Stories

Angry tweets target pay-TV providers

TV-watchers continue to cancel cable and satellite subscriptions in favor of streaming services and devices like Amazon Prime, Roku, Sling and Apple TV.

New data from analytics firm Echelon Insights suggests one possible driver of the shift is consumer frustration with pay-TV providers, based on an analysis of 11 million tweets in 2016 directed at cable, satellite and streaming providers' Twitter accounts and their customer service handles.

Data: Echelon Insights; Methodology: Searching tweets related to an individual company, including mentions expressing anger or dissatisfaction towards the company, excluding those mentioning wifi, internet, or telephone services; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon / Axios

Some of the findings:

  • Cable companies received the most Twitter wrath: People tweet negatively about cable companies at a rate nearly 7 times higher than streaming services. The top 10 angry-tweet-generating service providers are cable companies.
  • Service and equipment issues drove complaints for cable and satellite companies. But they receive fewer angry tweets about cost and content than streaming services.
  • Cable companies received the largest share of customer service-related angry tweets.
  • For satellite companies, sports content sparks the most outrage. AT&T's U-Verse also saw a high level of sports-related complaints driven by two NFL content blackouts during the NFL playoffs in January 2016.
  • For streaming services, content options — usually show cancellations — generates the most anger. Amazon Prime is seen as having the strongest content options and Netflix the worst.
  • Cost is the biggest complaint for streaming devices, with Apple TV bearing the brunt.

Keep in mind: Of course, tweet sentiment analysis isn't a perfect science. Also, many cable providers serve a broad range of subscribers to multiple services (often internet as well as TV) so it's not entirely surprising that they'd see high tweet volumes.

How companies respond: Most providers have active social media teams responding to incoming tweets, which seems to help cool the anger quotient a bit. The study found that @BrightHouseCares has the highest reply-to-tweet ratio for cable services and @hulu_supports is the leader for streaming services.

What it means: Echelon says the findings don't prove a connection between Twitter anger and people cutting the cord, "but they do show a degree of dissatisfaction among cable customers that doesn't exist among streaming customers." The study also concludes that the services are perceived differently — consumers talk about cable, satellite and streaming devices as pathways to watching TV, but streaming services are considered sources of content as well.

The bigger picture: As the cord-cutter ranks grow — especially among the coveted younger set who may be "cord-nevers" — traditional pay-TV companies are innovating to hold onto viewers who are increasingly getting their content via a broadband connection. At the same time, broadband providers want to own valuable content assets to attract customers. These trends (a least in part) are powerful drivers of vertical mergers combining broadband delivery and programming— think Comcast-NBCU, AT&T-DirecTV, and now the proposed AT&T-Time Warner deal.