements made by the author as formal recommendations and should consult their financial advisor before making any investment decisions. To read our full disclosure, please go to:


Symbol Name Price Change % Volume
AAPL Apple Inc. 117.65 1.05 0.90 23,506,581
BBRY BlackBerry Limited 7.35 -0.02 -0.27 2,080,286
CMCSA Comcast Corporation Class A Common Stock 64.96 0.90 1.40 9,635,469
CTL CenturyLink Inc. 28.32 0.11 0.39 3,193,735
GOOG Alphabet Inc. 813.11 13.74 1.72 1,695,783
T AT&T Inc. 36.86 -0.63 -1.68 100,566,993
TWC Time Warner Cable Inc n/a n/a n/a 0
VZ Verizon Communications Inc. 48.21 0.01 0.02 19,414,098


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