News

Cable TV Still Lags on Customer Satisfaction

5/23/2009 2:00 AM Eastern

Think flying is a pain in the keister these days? Cable and satellite TV services are apparently even more annoying.

Customer satisfaction with cable and satellite TV services dropped in the first quarter of 2009, even as overall U.S. consumer confidence was up in the period, according to a quarterly survey produced by the University of Michigan's business school.

The American Customer Satisfaction Index climbed 0.4% in the first three months of the year, to 76 on a 100-point scale, the second straight quarterly improvement.

However, the average score for pay-TV services fell 2%, to 63, compared with a year ago. Satellite operators actually brought up the score for the category: DirecTV notched a 71, and although Dish Network fell a point from last year was still above-average at 64.

The score that puts cable and satellite TV behind airlines, which improved two points, to an average of 64. In fact pay television services were behind every other major industry measured in the ASCI, including hotels, wireless carriers, fixed-line phone services, energy utilities, and fast-food and full-service restaurants.

Cable and satellite TV has hovered in the low 60s since ASCI began tracking the category in 2001.

“To be in the low 60s is not really a good place to be,” Claes Fornell, founder of the ASCI and University of Michigan business professor, said in an interview. “I'm surprised the numbers aren't improving more.”

Cable, though, has closed the customer-sat gap with satellite, per Leichtman Research Group survey results released last week.

The research firm, which polled 1,600 U.S. adults in March and April, found that 62% of cable TV subscribers are “very satisfied” with their provider while 66% of satellite TV subscribers are — a difference that, for the first time in the seven years LRG has conducted the survey, is not statistically significant. In 2004, 53% of cable TV subscribers were very satisfied compared with 70% of DBS subscribers, LRG said.

On the ASCI survey, Cox Communications maintained its lead among cable operators for the sixth year in a row, up 5% to an all-time high of 66 for the company.

Charter Communications, which recently filed for bankruptcy protection, fell 6%, to 51 — a new low for any company tracked by the ASCI since its inception in 1994.

Comcast, meanwhile, showed improvement by jumping 9% year-over-year but still came in below the industry average with a score of 59. Time Warner Cable saw no change, maintaining the same score, 59, it had in 2008.

DirecTV had the highest customer-satisfaction rating among pay TV providers — 71, up 4% from the previous year — while Dish Network dropped 2% in the period, to 64. That's compared with the first quarter of 2007, when the two were tied at 67.

BELOW AVERAGE

Despite improvements, cable still trails other industries on customer satisfaction:

Q1 '09 ASCI Score Change vs. Q1 '08
SOURCE: University of Michigan, American Customer Satisfaction Index
DirecTV 71 4.4%
All other pay TV 70 1.4%
Cox 66 4.8%
Dish Network 64 -1.5%
Comcast 59 9.3%
Time Warner Cable 59 n/c
Charter 51 -5.6%

March