I’m one of the few people I know who is OK with Comcast. When I had the service, it was reliable and functioned just fine. I even had good luck with the company’s notorious customer service. Guess I was lucky.
Now, although I don’t dislike the company, I don’t particularly like it, either. I just don’t care. And that puts me in a pretty small minority of customers, particularly in the Philadelphia region that Comcast calls home – a home that is currently trying to get a better deal from the cable company. A recent survey conducted by the City of Philadelphia revealed that one in four city residents were dissatisfied or very dissatisfied with the company. And nearly everyone you talk to has an opinion.
That survey made news last week as Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter said he would try to get better rates out of the company, which holds a franchise deal that must be renewed, apparently every 15 years. Nutter wants better prices. In that survey, 60 percent of former Comcast customers said the main reason they left the company was price. The average monthly cable bill was $155. Many customers were paying more than $200 a month.
If Comcast were smart and put its long-term interests above short term profits, it would be working furiously not only to meet any concessions Nutter would like to see but to cutt prices as quickly as possible. The future is coming fast, and it’s going to give customers a lot of options that make even $150-a-month Comcast bills ridiculously uncompetitive.
One of the biggest shots across the company’s bow came just last week when HBO launched its HBO Now subscription service. Perhaps one of the best reasons to have cable to begin with is HBO. Now fans can subscribe to the channel with arguably the best TV show lineup ever for $15 a month.
Other alternative services are at Comcast’s gate as well. Last month, owners of Sony’s PlayStation 3 and 4 consoles in Philadelphia learned they could sign up for a TV service the company is offering called PlayStation Vue, a $50-a-month service that gives subscribers access to TNT, TBS, USA, MTV, Animal Planet, BET, FX, Comedy Central, AMC, Fox, CBS and even Comcast-owned NBC.
And these are on top of already popular and more-affordable options like Hulu Plus and Netflix, which offer a lot of TV, including original shows, for approximately $8 a month.
Currently, Comcast has two advantages. The first is that it is one of only two services that can offer the reliable high-speed Internet access needed to run HBO NOW, PlayStation Vue, Hulu Plus and Netflix. The other is Verizon’s Fios. The other advantage it shares with Verizon is an unbreakable hold over sports. If you want to watch local sports teams like the Phillies or Flyers, you’ll need that cable subscription, where local market deals keep games exclusive to cable TV.
But how long will that advantage last? Google has started building network infrastructure in some cities and could expand. There might be wireless solutions on the horizon, as well. Rather than sucking in all the money it can while the environment still allows, Comcast needs to start thinking about how it will compete with the next generation of cord cutting services.