Watch Yourself, Comcast: Creepy Home Security Cameras Could Be Bad for Business

Comcast video streamingHave you ever pondered the delightfully guilty concept of how cool it would be to be able watch what your kids did when you weren't home? To be able to see whether your babysitter rifled through your drawers after the baby went to bed? Or whether your pet sitter was really sitting? And does the cleaning service really dust the blinds?

Well, Comcast (CMCSA) has been rolling out a service that could make such voyeuristic desires much simpler to indulge. It's been expanding its Xfinity Home service in the hopes that customers will want to add a few more options, creepy as they may be, to their bundles (and add extra cha-ching to those bills).

Are You Ready for Your Close-Up?

Through Xfinity Home, Comcast offers home security options along with its cable TV, broadband, and phone products. In addition to alarm systems, one can install those remote surveillance cameras. (Perhaps one could say that for your personal security, you just need to know whether your teens and their friends are raiding the liquor cabinet after school.) It's also touted as a green product, with features that allow you to remotely controlling lights and thermostats, for example.

Now maybe Comcast could be watching you as much as you watch Comcast. Regardless, the company isn't the only one trying to tap into Americans' desires for safer and more automated homes. In addition to companies like ADT, for which home security is a core product, Comcast's major rival, Verizon (VZ), has gotten into the business. There's a massive U.S. market for such services; this past spring, Comcast Cable Communications President and CEO Neil Smit described it as measuring about $9 billion.

The Hate Factor

Some investors may view Xfinity Home as a big boon for Comcast. After all, it's another potential growth channel, and could drive a lot of extra revenue. And Comcast's need for more revenue probably shouldn't be underestimated, considering the fact that it has been losing basic cable TV subscribers in droves for many quarters now.

In August, Comcast reported losing 176,000 video customers in its most recent quarter, which was actually an improvement from previous rates of attrition. While it's true that the shaky economy probably is behind the loss of many customers who now are focused on more important bills, there's another reason that investors should think twice about Comcast: A lot of American consumers despise the company.

Comcast is notorious for bad customer service, and it's a common name on lists of the most despised American companies. For example, The American Customer Satisfaction Index rated Comcast No. 4 on its list of most disliked companies. Comcast has been a contender in the Consumerist's Worst Company in America competition for years, and in 2010, won the "gold." There's even an "I hate Comcast" page on Facebook, with nearly 17,000 members who consider themselves "customers, ex-customers, and victims of Comcast."

No Happy Ending for this Reality Show

Comcast may be pushing more heavily into security, but there's no security for investors who buy its shares. Why on Earth would a corporate management pursue a new product line when so many of its core customers aren't even pleased with its traditional products and services? Why expand offerings when many consumers already feel like the infrastructure and customer service stinks? Why spread resources thin under such tenuous circumstances? Customers' goodwill is on the line.

Investors will have more secure portfolios if they go for companies that have generated tons of goodwill with customers and can explore new business opportunities because they're growing forward from a healthy base. Wall Street may look kindly on new business line announcements for some near-term excitement, but the reality is that over the long haul, the core brand matters.



Motley Fool analyst Alyce Lomax does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned.


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18 Comments

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ObservationEquipment

Okay, let me address this. Yes, Comcast is known for poor customer service. I don't expect its service to get any better now that it's started selling security packages. However, please don't attack the entire alarm industry as creepy or voyeuristic. Home security is a serious concern, especially in a bad economy. Indoor cameras can save homeowners from returning to a crime in progress. Confronting burglars can be deadly. If you want to learn more about what to look for is a home security company, please check out my guide:

http://www.observationequipment.com/

February 24 2013 at 4:31 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Kevin Raposo

Before going with Xfinity Home Security, I would recommend reading an article I found online that changed my decision. Some really informative stuff here:

Xfinity Home Security: High Costs, Low Value
http://simplisafe.com/blog/xfinity-home-security-cost

Feel free to share or re-post!

October 25 2012 at 2:45 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Edith Canon

Another LOB for Comcast. Cool! I only know that they are offering cable, internet and phone but now they have home security system. They are really growing fast!

Surveillance-Spy-Cameras.com

October 02 2012 at 2:47 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Edith Canon

Another LOB for Comcast. Cool! I only know that they are offering cable, internet and phone but now they have home security system. They are really growing fast!

Surveillance-Spy-Cameras.com

October 02 2012 at 2:46 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
rickmondale

I think this could be good for Comcast. All of the business owners will, if they set it up correctly, be able to have a window open on their TV if there is movement inside their business. They can be their own police force.

September 06 2012 at 8:28 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Judy Brown

Home invasions are increasing rapidly. These thugs know that there is less of a chance getting caught burglarizing a home then robbing businesses.
So stay safe, be vigilant, install deadbolts and keep alarm activated. If you don't have an alarm system try the united states security company directory (USSCD) for great affordable home security options.

September 06 2012 at 7:20 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
realcode04

Wow, as cheap as cams are, you can buy a few, plug em into your pc on a cheap usb hub and buy a cheap web streaming program for a 10th of what Comcast is gonna charge for it all. All without the monthly fees. As a tech company, they knew devices were gonna be dirt cheap soon. They should have thought of this while the hardware was still expensive.

But as a former commercial/residential electronic security tech/installer, they have nooo clue what they are getting into. Liability in the security industry is brutal. Just ONE mistake can cost a company millions. Mostly because lives are on the line. With Comcast's reputation, I would not be surprised if they get sued to oblivion within 5 years. It's stupid.

When you do security, it had better be the ONLY thing you concentrate on. And because it is not, I would not trust them. To be honest, only go with security companies that have been in business for several years and very few lawsuits (yes they all make mistakes and they all get sued). If any lawsuits are for loss of life, then don't trust your family to them. Do NOT trust your life and property to rookies. Or you will get a lot less than you pay for, and possibly lose loved ones. Security is VERY serious stuff and the 'waltz on' mentality we see here in Comcast is pretty disconcerting.

Remember.. if you pay for them, you are gambling everything you own and your families lives... on Comcast?

September 05 2012 at 5:45 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
jhrooney

Hey fool,
You don't have to subscribe to this service if you don't want it. Are you trying to dictate to us like the Huffington Post and MSNBC. Go back to rating stocks, you are better at it.

September 05 2012 at 5:16 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
who_cares8

this is NOTHING, Comcast cable boxes, like ALL the others have a tiny digital cam and mic right where the remote sensor is so BIG BROTHER can see whats going on in everyone's home, and why I no longer have cable in my home!!

September 05 2012 at 1:15 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to who_cares8's comment
tergeste57

that is an interesting concept. I never thought of the obvious security issues except scanning all my emails and posts. I think all our laziness about our own security will someday bite us all in the ass. Do we just unplug? I don't know, but it would be interesting to see just how spied on we are. Remember the school district that hacked ino alot of students laptop webcams? It's not only possible but I would imagine widespread.

April 28 2013 at 11:53 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
ccdae5

I got rid of Comcast last fall for ATT U-Verse because Comcast was too expensive. ATT is a bit cheaper but the service is much worse than Comcast. When my year is up I'll probably go to Dish.

September 04 2012 at 10:11 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to ccdae5's comment
virginia

even though comcast is more expensive,it really does have the best quality.had DISH and Direct tv.both were horrible. cant get Fios, as the mayor of my city is on the comcast board.

September 05 2012 at 4:44 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply