Based on numbers gathered in September 2010 by the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, DirecTV is the second leading multiple system operator, or MSO, with around 18,934,000 subscribers. This MSO started in the summer of 1994 and is owned by the DirecTV Group, which is controlled by Liberty Media. To date, it has generated over $17 billion dollars. DirecTV’s main competitor is Comcast, but is also threatened by Time Warner Cable, Inc. and Dish Network Corporation. DirecTV, however, also offers high speed Internet, and DVR.
Bloggers/Users of DirecTV either love it or hate it. Honestly, there are more “hate it”s of the MSO than people who cannot live without it. Many people blogged about the billing problems with DirecTV. I can relate, because when my family had DirecTV, we got billed almost three times what we should have. My dad then spent hours on the phone trying to get reimbursed. After a struggle with the customer service, we ended up getting three months of TV free. Ultimately we changed to Dish Network though. There were also some problems voiced about the number of channels being received and complaints about the delayed DVRs. Users usually end up switching to a different service, and this can be aggravated by the slow moving customer service workers.
But there were pro DirecTV bloggers. One woman commented on the reliability of the satellite dish, saying it worked for her even in bad weather conditions. Installation for many people was simple and quick. Other people commented on the ease of DirecTV’s guides and the great quality of their HD channels. There are also the many sports packages for the NFL and NASCAR that create a lot of happy DirecTV fans.
In the end, I think that the best MSO depends on the individual. If s/he likes more channels, or better service, they have to choose a system operator that accommodates that need. Much of the complaints have to do with how much money someone is willing to spend; some say DirecTV is cheap, some say it’s expensive. I say, you get what you pay for.
Cox Communications is the third-largest cable television provider in the United States and the ranked the fifth in the top worldwide MSOs, with just over 5 million subscribers. This telecomm provider is a privately owned subsidiary of Cox Enterprises and offer cable, internet and phone to its subscribers. The company appears to have some very moral intentions around the communities they provide service for. There are several communities in California with middle schools that have received grants for technology from Cox Communications. A couple weeks ago, the company donated over 8,000 meals to the homeless and underserved in Orange County. At the same time, at the San Diego headquarter, the company completed an alternative energy project. Cox Communications seems to have a lot of their interest set on the community. But that isn’t to say that it doesn’t have problems just like any other MSO.
Comcast is the largest cable operator in the United States. It provides television, phone, and internet services It distributes service in 39 States and Washington D.C.. The company also owns many cable networks, including The Golf Channel and Versus. Two weeks ago (January 18, 2011) Comcast acquired NBC Universal after approval from the FCC.
My research on Comcast and it’s public opinion standing yielded what I had suspected: not many people like the main providers of their, TV, Internet, or Home Phone. These companies have enacted extremely complex coverage plans that are full of hidden fees and charges. The frustrating results of these plans create a lot of negative reviews on internet review sites, such as My3Cents and RateItAll. I found that most of the review sites had a rating of approval for Comcast of around 25%. I think that this number is a little bit high, because most people are more likely to post something on the internet when they are unhappy with something. However, from reading other blogs, other companies are not faring much better in the public eye. This research leads me to believe that most service in this field is substandard, and with Comcast being the most widely used company, it has the most negative reviews
The first thing I had to research was “what is a cable MSO”, which turns out to just be a fancy way of saying “cable company”. So, then I decided to choose DirecTV as the company I would research. DirecTV was launched in El Segundo, California June 17, 1994. It is now owned by The DirecTV Group who is controlled by Liberty Media. Liberty Media is a media conglomerate traded on the stock exchange through NASDAQ, controlled by chairmen John C. Malone. DirecTV today has over 18 million subscribers and generated roughly $17.25 billion in revenue at end of the year in 2007, no wonder Forbes ranked Mr. Malone 204th of the “Top 400 Richest Americans” in 2006.
One of the main blogging topics I saw was about the billing problems. A lot of people said they have spent entire days on the phone with a customer service representative trying to get their free HD credit, Stars and Showtime credit, and their referral credit. One person even said that the billing process ruined their entire experience with DirecTV. I can relate to the people who have spent hours on the phone with a customer service because my dad is always yelling on the phone to one of them for hours on end.
The other theme the blogs I read was the quality of DirecTV once they finally sorted out the problems. People loved the excellence of the HD and NFL Sunday Ticket, which allows you to watch every football game playing on Sunday. DirecTV has exclusive rights to sports packages for NFL Sunday Ticket and NASCAR Hot Pass, and a lot of people solely subscribe to DirecTV because of it and say that DirecTV would fall out if it was not for this.
But the most talked about subject that I found was money. It’s all about the Benjamins! It is strange that some people said that DirecTV cost them so much more money in comparison to other companies. Then other people said that DirecTV is the cheapest cable company they have had. People for the most part are not pleased with their DirecTV subscription.
Comcast is one of the largest players in the cable, entertainment and communication industries. According to their website, Comcast has 22.9 million cable customers, 16.7 million high-speed internet customers and 8.4 million voice customers. They also employ about 107,0000 people nationwide.
While Comcast is indeed a massive corporation and provides services to millions of Americans, this does not mean that those millions of Americans think very highly of Comcast. Comcast has earned the ire of its customers and regulators alike for several of its recent activities. From a customer service standpoint, one only need to google “Comcast blogs” to see the result: the second search result after the official Comcast blog is a blog lovingly titled Comcast Must Die. This is followed by other individual blog posts from blogs not dedicated solely to bashing Comcast, with such titles as “I hate Comcast…” ect.
For in-depth individual accounts of how customers have had bad customer service and be poorly treated by Comacast, The Consumerist blog provides a laundry list of options to choose from. Stories such as this, or this, this one as well, even this one, this one too, and many more clearly show that Comcast has its share of unhappy and unsatisfied customers.
To find positive buzz and good customer relation stories is significantly more difficult than those of individuals slamming the service. The fact that people are more likely to blog their grievances as opposed to their satisfactory experiences does, however, need to be taken into account.
There are even some websites entirely devoted to bashing Comcast. For a slightly more empirical view of the situation I direct readers to Customer Service Scoreboard to see how Comcast stacks up. I feel the results are self explanatory, so I won’t go into much detail other then to say it’s not pretty.
One issue in particular stands out enough to merit mentioning on its own: this is none other then Comcast’s assault of the principle of net neutrality. In 2007 it was discovered that Comcast was secretly traffic shaping its network and interfering with P2P traffic. While at first Comcast denied the claims they eventually admitted to doing so after empirical evidence surfaced. The FCC got involved and it eventually went to the courts. What is significant here in regards to customer opinion is that 1)the consumer response was almost universally negative. 2) not only was Comcast engaging in traffic-shaping, but was doing so secretly without informing its consumers and subsequently denying its practices as long as it could. This created a backlash against the corporation among many current subscribers and served to damage the company’s image.
The Bottom Line
What all this boils down to in the end is pretty simple: many current customers are unhappy with their current service and the way Comcast has acted in the past.
As of September 2010, DirecTV is the second highest multiple system operator (MSO) with 18,934,000 subscribers. DirecTV began on June 17th, 1994 and is now owned by The DirecTV Group. That group is controlled by Liberty Media. In addition to providing television services, DirecTV also offers high speed Internet, digital video recorder (DVR), and mobile applications that can control users’ DVR.
Users’ reactions towards DirecTV’s services are varied from users loving it to users hating it. A forum from Viewpoints.com allows users to rate and review certain products. For DirecTV, there is one reviewer who switched from Dish Network to DirecTV and loved it. She said that the DVR feature was better because she was able to simultaneously record shows and wrote that DirecTV was a great satellite provider. Another reviewer commented on the dependable service and the ease of installing a DirecTV satellite dish. Since having her DirecTV, this user has not had any problems and stated that it is more dependable than cable TV. She also mentioned that the satellite dish did not take up much space and the installation time took less than an hour.
On the other side of the spectrum, there have been many negative reviews about DirecTV. In another forum discussing this MSO, users have had bad experiences with it. One user said that DirecTV mislead him about the number of channels he would receive. He was told that he would receive 67 channels but most of these channels were news or movie clips. When he called to see if he could change his channels, they representative offered him another package that required him to pay more money. Another user complained that he continually looses his TV reception due to snow. When he called to have it fixed, he was advised to clean out the snow first. Many users in Oregon, California, Washington, and New York have criticized the removal of FOX network due to the agreement between the two companies have expired. These users want to switch to another service especially since they are missing their favorite shows and news programs.
According to the National Cable and Telecommunications Association, Dish Network Corporation is the 3rd top MSO as of September 2010 with 14,289,000 subscribers. According to the Dish Network web site, in 1996 Dish network sent out its first broadcast and by 1997 the company reached its first one million users. In 1999 the company unveiled the world’s first and only 500 channel satellite television system and reached out to two million users in the same year. In more recent news, 2010 was a very big year for this company. In April DishNetwork becomes the first and only pay-TV provider to offer more than 200 HD channels. Later in the year the company announced its collaboration with Google to create Google TV. For a more detailed timeline: http://www.dishnetwork.com/about/profile/history/default.aspx
I found many forums and blogs for people to post their opinions about Dish Network. Unfortunately I found that the most occurring kinds of comments about the company were negative ones. I found a site simply called “”Dish Network Reviews” which had people’s opinions on the pros and cons of the company. A very common complaint was that the customer service was less than satisfactory, and a common pro was that people found the system user friendly and easy to use. Another very common complaint was that the service started out very affordable, even cheap, and but that was very temporary. The deals soon wore off and the service seemed to get very expensive fast. However, the fact that most of the reviews about the company were negative made me think that it is the most dissatisfied customers that are more likely to blog about their bad experience. As a consumer I can say that I am much more vocal about something that I strongly dislike, instead of the other way around. This makes me wonder if there are more good things that people are not posting.
I also found a blog that someone wrote comparing Direct tv, Dish Network, and Comcast, as well as invited other people to share their opinions about the companies. This man who created the blog gave Dish Network a C as a grade. He also cited other people’s blogs as being only 65% positive, 42% gave only one star out of five and only 12% gave five starts out of five. http://cyfairrealestate.com/2010/09/the-great-debate-comcast-vs-directv-vs-dish-network-vs-entouch/