The Best and Worst Customer Service in the Pay-TV Industry

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U.S. consumers generally do not give high customer services scores to their cable or satellite TV providers. And as consumers adopt streaming video services like Netflix and Hulu and drop their pay-TV subscriptions, consumer satisfaction with the cable and satellite providers is likely only to get worse.

In our recent articles on the Customer Service Hall of Fame and the Customer Service Hall of Shame, we named the best and worst performers, respectively, out of 150 companies from 17 industries based on a survey we commissioned from Zogby Analytics of 1,500 randomly selected U.S. consumers. Respondents were asked to rate their satisfaction level with a company’s customer service on a scale of “excellent,” “good,” “fair” and “poor” for each company.

Included in our company rankings were eight pay-TV firms. None finished among the top 20 and all eight finished in the bottom 20. Comcast finished dead last among all 150 companies, and three other pay-TV firms finished in the bottom 10: Dish Network, CenturyLink and DirecTV.

Here is a listing of pay-TV providers ranked from best to worst based on the percentage of “excellent” ratings they received in the survey. Also included are the percentage of “poor ratings” and the revenues generated by the pay-TV business (does not include revenues from other businesses).

Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) FiOS
> Overall rank: 88th
> Pct. “excellent” ratings: 29.67%
> Pct. “poor” ratings: 16.15%
> Revenue last fiscal year: $11.2 billion

Verizon’s FiOS fiber optic service got its start in 2005 and grew to include some 4.7 million TV subscribers by June of this year. Verizon also offers broadband internet service on its FiOs network and reported 5.7 million internet service customers at the end of June.

AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) U-verse
> Overall rank: 118th
> Pct. “excellent” ratings: 26%
> Pct. “poor” ratings: 18.29%
> Revenue: $36.46 billion (includes DirecTV revenues)

AT&T launched its U-verse “triple play” broadband, IP phone and IPTV service in 2006, but the U-verse brand now applies only to the pay-TV service. Subscriber numbers dropped by about 24% year over year in the second quarter of this year to 4.3 million.

Cox Communications
> Overall rank: 120th
> Pct. “excellent” ratings: 25.76%
> Pct. “poor” ratings: 16.51%
> Revenue last fiscal year: $11 billion

Privately held, Cox had 4.14 million pay-TV subscribers at the end of the first quarter of this year, a year-over-year decline of 4,000 for the quarter.

DirecTV
> Overall rank: 131st
> Pct. “excellent” ratings: 24.76%
> Pct. “poor” ratings: 19.51%
> Revenue last fiscal year: $36.46 billion (includes U-verse revenues)

DirecTV was acquired by AT&T last year and claimed 20.86 million subscribers at the end of the second quarter, a drop of 156,000 compared with the first quarter’s total. In the same quarter of 2016, DirecTV added 342,000 subscribers.

Dish Network Inc. (NASDAQ: DISH)
> Overall rank: 133rd
> Pct. “excellent” ratings: 24.61%
> Pct. “poor” ratings: 17.64%
> Revenue last fiscal year: $15.09 billion

At the end of June, Dish claimed 13.33 million pay-TV subscribers, down about 260,000 compared to 2016. In the second quarter, subscriber numbers fell by 196,000, including the company’s Sling TV over-the-top service.

Charter Communications Inc. (NASDAQ: CHTR)
> Overall rank: 136th
> Pct. “excellent” ratings: 24.13%
> Pct. “poor” ratings: 14.68%
> Revenue last fiscal year: $6.47 billion

Charter Communications’ Spectrum pay-TV service claimed 16.6 million residential subscribers at the end of the second quarter of 2017. The total includes totals from the former Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks which Charter acquired in 2016.

Comcast Corp. (NASDAQ: CMCSA)
> Overall rank: 141st
> Pct. “excellent” ratings: 22.6%
> Pct. “poor” ratings: 25.61%
> Revenue last fiscal year: $80.4 billion

Comcast is the country’s largest cable TV operator with more than 22.5 million residential and business customers. In the second quarter of this year, the company lost 34,000 pay-TV subscribers but added 175,000 broadband customers to bring its broadband subscriber total to more than 25 million, of which 23.4 million are residential customers.

CenturyLink Inc. (NYSE: CTL)
> Overall rank: 147th
> Pct. “excellent” ratings: 20.74%
> Pct. “poor” ratings: 14.47%
> Revenue last fiscal year: $17.47 billion

CenturyLink claimed 5.87 broadband subscribers at the end of the second quarter, declines of more than 120,000 year over year and 77,000 compared to the first quarter.