Award Winning Blog

Monday, August 25, 2014

2.5 Blunders in an Otherwise Flawless Comcast Charm Offensive

       Comcast has executed a near perfect strategy to convince the Justice Department, FCC and public that the merger with Time Warner has great benefits.  The game plan shows mostly great finesse, coming for a company much reviled by subscribers and the general public alike.  Hat’s off to Comcast’s extension of its program to sell cheap computers and offer $10 a month broadband subscriptions to people qualifying for subsidized school lunches.

       However, the company has not achieved perfection.  Set out below are 2.5 mistakes that the company could have easily avoided.
1)          A Temporary Improvement in Customer Service and Tactics

            For years Comcast has deliberately scrimped on customer service both in terms of truck rolls and interaction with subscribers via telephone or online.  The company appears to have trained staff to eschew accommodations that result in less money.  Comcast seems to think that it wins when subscribers settle for less than they thought they should have received by way of a refund.  The company has generated ample ill will by what comes across as greed.

            In light of Comcast’s incredibly poor ranking, even a minor improvement would come across as both significant and well intentioned.  Apparently the company has done nothing even when it should display its best behavior.  Recording of worst case treatment have particularly significant impact right now and what has Comcast done?  All I’ve seen are press releases much like the scripts I get from United Airlines when they screw up and have no intention explaining why, or resolving to do better.  See United Airline Form Letter Response to Complaint
            Comcast cannot afford to make saccharine and disingenuous “apologies” when their customer service reps execute a strategy designed to deny responsibility and refuse to make necessary financial accommodations.

2)         Not Carrying Narrow Niche Networks Even in a Costly and Obscure Tier
            Comcast comes across as imperial and arrogant in its response to the RFD Network’s complaints about non-carriage.  The company should have given RFD what I call The Tennis Channel Treatment: carrying the channel on a more expensive tier with fewer subscribers than the cheaper and more highly viewed tier where Comcast places its Golf Channel.

              Clearly Comcast has bandwidth available to carry RFD and ample funds to pay the few cents per subscriber the network would qualify to receive.  Instead a company official, who should know better, accused RFD of driving “a wedge between Comcast and rural viewers as a means to promote your own business interests is unfair and grossly inaccurate.” See
            RFD surely is a niche market play, but much like many of the niche channels Comcast carries.  RFD probably has more clout than many niche networks in view of its targeted rural audience.  Comcast’s decision to cut carriage in New Mexico and Colorado provides a snapshot of how the company can make or break a network.  Consumers have every reason to fear Comcast’s power as gatekeeper.

.5         Comcast’s "Vigorous" Support for Network Neutrality
            I give Comcast a half demerit for its new found support for network neutrality.  Wasn’t this the company that successfully sued the FCC on its creation of network neutrality rules?  Well that was then and now embracing neutrality—for a fixed time period no doubt—comes across as noble.  I think it comes across as an expedient strategy to win support for its merger, but this blog surely can’t match full page ads in major newspapers.