MediaFile

Is Comcast really the Worst Company In America? Really?

Comcast-worstcompanyawardBrianRobsSo Comcast ‘won’ the Worst Company In America award from readers of The Consumerist blog, which as its tagline suggests, is the place where “shoppers bite back”. Yet we have to ask, is Comcast really the worst company in America or is it all relative?

The Consumerist’s readers are likely to have contact with Comcast through its customer service. They, like many, have likely been frustrated with waiting for hours for a technician (sleeping or awake). Or maybe it’s taken Comcast a day or two too long to fix their high-definition DVR boxes?

Fairly or unfairly, Comcast’s reputation had gotten so bad the company took the opportunity of a new product launch  to change its customer-facing name to Xfinity. But it’s not just customer service. Consumerist’s readers have also been ticked off by what they see as  above-inflation price rises, throttling Internet access, and Comcast’s plans to buy NBC Universal.

Depending on your view,  some of these are clearly not customer-friendly business practices (for the others we’ll let regulators decide). Yet how does the biggest U.S. cable company compare with some of the other top companies that have had a tough time in the reputation stakes in recent months?

Take Bank of America, which incidentally made the final four on the Consumerist list. Some readers of the blog were disappointed this behemoth of Charlotte didn’t run away with the award the same way it did with taxpayers’ bailout dollars while also having to foreclose on those same consumers’ homes. As one Consumerist reader puts it: “I still think BOA was robbed. Which is ironic.”

BofA offers “monstrous” promotion

Bank of America’s special coupon promotion of DreamWorks Animation SKG’s upcoming “Monsters vs Aliens” is raising eyebrows even before viewers don their special 3-D glasses for the flick.
“We find it odd that a bank that just received $45 billion in government aid is paying for consumers across the U.S. to see a movie in 3-D vs 2-D at no extra cost,” said Pali Research analyst Richard Greenfield in his blog.

Greenfield also ponders whether DreamWorks president Lew Coleman, who happens to be Bank of America’s former vice chairman and CFO, had a role in getting the bank to run the promotion.  Monsters vs Aliens stars Kiefer Sutherland (pictured above), or at least his voice.

DreamWorks declined comment, but directed inquiries to spokesman Joe Goode at Bank of America, who said the news spin on the promotion, which had amounted to a marketing investment of $175,000 for the bank, had reached “monstrous” proportions.

Tax breaks (not bailouts) for newspapers

I ran a story on New Year’s Eve about the opportunities and perils that could face struggling newspapers if they end up surviving because of government help. I opened the story with the tale of Connecticut state lawmakers and a state commissioner who are trying to find someone to buy two Journal Register-owned dailies and several weeklies that are going to be shut down in January if they can’t be saved. From there, I explored the ramifications of government aid to newspapers.

The story got plenty of attention, though it looks like misinterpretation was rife. Many bloggers and news sources portrayed the Connecticut situation as a bailout, leading to plenty of ire directed at the lawmakers and the story. (Some conservative bloggers hinted that we deliberately omitted the lawmakers’ affiliation. For the record — they are Democrats. Also for the record: I had that in there, then deleted it, intending to put it somewhere else in the story. Then I plum forgot. No hidden agenda.)

So here’s what I’m expecting next and here’s what I still don’t know or understand. I’m eager to hear from folks who care about the future of newspapers in the United States to add their thoughts in the comments section.

Hey Media, don’t cross Barney Frank!

Here’s a fun one from my colleague Emily Kaiser, who’s reporting from Capitol Hill today (she’s monitoring the hearing on TV. Turns out we have someone else there. That’s what you get when you write about DC from New York), specifically from the Financial Services Committee in the House of Representatives:

Committee Chairman and Massachusetts Democratic Congressman Barney Frank was convening a hearing on how the government is using the $700 billion rescue fund, featuring some serious economic star power in the form of Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Federal Deposit Insurance Corp Chairman Sheila Bair.

Long story short, when the financial future of the nation is at stake, you gotta let the hearing get started — especially when Rep Frank wields the gavel: