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Netflix, Hulu and Other Streaming Services Trounce Pay TV on Customer Satisfaction

U.S. cable and satellite TV sector falls to 11-year low on ACSI consumer survey

This won’t come as a huge shock: Customers of streaming-video companies like Netflix and Hulu are far happier with their service overall than subscribers of traditional cable, satellite and telco TV operators.

That’s according to the American Customer Satisfaction Index, a research org that maintains widely recognized benchmarks in multiple industries. This year, for the first time, the ACSI measured video-streaming services — which debuted with an average score of 75 out of 100.

That crushed the U.S. pay-TV average of 62, which fell 3% year-over-year to an 11-year low on the 2018 report. Indeed, pay TV continues its dubious distinction as one of the most-hated industries among American consumers: The sector’s average score of 62 is tied with U.S. internet service providers for the lowest customer satisfaction of all 46 industries tracked by the ACSI.

By nearly every measure, customers of streaming providers say they’re more satisfied than those of traditional pay-TV services.

“Video streaming services significantly outperformed subscription TV,” David VanAmburg, ACSI’s managing director, said in announcing the findings.

For one thing, cable TV has been around for decades — and has a longer history of angering customers with continual rate hikes and subpar customer service. In addition, Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video and other services are cheaper and simpler to use than cable or satellite TV offerings, and they don’t have the hidden fees typically associated with cable and telecom services, VanAmburg said.

Among video-streaming services, Netflix, Sony PlayStation Vue, and Amazon-owned Twitch were the leaders of the pack on ASCI’s survey, tying with a score of 78. Apple iTunes and Microsoft Store tied with 77, and Google’s YouTube Red (which is being supplanted by YouTube Premium) notched a score of 76, followed by Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, Vudu, and Google Play with 75.

Other streaming services ACSI measured were CBS All Access (74), HBO Now and Starz (both with 72), Dish Network’s Sling TV (71), AT&T DirecTV Now and Showtime Anytime (both with 70), and the free, ad-supported Sony Crackle (68). Even in last place in the category, Sony Crackle rated higher than nearly all subscription-TV services.

Pay-TV providers turned in considerably lower scores. Near the bottom of the pack: Comcast’s Xfinity TV, with a dismal score of 57 (down 2% from last year). The only pay-TV operators tracked by ACSI with lower scores were Frontier Communications with 56 and Mediacom with 55.

This year, AT&T’s U-verse TV topped the subscription-TV list with a score of 70 (unchanged), followed by Verizon Fios at 68 (down 4%) and Dish held steady at 67. DirecTV and Alice USA’s Optimum both dropped 6% to 64 and 62, respectively. Cox Communications came in at 60 (down 2%), while Charter Communications’ Spectrum and Alice USA’s Suddenlink both turned in scores of 58 (a drop of 8%).

One caveat in comparing Netflix and others with Comcast is that ACSI uses different weighted metrics for the various industry segments. But one area that jumps out is call-center satisfaction: Among pay-TV providers, that score dropped 3% this year to an average of 63 — considerably below the 75 average for video-streaming providers.

Video-streaming services also received high marks for ease of understanding the bill (80) and website satisfaction (80), and overall performance and reliability (78), while customers rated them lower on availability of the current-season TV shows (71) and new movie titles (69).

Among subscription-TV providers, the top-rated metric is HD picture quality, which held steady at a score of 80. But along with the dissatisfaction with call centers, pay-TV subs again gave operators low marks for ease of understanding the bill (73) and ability to minimize service disruptions and outages (72).

Meanwhile, customer satisfaction for ISPs dropped 3% in 2018, to an average of 62. One of the chief reasons, according to the ACSI: More than half of Americans have only one choice for high-speed broadband. Scores for every major ISP deteriorated this year except Comcast’s Xfinity Internet, which remained unchanged at 60.

The ACSI’s 2018 Telecommunications Report is based on 45,292 customer surveys collected between April 19, 2017 and March 17, 2018.

The full report can be accessed at this link. Here are the ACSI rankings for video-streaming and subscription-TV providers:

Video-Streaming Services

2018 Score
Netflix 78
Sony PlayStation Vue 78
Twitch (Amazon) 78
Apple iTunes 77
Microsoft Store 77
YouTube Red 76
Hulu 75
Amazon Prime Video 75
Vudu 75
Google Play 75
CBS All Access 74
HBO Now 72
Starz 72
All Others 71
Sling TV 71
DirecTV Now 70
Showtime Anytime 70
Sony Crackle 68

Subscription-TV Services

2018 Score YoY Change
AT&T U-verse TV 62
Verizon Fios 68 -4%
Dish 67
DirecTV 64 -6%
All others 62 -2%
Altice USA Optimum 62 -6%
Cox 60 -2%
Charter Spectrum 58 -8%
Altice USA Suddenlink 58 -8%
Comcast Xfinity 57 -2%
Frontier Communications 56 -7%
Mediacom 55 -2%

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