Why Comcast Will Never Be Great Again

Why Comcast Will Never Be Great AgainIt isn't easy being a cable and Internet service provider these days.

Penny-pinching consumers are turning to cheaper options. Television broadcasters and networks are demanding more money out of the cable companies, and couch potatoes are tired of paying for dozens if not hundreds of channels that they will never watch.

Then we get to performance. When customers are paying nearly $100 for digital cable packages -- and far more than that when bundled with Internet connections and broadband telephone services -- they demand flawless uptime.

It's not a realistic expectation, and it's why you will often see cable companies and wireless carriers among the most hated companies in the country.

I'm not kidding. Comcast (CMCSK) was actually last year's winner in Consumerist.com's annual Worst Company in America contest. It's being accused of dodging the distinction this time around by asking employees to vote multiple times for its competition.

Setting Aside Personal Biases

Despite the persistent AT&T (T) U-verse marketers that knock on my door every other month, I've stuck it out with Comcast. I know its shortcomings. My Internet connection is buggy, and it doesn't seem to get any better despite regular technician visits.
I've lived through the familiar horror stories of tardy repair appointments, ineffective customer service, and outage credits that never arrive. I would bolt, but folks on rival services also do a fair share of bellyaching.

However, there are apparently people that are far more frustrated with Comcast. The country's largest cable provider lost 165,000 net cable subscribers in its latest quarter. This isn't some one-time quarterly fluke. Comcast has seen 443,000 more homes cancel than sign up so far this year, and that's after losing 757,000 accounts in 2010 after shedding 623,000 customers in 2009.

The entire premium television industry isn't in a funk. For every Comcast and Dish Network (DISH) that lost subscribers during July, August, and September, there's a DirecTV (DTV) or AT&T U-verse that gained new homes.

The overall trend is still pretty troublesome. Given the growing popularity of streaming services, online entertainment diversions, and networks that stream shows through their own websites, Comcast may never see its subscriber numbers turn up.

The Peacock's Feathers

Comcast's decision to buy NBCUniversal seems to be an admission that content -- and not simply being a gateway to content -- is king. Unfortunately for Comcast, the NBCUniversal deal is also a conflict of interest.

Having interests in movie studios, television shows, and actual channels makes other networks rightfully weary of the deals they sign with Comcast. We also already know that Comcast can be an easy target.

Comcast's studio put out Tower Heist last week. The cable provider was hoping to use the movie to test out the concept of $60 home rentals of movies while they are still playing at the corner multiplex. Yes, 60 bucks! Exhibitors obviously didn't like the move, threatening to boycott the movie in their theaters if Comcast went through with its stunt. Comcast blinked.
It will always blink.

A Slow-Footed Conglomerate

If NBCUniversal would have been Comcast's ticket to scintillating growth, it would have been worth its hefty price tag. Sadly, it isn't. On a consolidated basis, pro forma revenue and operating cash flow in its latest quarter rose by a mere 5% and 3%, respectively.

If you've seen the future of television, you know that it's not Comcastic.

The days of $100 cable bills, for the most part, are being ripped to shreds. Web-savvy couch potatoes are realizing that an HD antenna and a streaming service like Hulu Plus or Netflix (NFLX) will fit the limited time that we have in front of the boob tube.

Even if we stick to actual pay television services, folks are no longer limited to their local cable provider. Those territorial monopolies are history. Cable television has always had a say, but now you have U-verse and Verizon's (VZ) FiOS marketing their services aggressively and plucking customers from Comcast and smaller overpriced providers.

If you want a new wrinkle, consider that Google (GOOG) -- yes, Google -- is reportedly readying an Internet-served pay television service that will roll out in Kansas City next year.

Financially speaking, Comcast has been able to offset what is now three years of net losses of video customers by pushing its broadband telephone and cable modem services. The NBCUniversal deal will also help disguise the fundamental problem here: Couch potatoes are walking.

Comcast, you have a problem -- and I don't think your employees can vote your way out.

Longtime Motley Fool contributor Rick Munarriz does not own shares in any of the stocks in this article, except for Netflix. The Motley Fool owns shares of Google. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Netflix and Google.

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I guess from my standpoint I have looked at all competitors in my area (Central Illinois) and Comcast seems to have the best pricing for what you get, I have been visited by the sales rep's and it seems I will be going with Comcast for my TV and Internet service, use cell phone to make calls and majic jack. Even having majic jack has it's quirks - after some time you have to shut down PC and reboot to clear what ever crap is holding up device to work correctly.. Have lived in other areas and had higher priced service with less to watch and slower internet speeds, would like to see better programming though.
In the past I have had dish and direct TV and it is nice during good weather but as one post stated wait til a bird turd gets on there and end up with no service.

November 26 2011 at 5:28 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I opened a restaurant in Saugatuck, MI this summer. When opening, I called Comcast business to check out rates. I tried to watch my expenses and was hesitant because I didn't "need" interenet and phone. I thought it might be a good idea, but wasn't sure I would be in that location for more than the 11 month lease I signed. The package with Comcast was for a 2 year contract. I told my rep that I needed to think about it due to the reasons stated above. The customer rep then went into high pressure sales mode. He then told me that if I needed to cancel my service (due to business closing) that I could have an attorney write and my contract would end. Seeing that I have three attorneys who are cousins, and a couple more within the family, i figured it was safe! After being open 6 months, I ended up selling my space (as allowed with my zoning, and commercial real estate lease) and will take about 6 months to a year before reopening another location. I called comcast to inform them I would be sending an attorney form, and was met with thug like behavior from the customer service rep. He informed me the last couple months, policy had been changed and that I would have to pay an 1100 disconnect fee????!!!!!???? I told him that the salesperson PROMISED me over 5 times that this was NOT the situation. I feel as if i was dealing with the mafia (not joking!). I asked to speak to his supervisor (which he tried to avoid). I then go to the supervisor. Initially, he told me Comcast has never had that in place (sending in attorney letter to discontinue without cancellation fee)...then after I said, that is funny...your rep just told me that WAS the policy and that you just changed it. Again...thug behavior just threatening me. So....i went into tea party mode and let him know that I was not a manipulator, I did not try to take from the system, that I am totally capitalist and am not trying to "take" from Comcast. I stated that the only reason for me signing on was because of that guarantee. He then went on to tell me if i found someone to take over my service he would let me out of contract. So, now to avoid 1100 in fees, i have to try to find an individual to take over my service. I would have ZERO problem with this (just like my cell phone contract) but that was not what i agreed to???? How can a company do this? they do not have this policy for home service...just business. By the way...at the end of the phone call the supervisor said...ELizabeth, I totally believe you. Your sales rep lied to get you to sign on and i am writing to him telling him not to do that again. He said i use to work in sales and that happens (not word for word but sentiments!)i am looking to transfer account...if i can't...i guess i am filing in small claims court.

November 23 2011 at 7:39 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I've read many reviews (http://www.pissedconsumer.com/consumer-reviews/communications.html) about Comcast, and not all of them are positive. I guess the company should improve its services..

November 20 2011 at 11:32 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

I believe more consumers are cutting out their cable, and satellite service. I discontinued my Direct TV service about 2 months ago, I was paying for about 150 channels, but only watching less than 10. I get calls nearly every day from Direct TV wanting to sign me up again. I have 2 TV's, and I bought 2 HD indoor antennas and the reception is great, if not better than what I had. The satellite services also charge for HD, and I get it for free, so they must be charging the consumer for HD, and it is not costing them anything. And instead of having phone service thru any phone company, I purchased a Magic Jack for $39.00, plugged it into my computer, and I get phone service nation wide with no LD charges for only $19.95 per YEAR. I see that Magic Jack now has a device that you can plug into just an electrical outlet and get phone service that way, and it does not go thru your computer, and the cost for that unit is $69.00. All I can say is, the cable and satellite companies better get more creative and come up with something the consumer will buy again, and that is not a bundle of 150 channels that you have to pay for, but only watch 10. You can get the Magic Jack at any Radio Shack, Wal Mart, or any place else., or on line.

November 17 2011 at 7:12 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to cliffy934's comment

The magic jack you plug into the wall outlet has to have internet service, which adds to the cost per month.

June 07 2012 at 2:29 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

My problem with comcast is: half of the channels I pay for are in spanish I don,t want spanish channels.
I want english only channels.

If you want spanish have comcast spanish network.

November 17 2011 at 6:16 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Comcast has no excuses, their customer service improvment efforts are noble, but the overall impact has been extremely poor. About a year ago United Airlines In Flight Magazine ran an article on Comcasts' terrible response to customer complaints, ineffective billing, lack of upholding customer credits, service personnel who are incompetent, (both in the field, on the phone and in person at Comcast service centers). They provided several examples of customer abuse which would cause the hair on the back of your head to stand up straight. Terminations did follow and an effort to "re-train" and hire new staff followed. Of course because their share price was dropping. To date there have been improvements but the overall management and leadership remains disconnected from the day to day operation of thier compmany. Granted there are isolated islands of Comcast that have made measurable progress, but overall they fail to recognize the "Customer" is their lifeline, understanding, patience and placing the customer first is essential in every encounter.

November 17 2011 at 1:25 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Timothy Perkins

for those people that judge comcast based on the experience that you had. 9 times out of 10 the problems that you have was caused by people moving the equipment after the install, people planting there garden and cutting into the cable, loosening the cables and complain there services dont work or just as simple as not knowing how to turn there tv's on the right channel or input. folks we dont live in a perfect world were nothing ever goes wrong. take for instant you buy a car do you expect it to last forever or do you need to take it to the shop to get fixed after a couple of years . yes comcast has outages but i want you to tell me how long does it take for them to fix it..i'll tell you most of the time no longer then a day unless there has been a major act of nature. also tell me this when have you ever called comcast and they refused to reinburse you for the days you been out of service. the other thing is the new digital tranport adapters (dta) doxes comcast had no control over that the gov forced comcast to go all digital thank the gov for that one. comcast was nice enough to "GIVE" yall 2 of these boxes for free to use .they could be charging you. iv'e been a tech with comcast for 4 half years a now i work in cust service ASG so iv'e seen both sides of comcast i see things that comcast could fix and i see things that custs do to mess up the service and i see alot of cust come back from direct tv, verizon to comcast cause they see that the service is better with us. go ahead and make a service call with verizon and they will tell you at least a week to get to your house and a automatic $65.00 service fee even if you not home, try to pay a bill with them thats right that dont have a service centers to take your equipment or to pay the bill.. you want to talk bout direct tv okay you gotta love that dish let there be one bird turd on that dish and there goes your signal, weather dont even let me go there.. so you pass your judgement and make a decicion who would you choose

November 17 2011 at 4:43 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Interveiwed Q Comcas

I interviewed with these clowns two years ago for a job in IS production support. Since I work in IS, so I asked them their release procedures, if they followed ITIL methodology. Blank stares. I guess they thought I was using crazy words. They though I was stupid! Too funny. They described how they do a release to their CISCO core platform. Then they spend up to 11, YES ELEVEN hours on a conference call arguing with tech's and DBA's on where the problems were and how to resolve them. Talk about a cluster F. This ocurrs monthly. They said the VP's get on and start yelling! Great!

So I did start to notice my outages and "service denied" tends to happen at certain times of the month. These guys are a joke, they need some professional IT/IS management to clean house and institute some CMMi and ITIL procedures and processes.

November 16 2011 at 1:33 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

They were MEDIOCRE to begin with

November 16 2011 at 12:21 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

my sister got comcast package deal and it ruined 2 og her tvs one was her big screen, check comcast at google a bout the package they told fer that the dvd player they were giving you runed the tvs

November 16 2011 at 1:31 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply