2017’s Best TV Providers in Customer Satisfaction
At CableTV.com, we love television. We want you to find the best TV provider to get the most out of your entertainment, so we interviewed thousands of customers about their experience with their TV provider, whether that be cable, satellite, or fiber. The following questions gave us a comprehensive look of our survey participants’ TV provider experience:
How satisfied are you with your TV service installation and setup (fees, scheduling, etc.)?
How satisfied are you with your TV package’s channels?
How satisfied are you with your TV signal reliability?
How satisfied are you with your monthly TV bill?
How satisfied are you with your TV provider’s technical support and customer service?
Through the responses to these questions in this article, you’ll be able to compare survey results for major TV providers across the nation. Now let’s find the right TV provider for you!
TV Provider Survey Results
As we look at the survey results, keep in mind providers use different methods to deliver TV service to your home. Survey scores may reflect the varying capabilities of these systems. For example, the best satellite providers have broad coverage, but they’re subject to weather outages and delays from the distance the signal travels. And even the best cable TV providers don’t reach all the same areas as satellite, but they do tend to be faster and more reliable. Fiber providers, on the other hand, can maximize their channels and HD options with fiber-optic underground networks, but availability is still in the growing stages.
Here’s the breakdown for the providers we reviewed:
- Satellite TV providers: DIRECTV and DISH®
- Cable TV providers: Spectrum, Cox, Mediacom, Optimum, RCN, XFINITY from Comcast, Suddenlink
- Fiber providers: AT&T U-verse, CenturyLink® Prism®, FiOS® from Frontier, Verizon Fios
Thousands of participants took the survey through Google Analytic Solutions, with questions formatted like the one shown below:
TV Providers in Your Area
Before we delve into the results, you may be interested to see which TV providers are available in your area. Knowing what your choices are beforehand may help you focus on your personal options. Enter your zip code below to check out your local TV provider availability:
Overall Customer Satisfaction
Which TV company is the best? By averaging the total ratings of each individual cable, satellite, or fiber TV provider, we determined the overall customer satisfaction rating for each.
Just like in 2016, our top three providers for overall customer satisfaction are Verizon, DIRECTV, and DISH. The rest of the providers’ rankings are completely jumbled. In previous years, fiber providers stayed near the top, but with many cable companies using fiber-optic backbones, cable speeds and reliability are far more competitive than before.
Except for Cox subscribers, customers show a drop in average satisfaction across the board. Monthly bill prices seem to be the sorest spot, which is only aggravated by the growing availability of affordable internet streaming services like Netflix and Hulu. But cord-cutting isn’t for everyone, and traditional television still offers many options streaming can’t.
2017’s Best in Overall Customer Satisfaction: Verizon(3.63 /5)
With an impressive three-year streak, returning champion Verizon tops the charts for installation and setup, channel selection, and signal reliability. It just misses sweeping the board due to dips in monthly bill and customer service satisfaction. But with a fiber-optic network that connects straight to your home, Verizon can provide an impressive selection of channels and on-demand titles in incredible quality. It’s one of the best in-home viewing experiences available.
Overall Most Improved: Cox(3.39 /5)
Despite the general drop in customer satisfaction among TV providers, Cox managed to beat its ranking from last year by 0.03 points. That may not be an earthshaking improvement, but Cox’s steady rise in the installation and setup, channel selection, and signal reliability categories carried the brand to an above-average position this year.
Overall Greatest Decline: CenturyLink Prism(2.66 /5)
Although it’s a fiber-based TV provider like Verizon, CenturyLink has dropped by 0.79 points in overall customer satisfaction from 2016. It especially struggled to keep up in the installation and setup, channel selection, and signal reliability categories. And a recent debacle with hidden fees may have been behind CenturyLink’s plummet from fourth-best in monthly billing to second-to-last.
Installation and Setup
“How satisfied are you with your TV service installation and setup (fees, scheduling, etc.)?”
Satisfaction with installation and setup slid for every TV provider this year—except Verizon. This is understandable, as the installation process can open opportunities for technical issues, hidden fees, and late professional technicians, which no customer enjoys. However, some companies provide support for self-installation, which can be a cheaper alternative for DIYers.
Installation and Setup—Best in Customer Satisfaction and Most Improved: Verizon(3.82 /5)
Installing Verizon Fios in a home not previously equipped for fiber can be a bit of an ordeal, and bringing in one of Verizon’s professional technicians starts at $90. But there is a self-installation option if you’re feeling handy. Still, many Verizon customers seem to appreciate the service they’ve received, even if it comes at a high price.
If you’ve had Verizon Fios installed, double-check that you’re not paying for unnecessary set-top boxes. This has been a problem in Pennsylvania, where Verizon failed to mention to its Fios subscribers that they can access live, on-demand, and recorded video through the Verizon app with devices like Amazon Fire TV, Google Chromecast, or various Roku products. Making a switch from multiple Verizon cable boxes to one of these alternative options could save subscribers a lot of money, which is why they wish Verizon would’ve told them.
Installation and Setup—Greatest Decline: CenturyLink Prism(2.79 /5)
It’s difficult to see what has made CenturyLink’s installation and setup score drop by 0.85 points. CenturyLink Prism has no installation fee, and it provides detailed information on what to expect on the day of installation. However, CenturyLink has such a reputation for installation technicians showing up late—or not at all—that it even warns new customers not to cancel their previous service until after installation in case there are delays.
“How satisfied are you with your TV package’s channels?”
Many customers are on the hunt for the perfect channel selection. They want all the channels they want, none of the channels they don’t, and a handful of premium channels, all for an affordable price. Most TV providers have separate channel lineups to help get customers close to that happy medium, but, judging by the scores, not every viewer feels they’ve found the perfect lineup. Although the order may be too tall to fill, it seems customers will continue to offer grudging reviews until their ideal is realized.
Channel Selection—2017’s Best in Customer Satisfaction: Verizon(3.79 /5)
Verizon Fios’s Ultimate HD plan has 435+ standard channels, with 150+ channels available in HD. If that staggering channel lineup seems like biting off more than you can chew, Verizon also offers custom TV plans to fit your viewing preferences. Add that to 130,000 on-demand titles with thousands that are free, and it becomes clear that Verizon has a lot to love in the channel-selection department.
Channel Selection—Most Improved: Cox(3.48 /5)
Last year, Cox was second to last in channel selection satisfaction. Now it lands above average with a 0.19-point jump. Cox features 380+ channels in its Contour TV Ultimate package. It also has six TV channel lineups to choose from, as well as a variety of TV shows and movies on demand.
Channel Selection—Greatest Decline: CenturyLink Prism(2.72 /5)
While CenturyLink Prism Premium has 340+ channels, you’ll have to pay $124.99 a month for the privilege, whereas Verizon Fios’s Ultimate HD with 435+ channels runs at $89.99 per month for year one plus taxes, equipment, charges, RSN, and other fees. At $69.99, the more affordable Prism Essential package offers only 150+ channels. Comparatively, that’s not a lot of bang for your buck.
“How satisfied are you with your TV signal reliability?”
This year we’ve seen that even powerful fiber optics aren’t infallible, with lower satisfaction in fiber TV providers like AT&T, CenturyLink, and Frontier. Verizon is the only fiber provider still in our top five, followed by cable companies Cox and XFINITY, then satellite DIRECTV and cable Spectrum. Fiber may have incredible speeds and channel capabilities, but this year has shown traditional TV providers still deliver.
Signal Reliability—2017’s Best in Customer Satisfaction: Verizon(4.13 /5)
Verizon maintains its 2016 position as the leader in signal reliability, even climbing 0.05 points from last year. Less susceptible to weather outages, Verizon’s fiber network likely plays an important role in this score. Verizon also provides an in-depth troubleshooting guide for channel outages, so instead of waiting for a live agent, you can follow illustrated step-by-step instructions to fix the problem on your own.
Signal Reliability—Most Improved: Cox(3.88 /5)
Even though Cox doesn’t use the lauded fiber networks, instead providing TV through traditional coaxial cables, the company still placed second in customer satisfaction with signal reliability. Customers seem to be doing just fine with Cox, and they likely only experience the occasional lag only during peak usage hours.
Signal Reliability—Greatest Decline: Mediacom(2.91 /5)
Like Cox, Mediacom relies on traditional cable, but its customers report a very different experience. Some users report regular image pixilation and loss of signal. This can be especially frustrating for users in rural areas where there are few TV providers to choose from.
“How satisfied are you with your monthly TV bill?”
The monthly bill category suffers the greatest customer dissatisfaction in this survey, with all but two scores dropping below 3.00 points. The uncomfortable source of high prices is being dragged to light by small companies who are drawing attention for raising prices too quickly in areas where they have a monopoly. Larger companies are doing the same thing, only more slowly. Whether this promises positive change for future monthly bill satisfaction remains to be seen.
Monthly Bill—2017’s Best in Customer Satisfaction: DISH(3.10 /5)
DISH maintains its three-year reign as best in monthly bill satisfaction. By guaranteeing its competitive package prices for two years, DISH customers can avoid price hikes for longer. And with HBO included for one full year and NFL Network available with select packages, consider the pot sweetened.
Monthly Bill—Most Improved: RCN(3.08 /5)
Though RCN has average scores throughout most of our survey, it jumped to second place in monthly bill satisfaction. In addition to impressive special offers and bundles, RCN offers affordable premier packages. This option helps you select the types of TV channels you’re interested in, independent of ones that don’t interest you.
Monthly Bill—Greatest Decline: CenturyLink Prism(2.35 /5)
CenturyLink has plummeted 0.62 points in monthly bill satisfaction from 2016. With some customers being charged hundreds of dollars more than they were told they’d pay by door-to-door salespeople, this drop isn’t a surprise. However, CenturyLink urges customers to contact its customer service representatives about any discrepancies, stating, “We’d be happy to discuss your request to adjust, credit or remove charges from your bill, or to simply explain a charge you don’t understand.”
Tech Support and Customer Service
“How satisfied are you with your TV provider’s technical support and customer service?”
It’s a rough year for technical support and customer service satisfaction. All our survey results are skewed negatively, without a single TV provider climbing up in scores from last year.
Tech Support and Customer Service—Best in Customer Satisfaction: DISH(3.59 /5)
Jumping back from its position as the biggest loser last year, DISH had only a 0.05 decline in 2017. With satisfaction in technical support and customer service dropping all around, keeping close to last year’s score was enough to put DISH in this year’s first place. DISH offers 24/7 customer support by phone as well as online self-service and chat.
Tech Support and Customer Service—Most Improved: Spectrum(3.50 /5)
Spectrum’s score dropped the least from 2016’s survey. Even with 0.02 fewer points, this can still be considered a win. Spectrum merged with Time Warner Cable last year, which had a reputation for poor customer service from overseas call centers. By bringing thousands of outsourced jobs back to the United States, Spectrum anticipates a boost in customer service satisfaction.
Tech Support and Customer Service—Greatest Decline: Mediacom(2.61 /5)
Plummeting 0.88 points from last year, Mediacom is our lowest scoring TV provider in technical support and customer service for 2017. Mediacom Senior Vice President of Government and Public Relations Thomas Larsen has responded to other surveys that Mediacom is “at a distinct disadvantage” to larger rivals when it comes to the respondent sample size to surveys conducted by other companies. But this rationale holds little water for our survey this year, due to over 200 Mediacom-using respondents—far from the lowest sample size in our survey.
Notable Changes Since the 2016 Survey
Charter & Time Warner Cable Merger
Charter officially bought out Time Warner Cable in May 2016, becoming one of the biggest television providers in the country. In a move to streamline the merger, Charter has taken on a new consumer-facing brand, Spectrum. Spectrum is trying to keep the changes as smooth as possible by maintaining the same pricing, packaging, and account management for the time being. If you started as a Time Warner Cable customer, you can expect Spectrum to notify you of any future changes.
Suddenlink Joins the Ranks
Along with Spectrum, we’ve added another new name to the lineup in this year’s survey: Suddenlink. Over the past year, Suddenlink has grown to be a notable company in the cable TV industry. If you’re interested in giving Suddenlink a try, they have some friendly deals and incentives for new customers.
AT&T Focuses on DIRECTV
In November 2016, AT&T officially unveiled its “DIRECTV NOW” internet TV streaming service and has since seemed to focus its efforts on DIRECTV instead of its original U-verse service. With four unique channel packages and promised hardware giveaways, DIRECTV NOW has piqued our interest. Will this be the new trend to carry traditional TV providers into the era of the cord-cutters? We’re excited to see.
The survey results reported above were not influenced by those at CableTV.com in any way. Google surveys across a network of news, reference, and entertainment sites to provide a wide representative sample. Remember that customer satisfaction ratings are subjective for customers and may not be objectively correct. To put it simply, we aren’t trying to make any claims about actual signal reliability and up-time; however, we are confident the results show what customers feel about their TV signal’s reliability.
Summary of Results
Judging by the results, it seems like many customers have seen a rough year with their TV providers. Last year the average overall customer satisfaction score was 3.46; this year it’s 3.21. With a few provider exceptions, customer satisfaction scores have dropped in every category. Customers seem to be most satisfied with signal reliability and least satisfied with monthly billing. Mediacom and CenturyLink Prism showed the greatest decrease in scores and now line the bottom of the list. Verizon and DISH held the highest satisfaction rates, and Cox was the most improved company of the year.
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