from the lack-of-competition-makes-bad-companies-even-worse dept
Comcast, which frequently makes yearly Worst Company in America lists, is trying to address its public image -- that being one of a corporate monstrosity borne from a lack of competition that extracts as much money from its customers as possible while offering the minimum it can, service-wise, in return.
In a recent interview, Comcast CEO Brian Roberts asserts the problem isn't so much that Comcast is an awful company, but that the size of its customer base makes even a small percentage of complaints seem like a never ending cascade of screwed customers.
"What unfortunately happens is we have about … 350 million interactions with consumers a year, between phone calls and truck calls. It may be over 400 million and that doesn't count any online interactions which I think is over a billion. You get one-tenth of one-percent bad experience, that's a lot of people – unacceptable. We have to be the best service provider or in the end, this company won't be what I want it to be."Roberts is right. Even small pockets of discontent in a large customer base both exaggerate the size of the problem and are, as he puts it, "unacceptable." But this isn't simply a problem with scale. (A problem that will only exponentially increase if Comcast decides to purchase Time Warner Cable.) Comcast has made several moves over the years that have been fairly antagonistic towards its customer base.
And while the CEO is doing a bit of a goodwill tour, his company continues to makes moves that make Comcast seem even more evil.
First off, Comcast is looking to alter Nielson ratings in order to charge a premium for ads inserted into repeated episodes of TV shows -- a move aimed at capturing the "binge" viewer market.
"Comcast, the nation’s biggest cable provider, wants to count viewers who devour multiple episodes of shows, while giving the most current episode a ratings lift. The Philadelphia-based company is working with Nielsen to roll out on-demand commercial ratings, or C3, for participating networks."All well and good, except that the same article quotes Matt Strauss, the senior vice president of video services, as saying Comcast customers can kiss their DVR fast-forward button goodbye.
Basically, Comcast wants to flip the current advertising system upsides-down and have older episodes of primetime shows carrying the same commercial load as the most recent episode. Right now, Nielsen gives ratings credit only if the commercial ad load remains identical to the original episode.
While digital video recorders and services such as Dish’s AutoHopper infuriate programmers because they allow for fast forwarding of ads, Comcast’s video on-demand services disable fast forwarding.We can argue the semantics of using the word "lost" to describe something advertisers failed to capture all day long, but the bottom line is this: most customers hate commercials and they don't like them any better when they're made unskippable by cable companies. People pay a premium for DVR services. Telling them they can't do the one thing they'd most like to do is only going to increase the percentage of complaints.
“The money being lost by people fast-forwarding commercials is in the billions,” said Strauss.
DSLreports also points out that Comcast is still continuing its stealthy push towards capped broadband.
Comcast has slowly but surely been expanding their usage cap trials, predominately in less competitive Southern markets. Portions of Maine and Augusta, Georgia appear to be the latest market to face caps and overages. Augusta locals tell the local media they were surprised to suddenly see they had a 300 GB cap and had to pay $10 for every 50 GB they travel.As usual, this is accompanied by spokespeople "informing" reporters that "most people" don't use that much data and that sneaking in usage caps is the "fairest" way to make sure data hogs don't use up all the internet (paraphrased). Of course, these caps have nothing to do with managing bandwidth. It's just a way to make users pay more for their services. Comcast may find that many people don't hit 300GB/month in usage now, but that's likely to change in the future as streaming services like Netflix increase in popularity, as well as console manufacturers making active pushes for digital delivery.
In the short run, this activity hurts Comcast's reputation while increasing its income only slightly. But if the foot's in the door, it can rake in huge amounts of cash once these users switch towards data-heavy streaming services. It's a long game, but one Comcast feels is well worth playing. Customers? Not so much. There's a dearth of competition in the broadband market, and providers will very likely adopt usage caps even in competitive markets if any provider has already proven they can be instituted with minimal effect to its customer base.
Comcast's CEO may be stinging a little from his company's poor reputation, but expressing a little concern in an interview doesn't do much towards mitigating the damage done by years of customer-unfriendly tactics. And, if these recent stories are any indication, there will be much more damage done in the future.