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Consumers still don't like cable TV companies

Comcast and Time Warner rank near the bottom in our survey

Published: March 26, 2014 11:00 AM

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Do you subscribe to cable, but don't exactly love the TV services you're getting? Join the club. Once again, some of the largest cable TV companies—including Comcast and Time Warner, which are in the midst of a merger—are among the bottom feeders in overall customer satisfaction for TV service, according to the Consumer Reports National Research Center’s latest annual telecom survey.

In fact, if it weren't for Mediacom Communications, a cable company that serves a little more than a half-million customers in the Midwest and Southeast, Time Warner and Comcast would have ranked lowest in the survey. Comcast came in 15th out of 17 pay-TV providers for customer satisfaction with TV service, with an overall score of 59 out of 100. The company had low scores for value and customer support. Its proposed merger partner, Time Warner, did no better, ranking 16th overall for TV service with an overall score of 58. Time Warner had low scores for value, reliability, and customer support. Mediacom trailed the entire pack with an overall score of 54.

But the flip side is that two smaller cable companies, Armstrong Cable and WOW (WideOpenWest), topped the Consumer Reports survey for TV service. Those companies were followed by Verizon FiOS, which came in third, Wave/Astound, DirecTV and Dish Network, and then AT&T U-verse.

The two cable giants fared a bit better for broadband service in the survey although both were still nestled in the bottom third of all ISPs. Topping the chart (again) for broadband were WOW and Verizon FiOS.

These findings are just a small part of our annual telecom bundling story.

Find out how your TV, Internet, and phone company did in our newly updated telecom services Ratings.

In addition to ranking the TV, broadband, and telecom bundled services from 14 major providers, the article provides tips and advice to help consumers save money on their telecom services and select the best providers. One way is to haggle with your provider—we found that 92 percent of the respondents who attempted to negotiate a better bundle package got some sort of deal. Another is to build your own bundle by piecing together services from different sources. Just be aware that many companies are talking tough about cracking down on serial negotiators.

In the interest of disclosure, Consumers Union, the advocacy arm of Consumer Reports, is opposing Comcast's takeover of Time Warner, a merger between the country's two largest cable companies. Consumers Union believes the consolidation is anti-consumer, contending that the combined company would be able to extert even greater control over the cable and broadband Internet markets, leading to higher prices, fewer choices, and worse customer service for consumers. The Federal Communications Commission is currently reviewing the merger. We'll follow the progress, so keep checking back for the latest updates.

—James K. Willcox

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