Survey Says Consumers Bitter About Comcast-Time Warner Merger

You know, I see those happy people in cable, telco or satellite commercials touting their video service and I just think one thing:

Actors. Seriously, have you ever heard someone go on (or more accurately, on and on) about their television service, I mean in a good way?

No. At best you hear, “It’s not bad,” the way you might size up a burger from an unfamiliar fast food chain, and just slightly more enthusiastically than you’d size up the experience of getting a colonoscopy. (“Considering how bad I heard it was going to be, it’s not bad.”)

No surprise then, that Consumer’s Report said the results of its latest poll proves, at least for the sake of a headline,  that “most Americans are opposed to the proposed merger” between Comcast and Time Warner. 

According to this latest temperature-taking, 56% are opposed, 11% are in favor of it, and 32% have no opinion.  (It makes sense that “no opinion” is the default answer to life these days. The Woody Allen joke, I think, was that God is not dead, he just doesn’t want to get involved.)

All in all, the number that says 56% oppose the sale was the good news for Comcast and Time Warner because these respondents were just warming up:

  – 74% believe the merger will result in higher Internet and cable prices for everyone.

 –74% believe consumers will have fewer choices if the merger goes through.

–66% believe Comcast will have no incentive to improve customer service.  

-- And 61% said they thought this merger, if approved, will encourage similar mega-mergers. That’s a prescient observation given that this survey was done before the AT&T-DirecTV deal was proposed.  People do see the way things are drifting.

The sample size of 1,573 people wasn’t made up of people who necessarily got Comcast or Time Warner, which in one view makes it seem invalid. From another side it shows the general suspicion and pure-ice lack of trust people have in big business and big media. Recruitment quotas were designed to approximate a nationally representative sample.

All of that would seem to be at least modestly good news for the online video empire of (mostly) smallish content providers. They’re almost the video equivalent of buying local at this point, though those guppies flow through big pipes like Google's YouTube and...well, cable operators. 

Still, the Wall Street Journal seemed to spit up blood the other day when it reported that gamer YouTube star PewDiePie grossed $4 million last year (and has 28 million subscribers) when, for example, each of the stars of “Friends” made $1 million an episode, and that was 12 years ago.

Consumer’s Report has asked cable customers to rate their satisfaction with their cable provider, a spokesman pointed out, and there Comcast and Time Warner also came up way short . Comcast ranked 15th among 17 television service providers, and Time Warner ranked 16th, and both rated mediocre on overall satisfaction with Internet service.

It would seem to be a great time to have a competing OTT service to offer, but then again, cable operators almost always gets low marks, and then they just get bigger. There’s a message in there somewhere.  

pj@mediapost.com

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