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Despite World Cup slip, YouTube TV sets the bar – on customer service
Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Swing and a miss. Air ball. Hit the post. A rookie move. Dropped the ball. Pick any of those well-known sports adages that define failure, and you’re dead on the money with a description of YouTube TV’s missed opportunity to shine during the World Cup.

The virtual pay-TV service crashed hard during the see-saw England-Croatia match dropping its stream during the second half of the match for about an hour.

Fans were more than a little ticked off and YouTube TV began issuing mea-culpas within minutes.

I got an email a day or so later, though, that very clearly shows the difference between the way next-gen virtual MVPDs treat their customers compared to some of the biggest pay-TV providers in the U.S.: YouTube apologized:

Hi there,
“We're really sorry for the recent YouTube TV outage during the FIFA World Cup™ Semifinal. We love our TV as much as you do, and our goal is to make sure that you can access your favorite TV - whenever and however you want. 
“Any recordings of the full game or anything else you were recording should now be available uninterrupted in the Library tab. If you are still experiencing issues, please let us know via 
email, phone, live chat, or @TeamYouTube on Twitter.
“To help make this right, we’d like to give you a week of free service. You’ll receive another email soon confirming your account has been credited. 
“Thanks for sticking with us.
“The YouTube TV team”

Now, the apology was a nice touch, but the free week? Well, it didn’t really make up for the blown stream of the game, but it was appreciated. And, think back, when was the last time a legacy pay-TV provider offered you a free week on anything – that didn’t have a big string attached.

And there’s the real difference.

Skinny bundles are gaining subscribers while traditional services are losing them – and it’s not just about price. It’s about attitude, customer service, entitlement… as in, next-gen services don’t operate as if you have no choice because, increasingly, we do.

Legacy pay-TV providers are among the most-hated businesses in America. According to the annual American Customer Service Satisfaction Index from the University of Michigan’s Ross Business School, cable operators and ISPs ranked dead last among 43 industries for customer satisfaction last year, achieving a score of 62 out of 100.

“Customer service remains abysmal, and viewers are continuing to switch over to streaming services with much higher customer satisfaction,” Claes Fornell, ACSI Chairman, said in a statement accompanying the results. “More than half a million subscribers defected from cable and satellite providers during the first quarter—the largest loss in history.”

Skinny bundle providers and streaming services? Among the best ranked with a score of 75 out of 100.

The (r)evolution in the video entertainment industry continues. Legacy providers are struggling to retain customers, suffering historic losses in the U.S. (and seeing sluggish growth in Asia and even losses in parts of Europe) that seem unlikely to be reversed.

Streamers, meanwhile, keep pushing ahead. Netflix, for example, just announced it had a less-than-exemplary quarter in terms of subscriptions, adding just 5 million users.

That’s a bad quarter?

YouTube TV may have lost its footing momentarily, but its reaction, its immediate move to apologize and offer a free week of service as a makeup? World class.

Stay tuned.

Jim O’Neill is Principal Analyst at Ooyala. You can follow him on Twitter @JimONeillMedia and on LinkedIn

Jim O'Neill

An award-winning industry expert and futurist who specializes in the convergence of traditional TV and the Internet. My focus includes pay TV, Cloud TV, OTT, multiplatform media delivery, the ecosystem that surrounds it and consumer trends. A frequent speaker at CES, NAB, Digital Hollywood, Park’s Associates Connections events, Streaming Media and Digital Entertainment World, among others. I'm the Editor of Videomind, which in the past year has won awards from Editor & Publisher and Digiday. I'm also the Principal Analyst at Ooyala. I'm based in Michigan. I formerly was an analyst at Parks Associates and editor of FierceOnlineVideo and FierceIPTV. 

You can follow on Twitter @JimONeillMedia and on Linkedin