A survey update conducted by Rockville, MD-based ChangeWave Research found that, by a wide margin, fiber-optic TV subscribers remain the most satisfied customers – with 44 percent reporting they are Very Satisfied with their television service provider.

This compares with 27 percent for satellite-TV subscribers and just 14 percent for cable subscribers.

As far as individual fiber-optic TV providers are concerned, Verizon FiOS (49 percent Very Satisfied) continues to maintain its strong lead over the rest of the industry in customer satisfaction, with Bright House (37 percent) in second place and AT&T U-verse (34 percent) in third.

ChangeWave analysts Andy Golub and Paul Carton also found that fourth-place DirecTV (32 percent) continues to hold a substantial lead over its other major satellite competitor, Dish Network (22 percent). Notably, no other TV provider had a Very Satisfied score of more than 13 percent, and a string of cable companies did worse.

Respondents also were polled on churn. Some 11 percent overall plan to switch providers sometime during the next six months, up 1 percentage point from ChangeWave’s October 2009 survey. Among those planning to switch, price (58 percent) remains the Number One reason. Moreover, the percentage of respondents citing price has surged more than 50 percent during the past 18 months – in large part due to the recession – and there still are no signs of a reversal to this trend, ChangeWave said.

More important, fiber-optic customers exhibit the lowest churn rate (only 6 percent said they’ll switch), considerably better than their satellite (10 percent) and cable counterparts (12 percent); only 4 percent of Verizon FiOS customers plan to go elsewhere. Cablecos Cox (8 percent of subs plan to leave) and Bright House (9 percent will exit) are next, followed by the AT&T U-verse service (10 percent) and satellite companies Dish Network (10 percent) and DirecTV (11 percent).

Bringing up the rear are the rest of the cable providers – including Comcast (12 percent will change), Cablevision (13 percent), Time Warner (14 percent) and Charter (18 percent).

Moving forward, the ChangeWave survey found that DirecTV (23 percent, up 3 percentage points since the last poll) is leading among the major providers in terms of future marketshare gains. In a virtual tie for second are the two fiber providers – Verizon FiOS (18 percent, down 4 points) and AT&T U-verse (17 percent, down 5 points). Dish Network is further back at 11 percent, with the cable companies again coming in last.

Long term, the survey showed cable companies facing the toughest road ahead. However, while most cable providers lag in terms of churn rates, future demand and customer satisfaction, ChangeWave points to one major advantage they hold – a huge installed customer base.

Having said that, the fast-emerging Alternative TV market, including the rapid movement toward Internet-connected TV, poses both competitive threats and potential opportunities for traditional TV service providers. Some 10 percent of ChangeWave’s respondents have used their TVs to access the Internet during the past six months; however, 14 percent said they plan to do so during the next six months.

What are they watching? The vast majority (56 percent) is watching movies, but others are gaming, YouTubing and info surfing.

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