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.

Filed Under: broadband, customer service, innovation
Companies: comcast, tesla

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  1. 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.

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