Broadband

by Karl Bode


Filed Under:
broadband, customer service, innovation

Companies:
comcast, tesla



Comcast Fancies Itself The Tesla Of Cable

from the we're-innovative-if-we-say-we-are dept

Despite offering some of the worst customer service ever documented, Comcast has been busy lately trying to convince anybody who'll listen that it's on the cusp of becoming a Silicon-Valley-esque innovation giant. That's an uphill climb for those familiar with the company's often biannual TV rate hikes, attacks on net neutrality, or the company's ongoing quest to sock uncompetitive markets with usage caps. High prices aren't just a result of Comcast's monopoly domination, you see, they're reflections of the incredible value being delivered unto consumers by an innovation engine, the likes of which the universe has never seen.

This argument that high cable and broadband prices reflect premium quality is an idea the cable industry has used for years. Before the company was acquired, Time Warner Cable CEO Rob Marcus tried to proclaim that the company's high prices were because it was the "Mercedes" of cable. Continuing this metaphor, Comcast recently told its hometown paper that it too only charged so much because it sees itself as the Mercedes or Tesla of the cable industry:
"We kind of don't want to be Netflix. We don't want an $8 or $9 product," said Sree Kotay, Comcast's former chief software architect and now chief technology officer and executive vice president in the cable division.

"Not to knock them or anything, but we want to be a Tesla or a Mercedes and be a premium product," Kotay said. "The point of empowering our product and development teams is fundamentally not just about direction and ambition, it's also about tapping into their creativity, and that's how you make great products."
Yeah, not to knock a Silicon Valley company that has actually been innovative, but we're a luxury brand worth every penny because we say so. Obviously, reality doesn't work that way. Companies that deliver premium product also deliver premium support. Take a look, for example, at Comcast's rating on the American Customer Satisfaction Index (59), and then compare it to companies like Apple (81) or Amazon (83). Even the IRS scores higher than Comcast ever has. And that's thanks, of course, to Comcast having among the worst customer support in the history of modern American industry.

Still, the Philadelphia Inquirer proceeds to do yeoman's work insisting that Comcast's now a hipper, riskier, more innovative company. Why? Because it now has foosball tables and its pricey, locked-down cable boxes suck slightly less than they used to:
"It's part of a big transformation taking place at Comcast: converting a suit-and-tie cable company into a risk-taking Silicon Valley-like tech company that can drive revenue growth outside the cable bundle."
Except so far there's no indication that's actually true. While Comcast continues to claim its new, modestly successful X1 cable box is the evidence of a profound sea change at the company, Comcast continues rumbling along with a primary focus on turf protection and harming companies actually busy disrupting.

The cable giant has been fighting tooth and nail against the FCC's quest to bring more competition to the cable box, delivering cheaper, better set tops to all. It has been working tirelessly at capping and metering its broadband customers so that Netflix streaming is more cumbersome and costly. It lobbies for state laws that hamstring innovative public/private solutions to rural broadband gaps. It uses disgusting tactics to fight net neutrality rules protecting startups and consumers from entrenched monopolists. This is a company that thinks it has a right to charge broadband users more for basic privacy.

But yes, other than historically low satisfaction ratings, violent disdain for its customers, and a well-documented history of screwing real innovators and disruptors at every conceivable opportunity, Comcast is just like any other, hungry and innovative Silicon Valley startup. Congratulations, Comcast.

Reader Comments

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  • icon
    Vidiot (profile), 17 Aug 2016 @ 6:06am

    They're Nicola Tesla?

    That's the way I first read that. But you're right... expecting energy to flow through the ether, from the generation source (consumers' wallets) to the load (Comcast bank accounts) despite never having established a tangible connection between them. And, as a result, seeming like a crazy person, howling at the moon, when it doesn't go according to this wacky, disconnected theory.

    (Apologies to the genius of beloved Mr. Tesla.)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    TheResidentSkeptic (profile), 17 Aug 2016 @ 7:00am

    A Premium Product?

    Must be some new definition of the term that I was not previously aware of.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      John Fenderson (profile), 17 Aug 2016 @ 7:13am

      Re: A Premium Product?

      You're just reading the wrong definition. "Premium" meaning "high quality" is the third definition in my dictionary. The first is "An amount paid over and above the regular price".

      I think Comcast is going with the first.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 17 Aug 2016 @ 7:18am

      Re: A Premium Product?

      If you take the marketing version of a "premium product", they are! You are paying for the experience, not the quality.

      I mean why pay a few dollars for an antenna that gets you unlimited free HD over the air content when you can pay hundreds a year for the exact same stuff compressed to 480p quality through a cheap and nearly unusable box!

      An experience you could not get with any other company (because you are not allowed to go to any other company by law). Premium!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 17 Aug 2016 @ 7:29am

      Re: A Premium Product?

      It's in the dictionary. They just altered it to "a long way above".

      premium
      [pree-mee-uh m]

      noun
      ...

      5.
      a sum above the nominal or par value of a thing.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Ninja (profile), 19 Aug 2016 @ 6:54am

      Re: A Premium Product?

      They seem to be using the same dictionary Obama used when he said something about the "most transparent administration ever". Interesting dictionary I tell you. I wonder if I can substitute "tax evasion" with "retirement savings" and stop paying taxes altogether.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Aug 2016 @ 7:04am

    they're reflections of the incredible value being delivered unto consumers by an innovation engine, the likes of which the universe has never seen.

    That is all too true, the universe is not seeing the innovation or the vale.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Aug 2016 @ 7:23am

    Netflix

    And yet NBC continues to provide the shittiest Olympic coverage since the Triplecast while Netflix produced a show that was rejected by dozens of other networks that became the biggest thing on TV this summer. And they produce tons of other great shows while NBC produces mostly garbage.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Aug 2016 @ 7:25am

    X1 System

    While the X1 System is cool... well, cool for a cable company, it is NOT innovative. The capabilities in the X1 have been culled from other companies in the video delivery space. Multi-room -- Hmmm... Dish TV's Hopper; Voice Remote - Apple TV; cloud DVR - MythTV. Also, be prepared if you move to X1 that you WILL have a service call for them to tell you that you need an amplifier. MANY customers suddenly have signal problems when they move to the X1. A $69.95 service call; is that by design, I don't know.

    Premium, not, get back in line - at the end where you rate.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 17 Aug 2016 @ 7:46am

      Re: X1 System

      Also, be prepared if you move to X1 that you WILL have a service call for them to tell you that you need an amplifier. MANY customers suddenly have signal problems when they move to the X1. A $69.95 service call; is that by design, I don't know.


      When I had Comcast a few years ago I had technicians tell me that too (this was a cable modem issue, but same idea). I had one tell me that I would need an amplifier because my house was receiving a weak signal. They added one and no change.

      Another tech came out. This time he was competent at his job. Never even had to enter my house. Turns out it was the cable box at the street. When Comcast last came by to run wires they used a really poorly shielded wire to run to the house. Re-ran with quality wire and suddenly everything cleared up and coming in with very strong signals.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    C. Omcast, 17 Aug 2016 @ 7:39am

    "Of course we're a premium brand we cost more and will charge you through the ear if you try and leave. Now I have lobbying to do so I'll leave you with the traditional Comcast saying 'Get the fuck out of my office'"

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Aug 2016 @ 7:41am

    I'm sure they prefer the car comparison because they like (metaphorically) running people over.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Aug 2016 @ 7:59am

    I see an East India Trading Company

    When I look at Comcast, I look at what has essentially become an unofficially state sponsored monopoly. They charge what they want to whoever they want once you have become trapped by their sole choice broadband opportunities. They add charges year over year and crow about it to their shareholders. They own many of the channels that they claim are forcing them to raise rates. The entire thing is corrupted against the citizen and used to spy on us wholesale while charging us an ever increasing amount to do so.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Aug 2016 @ 8:01am

    Comcast must be taking lessons from some in government and has started to redefine words in the english language to mean whatever they want it to mean in another poor attempt to justify their crap.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Aug 2016 @ 8:20am

    Premium vehicle brand? More like used car salesman.

    Comcast just wants the 2016 new car premium price for selling us a used 2010 Honda Civic.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    I.T. Guy, 17 Aug 2016 @ 8:20am

    At least Mercedes and Tesla have quality products and great customer service. Comcast... ROFL, K. You can shine a turd but it's still a turd.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Aug 2016 @ 8:45am

    "We kind of don't want to be Netflix. We don't want an $8 or $9 product,"


    The difference, of course, is that I actually want to have Netflix.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Aug 2016 @ 8:49am

    They keep using that word, "innovative." I do not think it means what they think it means.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Howard II, 17 Aug 2016 @ 9:11am

    Comcast Fancies Itself The Tesla Of Cable

    Hahahahahahahahahahahah *thud*

    Sorry, I fell off my chair.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 17 Aug 2016 @ 9:14am

    Innovation

    Well, it's true. Comcast is being innovative. They have found many new, innovative ways to screw their customers. They have been so innovative that other companies, even industries are copying their lead. To our eternal dismay.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Aug 2016 @ 9:35am

    Comcast Innovation

    Hey, Comcast is innovative. You don't have to look any further than the voice remote. I used to have to either scream at a loved one or get my lazy ass off the couch to change the channel. I now have to scream into my remote to get it done. Now only if it'll allow me to order a pizza, I'll be set.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Aug 2016 @ 9:57am

    doesn't "premium" imply choice?

    In all the analogies Comcast is making, people choose to buy those products in a competitive marketplace, paying more than they would pay for other products. You can't be the "premium" cable provider if you're the only one.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Norahc (profile), 17 Aug 2016 @ 10:26am

    Tesla of cable...

    This is the equivalent of slapping a Mercedes logo on an AMC Pacer and charging Mercedes level prices for it. The only people they're fooling is themselves.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      JoeCool (profile), 17 Aug 2016 @ 11:29am

      Re: Tesla of cable...

      I was going to say the only ones they're fooling are their customers, but after thinking about it, I realize their customers are only using Comcast because they have no other options. So they are not fooled, but have no other choice. So yes, in the end I agree that the only ones they're fooling are themselves.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Some clown, 17 Aug 2016 @ 10:38am

    That X1 box is nothing special. The DVR that I had with Cox 10 years ago was better. It's too bad I can't buy a box from a company that will give me what I want out of a DVR. Not just ads for the Olympics.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 17 Aug 2016 @ 11:08am

      Re:

      Yup. [to keep the car theme] they tried to sell a used 2010 Civic at a new 2016 Mercedes price and call it innovation.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Pixelation, 17 Aug 2016 @ 10:41am

    Welcome to the Comcast "Self Driving Mode" for cable.

    "We're sorry your computer keeps crashing. Please keep your hands on the keyboard at all times."

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Aug 2016 @ 10:53am

    AAAAAAAA

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    David (profile), 17 Aug 2016 @ 3:08pm

    Wow!

    The commenters are on a roll!

    What can I say, when Comcast provides such fodder the comedians will take to their keyboards.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    techflaws (profile), 17 Aug 2016 @ 10:08pm

    "We kind of don't want to be Netflix. We don't want an $8 or $9 product"

    Except of course that Netflix could be seen more like Tesla in how they're disrupting things.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Aug 2016 @ 4:19am

    "...or a Mercedes and be a premium product..."

    Mercedes has a lot of competition, has a small target base and have no laws in place preventing Hyundai, Toyota or Ford and so on, from selling cars at whatever price they desire.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Narcissus (profile), 18 Aug 2016 @ 7:08am

    They WANT to be

    The say they WANT to be Tesla or Mercedes, so they admit they still have a (long) way to go.

    If they said they ARE Mercedes or Tesla I would say that would be good grounds for a libel suite against them from either one of these companies...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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