US survey finds OTT video satisfying; billing mistakes not so much

JD Power does a TV satisfaction survey every year and that’s the main focus of the study once again this year. It does not reveal who sponsors the survey or who buys into it, but we suspect it’s done on a kind of “multi-client” study basis and that the money for this report comes from US pay TV providers.

How do we know that? Because this year, while acknowledging the success of OTT video services, and their rising satisfaction levels, the survey continuously reminds us that consumers are spending nearly an hour more a week watching regularly scheduled television programming than they did two years ago.

Because we all know this idea to be “untrue,” and something which most of the pay TV providers would “like” to be true, we assume that this was thrown in by JD Power, a highly reputable research company, simply to please all of its customers and probably this was never a question covered in the survey.

Instead this data is almost certainly repeated from out of date Nielsen studies, which are simply “assumed” to be true, by all of these players. Nielsen has recently actually admitted that broadcast linear viewing is going down after a decade of being in denial – so where is this idea is coming from that more people are watching more linear TV? People watch more TV, in less time, by fast forwarding through adverts, and watch OTT sometimes on the go. They leave their TVs on day and night, up to 3 of them unattended in US households, but cannot recall the programs they have watched, because they simply did not watch them. They watch on a phone or tablet, and simultaneously sit in front of the TV, with linear TV on with the sound down. Nielsen counts all these activities as watching linear TV, but STILL accepts that viewing hours are down.

The real takeaways from the JD study of 27,415 customers are that AT&T and Dish have the highest satisfaction ratings, and that Charter and Comcast Xfinity have the lowest nationwide. That’s not old, that’s an institution. It has been that way from time immemorial, no change from year to year, despite Comcast spending a fortune on customer care.

But this score is overall, so it can be negatively impacted by high prices, poor service, downtime and unhelpful help desks. It can also be influence by the collective content options. So DirecTV having Monday night football, alone can make for higher satisfaction options. And people can just have long memories, and have grown up thinking of Comcast as the “bad guy” but still never cancel the Comcast service, either because there is nothing else like it, or because Comcast has actually improved.

We’re pretty sure that all of these general satisfaction ratings break down into a complex list of other ratings, which separate out customer care, and help desk helpfulness, and that these results are kept back for the real customers, the pay TV firms.

The other key takeaway though is that US customers of pay TV are growing increasingly satisfied with over-the-top streaming services. Scores on these have gone up since the report was last issued.

We have often used the idea of disruptive innovation and define it as a service which is half as good for a tenth of the price. The OTT skinny bundles are precisely that at $10 or $20 a month, compared to pay TV ARPUs in the region of $150 to $180 or more, and if they get to the point where they are half as good – have enough channels, and little downtime and not too many adverts – then their take up rate will accelerate. This can be taken as evidence that they are winning the consumer war on these issues.

So despite the constant harping on about consumers watching more linear broadcast TV, this is an indication that in time, they will watch far less.

“Although it seems like the world is consumed with the idea of cord-cutting in the wake of Hulu’s first Emmy and the proliferation of new shows on Netflix and Amazon, the number of current pay-TV customers who plan to cut the cord has actually declined,” claims the report. And JD Power tries to push the idea of a kind of stand-off, where linear TV is one option and kept by everyone, and OTT services are another option and likewise enjoyed by everyone. Again there is plenty of evidence that this is not the case, and this is another deliberate untruth for the benefit of its customers. JD Power may not be stupid, but it clearly thinks we are.

Overall satisfaction scores for streaming video was 7.91 on a 10-point scale and performance and reliability was 7.97, a slight improvement over last year Pay TV overall satisfaction with traditional pay TV services fell to 710 out of 1,000 from 724 last year. Why not use 7.1 and 7.24? JD Power wouldn’t want it to be directly comparable with OTT services now would it?

JD Power claims that in a typical week, households spent 17.4 hours watching regularly schedule programming this year, up from 16.6 in 2015. That’s just over 2 hours a day, when Nielsen is still reporting that we watch around 4.5 hours a day. Those numbers need reconciling, before we believe anyone.

The JD Power survey says that 65% never watch content from their provider via a mobile app (it does not mean they don’t watch content from someone else right?), and only 6% say they watch via mobile on a daily basis. Let’s re-phrase that “as many as 6% say they watch pay TV on their phone every day,” a figure we find shockingly high. It’s all in the phrasing.

Apparently failing to get the bill right or adding extras to the bill is one of the main reasons that consumers dislike their provider, and how they are treated when pointing this out has a huge effect on satisfaction scores.