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Pay TV Satisfaction Rises in 2012: J.D. Power

U.S. subscription TV customers are slightly happier with their providers than a year ago — although the cable’s poor reputation continues to drag the industry below satellite and telco rivals, according to J.D. Power and Associates’ 2012 residential TV customer-satisfaction study.

Meanwhile, customers who opt for premium-programming packages are more loyal and more likely to purchase additional products from their provider, compared with basic and expanded basic subscribers, J.D. Power found.

Satisfaction ratings for major pay TV providers increased across all regions, rising 5.4% in the East (to an average of 665 on a 1,000-point scale in 2012); 6.2% in the South (686); 2.8% in North Central (656); and 5.0% in the West (669).

As in past years, MSOs uniformly scored lower than satellite operators and telephone companies, with one exception: WideOpenWest took first place in the North Central region (with a rating of 711), edging out AT&T U-verse (710), DirecTV (705) and Dish Network (699). Those were trailed by Bright House Networks, Time Warner Cable, Comcast and Charter Communications.

Tops in the East were Verizon FiOS, Dish and DirecTV, followed by Cablevision Systems, Cox Communications, Comcast Xfinity and TWC.

The story was similar in the South — with DirecTV, U-verse, FiOS and Dish ranking above Bright House Networks, Cox, Comcast, TWC, Suddenlink Communications and Charter — as well as the West, where Dish was No. 1, followed by U-verse, DirecTV, FiOS, Cox, Comcast, TWC, Charter and Mediacom.

Only 13% of all U.S. pay TV subscribers are on premium tiers, with 49% on basic and 38% on expanded basic, according to J.D. Power. But consumers who are paying more for TV are considerably more delighted with their provider.

Across all providers, pay TV customer satisfaction directly correlates with a household’s programming service tier, according to J.D. Power. Premium-package subscribers are the most satisfied with their TV service, with an index score of 716 compared with 677 for expanded basic subscribers and 656 for basic subscribers.

Those who take premium packages also are more loyal, with 31% saying they “definitely will not” switch providers, compared with subscribers of expanded basic (22%) and basic (20%) programming packages. Moreover, they’re more vocal “brand advocates,” J.D. Power director of telecommunications research Frank Perazzini said. About 26% of premium-package subscribers said they “definitely will” recommend their provider, compared with subscribers of expanded basic (16%) and basic (14%) packages.

“After several years of declining subscription to premium programming packages associated with the economic downturn and the introduction of attractive over-the-top alternatives, it appears premium programming is making a comeback,” Perazzini said.

Although premium packages cost more than expanded basic and basic programming, satisfaction with cost of service is higher among premium-package subscribers (633), than among expanded basic (588) and basic (567) subscribers. In fact, premium package subscribers are more willing to pay for even more video content: 42% of those customers said they are likely to order VOD programs in the next six months, versus 37% of expanded basic and 27% of basic cable subscribers.

J.D. Power’s 2012 U.S. Residential Television Service Provider Satisfaction Study measures customer satisfaction based on six factors: programming; performance and reliability; customer service; cost of service; billing; and offerings and promotions.

The study is based on responses from 20,687 customers nationwide who rated their cable, satellite or telco provider. The study was fielded in four waves in November 2011, January 2012, April 2012 and July 2012.

The complete rankings by region and provider are available here.