Comcast Needs to Do More Than Stream

Comcast — and in fact, the entire cable television industry — is going through a time of incredible change. Cable companies used to grow year after year because there was no competition. However, today they are losing market share, so to help plug the hole, Comcast just introduced Stream. Will it work?

Stream is a new subscription streaming service that offers Xfinity customers more choices for content consumption — live TV programming viewable on laptops, tablets and smartphones, for example.

There’s no way of knowing whether Stream will win for Comcast. It’s an idea that seems to fit with the changes in the marketplace, but success comes from more than a simple idea. It comes from customer care, customer service, customer control, proper pricing and so on.

Success today comes from a great relationship with the customer — having the customer love you, or at least like you. That is something that Comcast just does not have, due to its own behavior.

Comcast’s Customer Problem

If Stream is a service customers can only add to their existing cable television and Internet plan, then it will not be very successful. However, if customers can sign up for Stream as a standalone product, it stands a better chance for success. However, Comcast tends to tie everything together.

I think Stream will be popular with a slice of the pie, but not with the whole shebang.

I like to see big companies stretch, and this Stream idea clearly stretches Comcast. However, I have my concerns. Over the years, Comcast has been the darling of Wall Street because of its growth — but it ignored the customer.

That caused much resentment among customers, but they had no other choice. They were stuck — which is why they have little or no connection to the company.

Customers increasingly do have choice, and this is like a kick in the shins to Comcast. Seeing the changes that are coming, Comcast has been trying to get closer to its customers — trying to stop the flow to the competition.

While Stream is better than nothing, customers understand it’s a business decision to keep them from saying goodbye, rather than an indication the company really cares about them. This sours the milk.

Comcast’s Main Problem Is Comcast

History has shown that Comcast cares about the investor — not the customer. Now that is coming around and biting the company on the rear end.

The cable television industry is going through a transformation. Innovations are trumping traditional services. Competition is coming from new areas and from companies that seem to care for their customers.

AT&T U-verse and Verizon FiOS are very successful in competing against Comcast. So is CenturyLink Prism, to a lesser extent. Plus, innovative players like Netflix, Amazon, Apple, Hulu and more are eating away at Comcast’s market share.

Internet vs. Cable TV

Comcast used to be primarily a cable television provider, but increasingly it is becoming an Internet service provider, or ISP, which also offers services like television through Xfinity and Stream.

Comcast Xfinity was introduced several years ago as an effort to expand the company’s offerings and boost competition with new Internet offerings.

Several years ago, Comcast promised to improve its customer relationships.

In recent weeks, it seems to be making the same announcements. Apparently it has not yet accomplished its goals. That’s key.

I hate to say this, because I would prefer to say Comcast is turning the corner and getting better. It still can, and I hope it does. Stream is a great idea in theory — but unless Comcast starts to show its customers it really cares about them, it may have a hard time making it a hit.

I have a feeling it will come up short, but here’s hoping I’m wrong.

Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times columnist Jeff Kagan is a wireless analyst, telecom analyst, industry analyst, consultant and speaker who has been sharing his colorful perspectives on the changing industry for 25 years. Email him at [email protected].

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