Pay-TV Services Decline On Customer-Satisfaction Survey

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Customer satisfaction with cable and satellite TV services dropped in the first quarter, 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 -- a score that puts cable and satellite TV behind airlines, hotels, wireless carriers, fixed-line phone services, energy utilities, and fast-food and full-service restaurants.

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

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 record 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 U.S. satellite operators were tied at 67.

Cable's marks were comparatively better on wireline phone services, which had an aggregate score of 72.

Cox maintained its score of 74 to lead the category, followed by AT&T, Verizon Communications and Qwest at 71. Comcast's digital phone service fell 3% year-over-year, to 67.

The ASCI survey is derived from interviews with approximately 80,000 people annually. The score for each company is based on a sample of 250 customer interviews.

Overall, ACSI produces indexes for 10 economic sectors, 43 industries and more than 200 companies and federal or local government agencies.

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