A Triple Play Ends the Inning, Comcast

Like most people out there, I hate my cable provider.

I could rip into Comcast (Nasdaq: CMCSA  ) routinely, but I don't because venting and ranting don't serve you with an investable point. However, something happened last week that's too comical not to share.

Comcast has been my cable and Internet access provider for more than a dozen years, but this has been a particularly brutal month. There have been at least four prolonged outages during which I have been without cable and broadband.

In calling to report the second of last week's outages, an otherwise cordial representative tells me that he's looking into my account. I could save some serious money if I switch my landline to Comcast's XFINITY Voice offering.

"If I did that, how would I be reporting this outage?" I asked.

"Don't you have a smartphone?" he responds, not realizing that he has just killed his own sales pitch.

Who needs a landline when you have a wireless phone? Who needs a Comcast triple play -- especially when I'm already dealing with two outs?

Bundling TV, Internet, and broadband phone have been a godsend for cable providers. They already know that their cable TV offerings are too expensive. Comcast lost 460,000 video customers last year, and that was after suffering through 757,000 more cancellations than additions the prior year. However, the "triple play" push has paid off, with Comcast growing in the two cheaper categories.

It's the same story at Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC  ) , where "triple play" additions have offset the nearly 1 million net defections of cable television customers over the past two years.

Giants are merely swapping customers these days. AT&T (NYSE: T  ) and Verizon (NYSE: VZ  ) are losing hardwired landline customers, but making up for that through wireless and their Web-based television offerings. Time Warner Cable and Comcast are stealing the landline customers of AT&T and Verizon, but handing over their couch potatoes to the cheaper and aggressively marketed U-verse and FiOS television platforms.

Comcast, Time Warner Cable, and other cable providers probably think they have a good thing going with these "triple play" bundling deals. Customers are so confused with the bundled pricing that they don't realize how high the cable television component is rising.

Comcast is just being cocky. Did you know that even though I have called in to report all four outages, if I don't opt out of the automated reporting process and speak to a live person, they won't record that to credit my outage the next time I call to request it?

Netflix (Nasdaq: NFLX  ) may have its shortcomings, but at least the video service is a class act when rare disruptions take place. It offers a pro-rated credit to everyone who was inconvenienced, not just those who call in to complain.

Do cable companies call their bundles triple plays because we're talking about three outs at the same time?

Now I'm off to file this piece before Comcast cuts me off again.

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Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz calls them as he sees them. He does not own shares in any of the stocks in this story, except for Netflix. Rick is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early.

Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Netflix. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.


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  • Report this Comment On February 29, 2012, at 3:35 PM, ComcastMark wrote:

    Rick,

    I sincerely apologize for the experience. I shared your experience with my local colleagues to ensure that your concerns are addressed. They will also look into the outages that you experienced so that we can prevent any recurrence in the future.

    Thanks for providing the opportunity to assist.

    Mark Casem

    Comcast Corp.

    National Customer Operations

    We_can_help@cable.comcast.com

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