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Satellite Beat Cable On TV Satisfaction Again

Overall Satisfaction With TV Service Providers Bounces Back

By Multichannel News

Most major cable operators continue to fall short on customer satisfaction compared with satellite and phone company TV services, according to J.D. Power and Associates’ 2009 television service satisfaction survey.

AT&T U-verse TV had the top score in the West and South regions for the second year in a row, and Verizon’s FiOS TV took the crown in the East, also for a second consecutive year. Overbuilder WideOpenWest ranked highest in the North Central region.

By contrast, Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Charter Communications turned in below-average scores in all four regions.

Overall, customer satisfaction with television service providers in 2009 increased considerably over last year, J.D. Power found. Average satisfaction nationwide was 632 on a 1,000-point scale — up 23 points from 609 last year, which was the lowest industry average during the past five years. The research firm said the increase was the result of fewer outages and improvements in problem resolution.

“In the wake of receding satisfaction scores in 2008, improvements in product performance and the service surrounding it this year suggest that providers are eager to better position themselves to retain and grow their customer bases,” said Frank Perazzini, J.D. Power’s director of telecommunications.

According to the survey, average time on hold required to resolve a customer’s most recent problem declined 13% year over year, to 9 minutes and 5 seconds this year. J.D. Power also found that fewer customers are experiencing outages: 11% reported an outage this year versus 15% in 2008.

Across each geographical region, telco and satellite TV by and large outperformed cable.

In the East, Verizon FiOS was No. 1 with a score of 714, followed by DirecTV (684), Dish Network (669), Cablevision Systems (649) and Cox Communications (644). Below the East’s average of 635 were TWC, RCN, Comcast and Charter.

WOW led the North Central region with 724, followed by AT&T U-verse (715), Verizon FiOS (712), DirecTV (674), Insight Communications (672), Cox (652) and Dish (650). Falling below the region’s 625 average score were Bright House Networks, TWC, Comcast, Charter and Mediacom Communications.

In the South, U-verse (718) was followed by Verizon FiOS (702), DirecTV (685), Bright House (674), Insight (658), Dish (654) and Cox (641). The average score in the South was 635, with TWC, Comcast, Charter and Mediacom below the mark.

Finally, in the West, AT&T U-verse (721) and FiOS (682) led the pack, followed by DirecTV and Dish (both with 664), Cox (646) and Cable One (635). Providers under the West average of 632 were TWC, Comcast, Mediacom and Charter.

Cable operators have fared better on J.D. Power’s residential phone service survey. This year, Cox topped East and West, Bright House won the South and WOW scored highest in North Central (see Cox Tops East, West Regions On J.D. Power Phone Survey). However, not all MSOs excelled — Comcast, for example, had below-average phone service scores in all four regions.

According to J.D. Power, cable customers are far less likely to recommend their provider than satellite TV customers.

Of satellite subscribers, 78% said they “definitely will” or “probably will” recommend their provider to others, an increase of six percentage points from 2008. About 60% of cable customers said the same, up from 55% in 2008.

Meanwhile, the percentage of cable customers who affirmed their loyalty to their provider declined to 25% in 2009, down from 27% last year. DirecTV and Dish Network also saw a drop on loyalty, down four percentage points to 40% in 2009.

“Given the current state of the economy, customers generally want to keep their options open, even if they are satisfied with their current provider,” Perazzini noted.

J.D. Power found there was belt-tightening in some areas of video services. The percentage of cable customers who subscribe to additional premium channels fell to 29% in 2009, down three points from 32% in 2008. Video-on-demand and pay-per-view use also moderately declined, with 33% reporting VOD usage this year (compared with 35% in 2008) and 16% reporting a PPV order (compared with 18% in 2008).

The study is based on responses from 28,118 U.S. consumers who evaluated their cable, satellite or telco provider. It was fielded in January, March and July 2009. J.D. Power’s TV service survey measures customer satisfaction on five factors: performance and reliability; customer service; cost of service; billing; and offerings and promotions.

Satellite TV vs Cable TV

Comparing Satellite TV to Cable TV is not that easy. Satellite TV providers leaded by DIRECTV serve the whole nation, while cable providers serve limited areas where they have franchise. So the data/findings used in this comparison are national average of all major cable providers in the US.

We will look into differences between Satellite vs Cable television in various categories, including picture quality, cost, channel offering, customer satisfaction and more.

Features Satellite TV Cable
Free Equipment Free Equipment up to 4 rooms (satellite dish and receivers) Free Equipment for 1 room. Expensive equipment cost starting from 2nd room.
Free Installation Yes $9.95 to $49.95 depending the house layout/condition
Activation Cost $49.99 (Fee waived with 2-year activation) $49.99
Picture Quality 100% digital quality Even digital cable doesn’t offer 100% digital quality
Signal Reliability/Percentage of Outages Satellite TV delivers 99.9% signal reliability; Signal remains stable even under bad weather Cable delivers 95%-97% signal reliability: Signal out in heavy rain or snow
Channel line-up Satellite TV providers over 285 channels natiowide, plus local channels in over 94% of the US Cable in most areas of the country, offers just over 100 channels
Monthly Price Satellite TV offers 150-channel package at $44.99 per month Digital cable in most areas offers 100-channel package at $50 per month
Local channels Includes local channels in base packages at no additional cost. Includes local channels in base packages at no additional cost
Sports Packages Offers multiple exclusive sports package such as NFL Sunday Ticket, MLB Extra Innings, NBA Legue Pass, NHL on the Ice, NASCAR Hot Pass, CricketTicket™, Mega March Madness, plus 35 regional sports networks, including NFL Network and Big Ten Network Offers limited sports content
International channels Offers over 100 international channels in 28 languages Cable in most areas offers minimum international channels
DVR Free DVR upgrade. $5.99/mo. DVR fee apply. Free DVR upgrade. $9.95/mo. DVR fee apply.
HD Offers over 170 national HD channels plus local channels in HD. Add HD Access to base package for $10/month. Offers 50 national HD channels plus local channels in HD in most areas. HD channels are included in the base package at no additional cost.
Internet/Home Phone Bundle Offers DSL high-speed internet, home phone and Satellite TV bundle in selected areas Offers high-speed internet, home phone and cable TV triple-play
Customer Satisfaction Ranked #1 in customer satisfaction over cable eight years in a row according to annual American Consumer Satisfaction Index Survey and JD Power & Associates Score lower than DIRECTV in customer satisfaction ranking

Reseller Satellite TV

Reseller of Satellite TV is also known as Satellite TV retailer or Satellite TV dealer. Satellite TV providers led by DIRECTV have a strong network of Satellite TV reseller in the US.

Take DIRECTV for example: DIRECTV has two different sales channels: Direct Sales and Retail Sales. DIRECTV operates dozens of call centers that take both direct sales and customer service calls. Customers who sign up with DIRECTV call centers will get installation and customer service directly from DIRECTV’s own call centers and technician team. On the retail sales part, there are about 4000 authorized Satellite TV resellers working for DIRECTV. Most retailers own a local store front and serve customers living in their territories (nearby areas). These resellers take customers orders, perform installation and account activation, take care of customer service and tech support on half of DIRECTV. Customers typically get quicker and better installation service from these resellers.

Among these 4000 DIRECTV resellers, there are a few top-tier resellers that are known as Order-Entry Partners. This type of resellers have lager operations and can perform installation nationwide. They take customer orders and schedule installation appointments. Then DIRECTV will step in and do the rest, including installation, customer service and technical support. Customers enjoy the same installation and customer service from DIRECTV, just like they sign up with DIRECTV call centers directly.

DIRECTV releases its corporate promotions for all new customers twice a year, no matter they order from DIRECTV call centers or resellers. All first-time customers, as long as they order DIRECTV, will be eligible for this type of corporate promotional offers. However, satellite TV resellers usually offer something extra on their own, such as gift card and small consumer electronics, in order to attract customers to sign up from them.

Although most resellers are honest, and try their best to serve customers, you should pay attention when reading offer details especially fine print (disclaimer) part. Due to the recent rise in popularity of satellite TV, there are a few resellers promises you with the best deals, best service, and everything else. But after you sign up with them, you might end up with sloppy installation, hidden service fees and poor customer service later on.

How Does Satellite TV Work?

You must have seen lots of ads about Satellite television already. Today more and more customers have switched to Satellite TV for better picture quality, better channel line-up and more affordable pricing. The nation’s major Satellite TV providers have become the second and third largest paid-TV providers in the US, serving over 30 millions of subscribers.

So what is Satellite TV anyway, and how does Satellite TV work? Satellite TV is a television system that delivers TV programming directly to a viewer’s house via Satellite. The Satellite TV provider operates a broadcast center where programming signals from TV Networks are decoded and sent off to a communication satellite up in the sky. The satellite captures the signals and beams them back down to the earth, where they are picked up by the satellite TV dish. The Satellite dish is a curve antenna ranging from 18″ to 20″ round, so it can focus the signal on the feed horn that sits in front of the dish. The satellite dish will convert the signal back to programming via a Satellite receiver and sends the decoded programming to the TV at your home. The satellite receiver, also known as set-top box, is an electronic box that looks like a VCR. The TV signal is decoded and converted into video and audio. As a result, the TV programming will be displayed on the TV screen that is hooked to the receiver.

Thanks to the nature of Satellite TV technology, you will be able to get 100% digital quality video and audio channels, with better picture and sound quality than cable TV. Even digital cable couldn’t provide 100% digital channels as of today. In addition, Satellite TV can provide much more Standard-definition and High-definition channels than cable TV, because of band-width issue. So to sum up, Satellite TV is currently the best method to get the TV entertainment at your home. It beats cable companies hands down – offering more HD channels, better pricing, better picture and better customer service.

I hope the explanation above will help you better understand how does Satellite TV work.