The Washington Post

‘A soup of misery': Over half of people say they’d abandon their cable company, if only they could

Frustrated with rising prices? Check. Keep getting hit with more fees and charges? Check. You're paying for more channels than you'd ever want to watch? Check.

These are just a handful of the most common complaints consumers have when it comes to grappling with cable companies. And it's not just anecdotal: A survey of subscribers on the nation's biggest cable providers has found that more than half of Americans would abandon their cable provider if they felt they could. Cable rage is real, and here's the data to prove it.

Fifty-three percent of respondents to a recent survey said they'd leave their current cable company — if they had a choice. But as many as 70 percent said their options are too limited, according to the study by consulting group cg42.


The list of options may soon narrow even further with several impending mergers, such as the proposed deal between Comcast and Time Warner Cable, as well as the acquisition of DirecTV by AT&T (not a cable merger but one that would eliminate a player in the wider pay-TV market). Consumers pushed back against those agreements, with 72 percent saying that the larger the cable companies become, the worse off consumers will be.

"You have a soup of misery," said cg42 managing partner Steve Beck. Of all the industries the company has studied, he added, "these are the highest levels of [company] vulnerability and [consumer] frustration we've ever seen."


A spokesman for the National Cable and Telecommunications Association, Brian Dietz, said the rise of streaming services like Netflix and satellite television providers has eaten away at cable's marketshare — evidence that competition is working and choices are plentiful.

"The top four biggest video subscription services in the U.S. are an online video provider [Netflix], a cable company and two satellite companies," said Dietz.


As if to underline Dietz's point, the study found that each of the nation's top five cable companies — Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cox, Charter and Cablevision — stand to lose around 10 percent of their customers to cord-cutting or carrier-switching in the next 12 months. Whether you call it competition or defection, that puts about $7 billion in revenues at stake across the industry.

The study was conducted online, so it's worth taking the results with a grain of salt. Still, it covers some 3,000 current cable customers and suggests that a large number of them share the same views.

"What we know is that frustration drives attrition," said Beck. "It drives switching."

Brian Fung covers technology for The Washington Post, focusing on telecommunications and the Internet. Before joining the Post, he was the technology correspondent for National Journal and an associate editor at the Atlantic.
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