Basic subscriber leak could be part of consumers' cable perception problem

Comcast's (Nasdaq: CMCSA) recent basic cable subscriber losses seem to reflect a trend among consumers to undervalue cable or contrarily overvalue satellite and telco services. A University of Michigan American Customer Satisfaction Index (ASCI) survey resulted in some dire statistics for a cable industry that for years has been throwing money (to an extent) and lip service at improving customer satisfaction: in short, customers like telco and satellite providers better.

Cable continues to leak customers. In the second quarter, 265,000 basic cable subscribers trickled away from Comcast, 24 percent more than the same period a year ago. Perhaps that's because the MSO doesn't perceive these to be as valuable as digital cable (up 394,000); high-speed data (up 118,000); and Digital Voice (up 230,000, although that's down from 233,000 last year).

Basic subs who leave the fold are "relatively low-priced single play video customers who are very price sensitive and generally churn at a higher rate," said Comcast Cable Communications President Neil Smit, commenting on the trend during a second quarter earnings call. "As a whole, how we approach the business, we're not going to chase volume; we're going to remain very targeted and disciplined."

And if that means a few hundred thousand Comcast subs take off well, it's only business. "Both churn and bad debt were either equal to or better than last year in Q2," Smit said.

For more:
- Wall Street Journal has this story (sub. req.)
- see this story

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