Here’s How Much More Satisfied Customers Are With Streaming Services Than Subscription TV

2018 ACSI telecom report shows how far traditional providers have fallen

It's the first year streaming has been included in the report. Getty Images
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The American Customer Satisfaction Index released its 2018 telecommunications report and, perhaps unsurprisingly, streaming services have blown subscription TV out of the water when it comes to customer satisfaction. This is the first year streaming services have been featured in the telecom report, and they had an average rating of 75 out of 100 compared with subscription TV’s paltry 62, a 3.1 percent decline over last year’s score and an 11-year low. By nearly every measure, customers are more satisfied with streaming options, the ACSI report shows, with some brands standing out more than others.

Netflix, Sony PlayStation Vue and Twitch tied for the highest rating at 78. Apple iTunes and Microsoft both scored 77, and YouTube Red was close behind at 76. Amazon Prime Video, Google Play, Hulu and Vudu scored the industry average of 75, with network channels CBS All Access at 74, and HBO Now and Starz at 72. Then came Sling TV (71), DirecTV Now (70), Showtime Anytime (70) and Sony Crackle (68).

But even Crackle rated higher than nearly all subscription TV services, the report notes.

The higher marks for streaming services revolve around “ease of understanding the bill,” “website satisfaction” and “call centers,” while customers were less pleased with general availability of shows and movies on those services.

“Video streaming services significantly outperformed subscription TV,” said David VanAmburg, managing director at the ACSI, in a statement. “Streaming services don’t have the hidden fees and six-month rates that subscription TV does, not to mention they’re cheaper and simpler.”

But because consumers don’t have many options when choosing a subscription TV provider, those businesses don’t necessarily feel pressure to improve their satisfaction ratings, VanAmburg said. They have locked in a share of the market.

As far as TV providers, AT&T’s U-verse TV topped the list with a 70, followed by Verizon Fios (68), Dish Network (67), DirecTV (64), Optimum (62), Cox Communications (60), Spectrum (58), Suddenlink (58), Comcast Xfinity (57), Frontier Communications (56) and Mediacom (55).

“If you look at retail, airlines and many other industries, companies like to reward customer loyalty, offering perks or discounts for doing business with them,” VanAmburg said. “Telecom is the exact opposite. In many ways, loyalty is punished because subscription TV is focused on customer acquisition and offering the best deal to lure customers away from competitors.”

Unfortunately, internet service providers, which are required for customers to access streaming services, have also garnered intense dissatisfaction. ISPs were down 3.1 percent to 62, and even though customers are clearly unhappy with their service, more than half of Americans don’t actually have a choice of service options for high-speed broadband, the report states. 

For ISPs, Verizon Fios was again first at 70, followed by AT&T Internet (68), Optimum (64),  Suddenlink (61), Spectrum (60), Xfinity (60) and Mediacom (53). Xfinity was the only ISP to not see its score drop, whereas Mediacom’s score dropped 9 percent. 

@AlissaFleck Alissa Fleck is a New York City-based reporter, podcast producer and contributor to Adweek.