When Covid-19 forced Americans to stay home, many turned to streaming, taking solace in their ability to binge-watch entertainment of all shapes and sizes. But it was only a matter of time before fatigue set in.
After a steady mark last year, customer satisfaction with video streaming tumbles 2.6 per cent to a score of 74 (on a scale of 0 to 100), according to the American Customer Satisfaction Index Telecommunications Study 2020-2021. While consumers still prefer streaming above all other telecom industries, its stranglehold on the segment is slipping as its lead over the next closest industry shrinks to just 3 points.
Of the five telecom industries covered in this study – subscription television service, Internet service providers (ISPs), landline phone service, video-on-demand service, and video streaming service – subscription TV and landline phones are the only two to enjoy year-over-year gains.
“With folks resigned to stay at home for the better part of a year and a half, the heavy strain on telecommunications was inevitable,” says David VanAmburg, Managing Director at the ACSI. “The large consumption of bandwidth for Internet services and countless hours spent streaming videos and movies were sure to impact satisfaction. And it turns out that streaming has taken the biggest hit of all.”
Video streaming remains the customer satisfaction leader among telecom industries despite its current decline. However, its advantage over subscription TV shrinks from 12 to 9 points.
Following a strong debut last year, Disney+ comes back down to earth. It still outpaces its competitors in video streaming – and across all five telecom categories – but customer satisfaction diminishes 3 per cent to an ACSI score of 78.
Microsoft Store moves into second place after climbing 1 per cent to 77, followed by Amazon’s Twitch, up 1 per cent to 76.
Netflix’s fall from grace continues for a second year. The once-upon-a-time frontrunner plummets 4 per cent to a score of 75, tying it with four others: Hulu (down 3 per cent), HBO (up 1 per cent), newcomer HBO Max, and YouTube TV (unchanged).
The group of smaller streaming services loses half of last year’s gain, dropping 3 per cent to the industry average of 74. Four other companies also meet the average: Amazon Prime Video (down 3 per cent), Apple TV App (down 4 per cent), Google Play (unchanged), and Starz (down 1 per cent).
CBS All Access (down 3 per cent) and Comcast’s Vudu (up 1 per cent) are next at 73, followed by Apple TV+ (down 3 per cent), AT&T TV NOW (unchanged), Showtime (up 1 per cent), and DISH Network’s Sling TV (up 1 per cent) – all at 72. Comcast’s Peacock debuts near the bottom of the industry with a score of 71.
Crackle sits at the bottom of the industry once again, unmoved at an ACSI score of 68.
Following a 3.2 per cent bump last year, customer satisfaction with subscription TV service climbs again, up 1.6 per cent to an ACSI score of 65.
Fibre-optic providers lead the way. AT&T’s U-verse TV takes the top spot after soaring 6 per cent to 74. Verizon Fios is next, up 1 per cent to 71.
Satellite providers DirecTV (up 3 per cent) and DISH Network (up 2 per cent) share third place with Comcast’s Xfinity at 66. The latter continues its momentum from the previous year, gaining 5 per cent.
The remaining companies all score below the industry average of 65. Charter Communications’ Spectrum climbs 5 per cent to 64, just ahead of Frontier Communications, which skyrockets 9 per cent to 63. The group of smaller subscription TV providers and Cox both remain unchanged at 62, while Altice’s Optimum tumbles 5 per cent to 60.
The bottom two companies fall below 60. Mediacom slides 2 per cent to 59, while Altice’s Suddenlink stays in last place with a steady score of 56.
Customer satisfaction with ISPs is unchanged at an ACSI score of 65.
Verizon Fios stumbles, dropping 3 per cent to 71. It now shares first place with AT&T Internet, which rises 4 per cent year over year.
Comcast’s Xfinity comes in second place following a 2 per cent jump to 67. Cox (up 3 per cent) and Charter Communications’ Spectrum (unchanged) tie at 63.
The group of smaller ISPs (down 3 per cent) and Lumen Technologies’ CenturyLink (down 2 per cent) both sink to 62. Windstream remains stable at 61, while Mediacom (up 2 per cent) and Altice’s Optimum (down 8 per cent) each score 60.
Two ISPs occupy the bottom of the industry with scores in the 50s. Frontier Communications increases 4 per cent to 57, while Altice’s Suddenlink slumps into last place, dropping 4 per cent to 55.
TP-Link has slight edge for in-home Wi-Fi quality; Verizon Fios and AT&T Internet not far behind
Verizon Fios and AT&T Internet lead all ISPs in Wi-Fi quality with scores of 74 each. Comcast’s Xfinity is close by at 73, followed by Cox at 71.
Charter Communications’ Spectrum posts a quality score of 69, followed by Mediacom at 68. Lumen Technologies’ CenturyLink, Altice’s Optimum, and Windstream all score 67, while Altice’s Suddenlink comes in at 66. Frontier Communications finishes last at 63.
Among third-party Wi-Fi equipment, TP-Link sets the pace with a Wi-Fi quality score of 75. Netgear and ASUS are next at 73, followed by LinkSys at 72.
Once again, customers using third-party Wi-Fi equipment are by and large more satisfied than those relying on ISP-provided equipment. While ISP and third-party customers are equally satisfied with the security of their Wi-Fi connection (ACSI scores of 74), third-party equipment ranks higher for range of service, multiple device connections, avoiding service loss, upload/download speed, service restart, and price paid.
Customer satisfaction with the video-on-demand services of major cable, satellite, and fibre-optic subscription TV providers slides 1.5 per cent to an ACSI score of 67.
AT&T’s U-verse TV holds the top spot despite slipping 1 per cent to 73. Comcast’s Xfinity improves 4 per cent to 71, good for a second-place tie with Verizon Fios (unchanged).
DISH Network and DirecTV each score 69. The former slips 3 per cent, while the latter remains unchanged.
Cox climbs 2 per cent to 67, and three companies score 66 each: Frontier Communications (up 3 per cent), Altice’s Optimum (up 2 per cent), and Charter Communications’ Spectrum (down 3 per cent).
The group of smaller video-on-demand services finishes in last place after dropping 2 per cent to 63.
Customer satisfaction with landline phone service inches up 1.4 per cent to an ACSI score of 71.
AT&T rises 4 per cent to 75, becoming the new industry leader. In second place, Verizon is steady at 74, followed by Vonage (down 3 per cent to 72).
The group of smaller landline providers dips 1 per cent to 70, while Altice’s Optimum jumps 4 per cent to meet them. Charter Communications’ Spectrum (up 1 per cent) and Comcast’s Xfinity (down 1 per cent) tie at 69, followed by Cox, which climbs 3 per cent to an ACSI score of 68. Windstream (up 6 per cent) is next at 67.
At the bottom of the industry, Lumen Technologies’ CenturyLink is steady at 65, while Frontier Communications (up 5 per cent) and Altice’s Suddenlink (down 5 per cent) share last place at 62 apiece.
The ACSI Telecommunications Study 2020-2021 is based on interviews with 37,907 customers, chosen at random and contacted via email between April 1, 2020, and March 29, 2021.