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DirecTV tops J.D. Power cable/satellite survey; cable pricing criticized

Mon, 08/18/2003 - 8:00pm
Jeff Baumgartner

DirecTV Inc. snared top honors in an annual J.D. Power and Associates survey that measures customer satisfaction among residential cable and satellite customers. EchoStar Communications was a close second, while Cox Communications, the survey's highest-scoring cable operator, came in third.

J.D. Power noted in its findings that the average monthly expenditure for satellite service ($48.93) had for the first time fallen below cable's average monthly nut ($49.62). The firm said the satellite figure was up 8 percent from 1998, while cable's rose 41 percent in the same timeframe. J.D. Power fairly attributed the higher cable costs to upgraded or additional services, including digital TV, video-on-demand and high-definition television.

But widespread deployment of digital services has not been enough to keep cable customers from switching to DBS. Of the homes surveyed, 60 percent subscribed to cable, down from 68 percent five years ago, while DBS subscriptions increased from 7 percent of homes in 1998 to 17 percent this year, the research firm said.

"Although digital cable subscribers report higher satisfaction than do analog cable subscribers, both groups dramatically trail satellite subscribers in overall customer satisfaction, with cost of service being a key issue," said Steve Kirkeby, J.D. Power's senior director of telecommunications research.

J.D. Power suggested that cable could stem the consumer migration to DBS by bundling voice, data and video services, a tactic that Cox Communications has been able to use to its advantage for some time now.

Broken down by J.D. Power's "customer satisfaction index scores," the following DBS and cable providers scored above the industry average: DirecTV (118), EchoStar (116), Cox (110), WideOpenWest (108), Cable One (105), RCN Corp. (103) and Time Warner Cable (100).

The following MSOs scored below the industry average of 100: Insight Communications (95), Mediacom Communications (91), Charter Communications (90), Comcast Corp. (90), Cablevision Systems Corp. (89) and Adelphia Communications (87).

J.D. Power based its findings on responses from 7,340 U.S. households.

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