3 Cable Companies America Hates the Most and 1 You Love

The results are in. After polling  its readers -- habitual evaluators of the relative "goodness" of products -- Consumer Reports announced this month which cable TV companies are the most hated in America, and which one actually might be worth a try.

Worst of the worst
I won't keep you waiting for the results. Privately owned (and redundantly named) Mediacom Communications comes in at the very bottom of the list of 17 rated cable companies. It's followed in short order by three publicly traded firms that were rated only marginally better in quality: Charter Communications (NASDAQ: CHTR  ) , Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC  ) , and Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA  ) , ranked Nos. 16, 15, and 14, respectively.

All four of these cable companies get Consumer Reports' absolute worst rating for the "value" of the service they provide -- a big black circle. (Indeed, Mediacom gets more fully blackened circles than anyone else, scoring unacceptably in five out of eight categories rated.) Of the three firms (barely) outscoring Mediacom, Charter and Time Warner avoid completely black marks on reliability, while Comcast actually scores a middle-of-the-road white circle for the dependability of its service.

Time Warner, meanwhile, can boast of at least the middling quality of its "cable guys" when they come to fix the cable. They probably get a lot of practice at fixing stuff, too. I mean, have you seen Time Warner's lousy dependability rating?

Charter, meanwhile, scores equally badly on both reliability and in-home customer support.

Is bigger better?
But what about the one company I said "actually might be worth a try"? Interestingly, according to Consumer Reports' findings, the best outfit in cable just might also be the biggest outfit in cell phones.

Topping the CR list for "cable" providers this year is a company that actually strings fiber-optics to the home -- Verizon's (NYSE: VZ  ) FiOS service. According to CR readers, Verizon's fiber-optic lines get top marks for reliability and picture and deliver decent audio, and the company offers customer service that's only half-bad, to boot. And as I mentioned above, Verizon is also the country's biggest cell phone provider, through its Verizon Wireless partnership with Vodafone. So if you're a fan of "bundled" services, Verizon might be a good way to go.

Sometimes, bigger is better
Verizon's stock doesn't look like a half-bad value, either. Although possessed of an obscene-looking P/E, the company churns out a lot of cash from its business. "Doing well by doing a good job," you might say. This gives the stock a price-to-free cash flow ratio of just 9.3 -- which seems cheap relative to mid-6% growth estimates and a 4.2% dividend yield.

Meanwhile, the stock's occupying the bottom of Consumer Reports' list are a varied lot. Comcast, at a price-to-FCF ratio of 12.3, could actually turn out to be a better investment than the best cable provider if it lives up to expectations of a 17%-plus growth rate. Time Warner, also with strong free cash flow, looks slightly undervalued. Charter, unprofitable, but generating some cash at least, looks like one to stay away from -- as an investor and as a customer, both.

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Read/Post Comments (26) | Recommend This Article (33)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

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  • Report this Comment On April 03, 2013, at 3:16 PM, wiscman77 wrote:

    In places where I have had cable, I could get a basic package. "Basic" meant channels 2-13, and it cost about $10 - $15. Until I moved to an are that was serviced by Time Warner. I couldn't get real basic. TW's basic was about 20 [mostly useless] channels for which they charged about $30. And there was no way to get the 2-13 package. They didn't want to bother.

    As soon as Primestar came out, I said goodbye to cable and haven't look back since. Well, OK cable internet is the most reliable, so I do get that.

  • Report this Comment On April 03, 2013, at 3:41 PM, KevinniveK wrote:

    @wiscmann - you read this article so obviously you ARE looking back, hoping for something better than you've settled for ,,,

  • Report this Comment On April 03, 2013, at 4:22 PM, darke812 wrote:



    What a freaking rip-off!!! But my choices here in Santa Rosa SUCK!!

  • Report this Comment On April 03, 2013, at 4:22 PM, gwtx2 wrote:

    Kevin, that's an absurd statement. Just because someone reads a news article doesn't mean they are seeking something better. I have U-Verse. Very happy with it and not looking for anything else, simply because there is nothing else to choose from in my area. I just wanted to see the rankings.

  • Report this Comment On April 03, 2013, at 4:27 PM, dmddddd wrote:

    Antenna TV ROCKS!!!

    $0.00 Monthly bill

  • Report this Comment On April 03, 2013, at 4:27 PM, doawithlife wrote:

    3 years and Fios has been across the street. One more block you bastards. Just come one more block. I hate Comcast.

  • Report this Comment On April 03, 2013, at 4:30 PM, fashionable94582 wrote:

    I hate Comcast! They are the worst! Stood me up on installation appointments 3 times, and I had to leave work to go sit and wait for them! Then they continued to charge me on an EFT for a closed account to the tune of $588, and I have been calling for 3 months trying to get the refund - they keep saying the check is "in the mail" and it never comes!!

    I will be closing my account with them!!

  • Report this Comment On April 03, 2013, at 5:10 PM, klm82006 wrote:

    Mediacom are the biggest crooks

  • Report this Comment On April 03, 2013, at 5:28 PM, Jimcoe wrote:

    In my opinion Comcast is the absolute worst.

    AT&T-uverse is way more advance and better but unfortunately it is not available in my area.

  • Report this Comment On April 03, 2013, at 5:40 PM, doctx111 wrote:

    I think it must be NYC that has the problems with TWC because thats where I see the news about the customer service and outages. I've been lucky here in Texas , the rates are similar to others and I rarely have an issue that's not weather related.

  • Report this Comment On April 03, 2013, at 6:02 PM, Tom2013 wrote:

    Cable TV is a big rip, and if you still have it you're an idiot. You're paying to get crappy programming and annoying advertisements beamed into your house. Get a streaming box like Roku and install a wireless router. 50 bucks. Get a Netflix subscription. 8 bucks a month. Freedom, baby.

    If you still have Comcast, run up a $500 bill, take the box down to them and politely return it, and tell them to get lost.

  • Report this Comment On April 03, 2013, at 6:13 PM, 1melissa wrote:

    Likr phone companies you hate, AT&T is one of them.

  • Report this Comment On April 03, 2013, at 6:39 PM, bladebrown2002 wrote:

    I hate sorry @$$ Comcast!!

  • Report this Comment On April 03, 2013, at 7:26 PM, RMiddlebrookIV wrote:

    I hate Comcast because if you pay your bill it is astronomical. If you switch to another provider like ATT with an introductory rate. Then when they raise your bill you go back to Comcast and pay an introductory rate. All on the backs of us who are reliable customers. They should have longevity rates not introductory rates. They really stick it to you for being loyal and paying your bill.

  • Report this Comment On April 03, 2013, at 9:41 PM, JJanJJones wrote:

    HATE Comcast, and am currently looking at alternatives. The only people who get a break on their outrageous Comcast bills are new customers. Long time customers just get the shaft.

  • Report this Comment On April 03, 2013, at 10:23 PM, janitor48 wrote:

    Charter sucks too, I have most of the premiums channels but theirs times I find better movies on demand which you pay an extra fee to see a movie from that list. I pay $113 a month-what a joke.

  • Report this Comment On April 03, 2013, at 10:24 PM, janitor48 wrote:

    Yeah if I had a computer or a game system I'd get netflix for sure.

  • Report this Comment On April 03, 2013, at 10:38 PM, AllahWishes wrote:

    Roku. Plug it in. Cancel cable/satellite. Save $500/yr.

  • Report this Comment On April 04, 2013, at 10:33 AM, TMFAnneimal wrote:

    I've been Comcast-Free for nearly 3 years, and it still makes my blood curdle when I think about how poorly they treated me as a customer (one who had one of their most expensive packages available for residential).

    In fact, when I bought my house in May, Comcast not being the cable provider for the neighborhood was one of the three major selling points! Fenced yard for the dog, no carpet to vacuum, no Comcast ever again.

  • Report this Comment On April 04, 2013, at 10:34 AM, TMFAnneimal wrote:

    *2 years

  • Report this Comment On April 05, 2013, at 12:25 PM, griz42 wrote:

    Charter is unbelievable. They create a bill that copies the health care crap and is completely usless. They aree to one price fixed and then raise the next month. With a monopoly there are few alternatives so they raise their franchise fee and surchare at will with no reprocussions.

  • Report this Comment On April 05, 2013, at 5:16 PM, Gordogato wrote:

    This story is timely for me... I just got Verizon FIOS installed on Monday and then cancelled my Comcast service the next day. Comcast was OK; I didn't hate them like some people do. But Verizon is giving me more HD channels and better internet for a lower price (and will still be lower even when my introductory rate runs out).

  • Report this Comment On April 05, 2013, at 6:17 PM, Vigilant15 wrote:

    Cable TV is dying. It will take awhile,but these companies are dying. Price gouging, customer abuse, and poor product value for the dollar are eroding their sucker (er customer) base.

    Most recent incident: CNN/HLN running 20 commercial breaks per hour to suck up a quick profit from high Jodi Arias trial viewership, but absolutely abusing viewers ---and understandably generating an equally high level of viewer resentment and hatred that will endure much longer than those quick profits.

    Stupid companies don't do well.......

  • Report this Comment On April 06, 2013, at 12:17 PM, MCCrockett wrote:

    Antenna TV ROCKS!!!? Only when you live on a plain. If you live in a mountainous area, some TV station signals will be blocked entirely others will have their signals bouncing off hill sides and arriving at different times.

    In these regions you are stuck with cable.

    Cable services with fiber to the street are better but whenever there is a cable problem you are assured of long outages. Once the location of the problem is identified, it takes six hours to repair.

  • Report this Comment On March 25, 2014, at 10:04 PM, supert3d1975 wrote:

    Charter Communications is the absolute worst cable company. http://www.charter-sucks.com!

  • Report this Comment On August 29, 2014, at 5:11 PM, dtcnorm wrote:

    I've never done this before - here goes: So, Charter confirmed with me 3 times on the phone (took a total of over 3 hours of my time to get this clear as a bell) with 6 different representatives: "sir, your bill has gone up $27 per month because the 1st year promotional rate has ended and you are now on your 2nd year rate" - so, did anyone explain that when I signed up? NO - here are the 3 options my Charter rep explained to me on how I can reduce my rate: #1. Reduce your services, cut back channels, return some equipment - So, REDUCE the quality of our product and we will reduce your bill. #2. Go compare with our competitors to see if you can get anything better - nice customer service there, right?! and #3. here's the best one of all - DISCONNECT YOUR SERVICE FOR 30 DAYS, and we'll be able to get your the promotional rate for another year, go ahead, people do it all the time. That is the wonderful customer service I am receiving from a company that i just spent $2000 with over the last year. Yes, Virginia, I will be contacting your competitors to compare service - and posting this at least 1000 times on every blog i can find - have a nice day sir!

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