Merger partners Comcast Corp. and Time Warner Cable Inc. are two of America's least favorite cable companies, according to a new survey from Consumer Reports.
The cable giants showed up near the bottom of the magazine's rankings in a survey of 81,848 users of television, Internet and phone plans, the magazine reported Tuesday. Subscribers gave the companies low marks for customer support and for value.
"Everything else in consumer technology is getting more affordable every year — everything except communications services," said Glenn Derene, Consumer Reports' electronics editor and lead author of the story.
Comcast is seeking regulatory approval for the $45-billion takeover of Time Warner Cable, giving it control of 30% of the pay-TV market. The deal would help the companies cut costs amid declining demand in the cable industry, where average annual bills of almost $2,000 caused the number of U.S. pay-TV customers to fall last year for the first time.
Prices are climbing even with stiffer competition from phone carriers such as Verizon Communications Inc. That's partly because networks such as CBS Corp. and Walt Disney Co. are charging cable companies higher fees to use their programming.
"We are always looking for ways to deliver improved value, reliability and service to our customers," said Susan Leepson, a Time Warner Cable spokeswoman.
Comcast said it has focused on improving customer satisfaction by proactively responding to complaints in social media, offering users online account management and boosting Internet speeds 12 times in recent years.
"We are making progress," said Tom Karinshak, Comcast's senior vice president of customer experience. "We aren't happy with the Consumer Reports results and we know we have more work to do."
The Consumer Reports cover story shows just how much the pay-TV industry has infiltrated customers' wallets. The rate of cable price increases was more than double the rate of inflation in the 15 years through 2012, Derene said.
Comcast's TV service ranked 15th out of 17 providers, while Time Warner Cable's was 16th. They were also in the bottom half of phone and Internet providers and of 14 companies that offer packages of all three services.