Comcast CEO Brian Roberts faced some tough questions at Re/code’s big conference on Wednesday, as one audience member actually asked him why his company and potential merger partner Time Warner Cable are the two most hated companies in America. As Business Insider’s Nicholas Carlson tells it, Roberts started off by saying that Comcast executives “don’t wake up everyday and go to work and say we want to be hated,” which is a fairly sensible thing to say. Then, however, things got weird.
According to Carlson, Roberts followed up this statement by saying that Comcast is mostly hated because “it’s the company consumers have to deal with when other companies raise their prices.”
I’m not exactly sure what Roberts is talking about, but if I had to guess he’s referencing an oft-heard complaint from cable companies about how they’d really, really like to lower your prices but the TV studios in Hollywood insist on charging high rates for their content. And while it’s certainly true that higher cable prices aren’t entirely Comcast’s fault, it’s also the case that higher prices aren’t the only reason Comcast is hated.
Comcast and TWC’s customer service is widely reviled as some of the worst in the United States and both companies are well known for nickel-and-diming their customers for every cent they can get in ways that have nothing to do with raising monthly rates. What makes matters worse is that both companies have effective monopolies for broadband in many major markets, as customers have no option but to go with them or live with 5Mbps DSL service that will never get upgraded to higher speeds.
And besides, even if consumers’ hatred of cable companies were solely about the price increases imposed on them by content providers, that wouldn’t explain why both Comcast and TWC always, always, always rank dead last among all pay TV and Internet providers. This means that even if cable companies are just doomed to be hated due to circumstances beyond their control, Comcast and TWC are still more hated than any of them.