The Brand Anger Index: Mapping the Shift from Traditional Pay TV to Streaming

Television as we know it is undergoing a seismic shift. Cord-cutting is on the rise as millennials flee traditional TV, and “cord-nevers” fail to sign up for cable subscriptions to begin with. Content providers are facing pressure to innovate in face of declining TV viewership. In 2016, Summer Olympics ratings were down 17 percent overall and 25 percent within the crucial 18–49 demographic. Even the Super Bowl hasn’t been immune to this overall trend, with this year’s dramatic overtime finish failing to surpass 2015’s ratings peak.

Social media conversation offers an important window into the pay-TV ecosystem. Grumbles about bad customer service, outages, and sports and content coverage are a daily reality on our social media feeds. Cable and other pay-TV providers have spent years building built vast teams to individually respond to customer complaints. Companies understand that social media feedback can carry more weight than a call or email to customer service, where even a single tweet can be amplified countless times to hundreds of millions of users on these platforms.

Using social media itself, we sought to independently measure anger at cable and streaming providers. The result is a Brand Anger Index study ranking online consumer (dis)satisfaction with leading cable, satellite, and streaming companies. The full report is available for download here, including scores and letter grades for key industry players ranging from Comcast to Verizon to Netflix to Amazon, along key dimensions like customer service, content, service & hardware failure, and cost.

To conduct the study, we analyzed more than 11 million tweets from consumers in 2016. Why a digital-first research approach? By itself, traditional market research can be great at posing questions and exploring a problem from different angles, but difficult and prohibitively expensive to use if you want to gain a competitive, cross-sectional view of entire industries that allows you to derive insights for every company or local market. Our approach turns a stream of social data into actionable research insights that quantify consumer behavior and benchmark the competition.

Just a few of the 11 million tweets directed at cable, satellite, and streaming companies in 2016

Taking the long view, we find that much has changed about the industry over the years, looking just at the mindshare expressed by share of Google search volume. A landscape dominated by cable companies a decade ago has given way to a larger and ever-more diverse streaming ecosystem, with Netflix in the lead.

It’s traditional providers bearing the brunt of consumer dissatisfaction online, led by cable companies. A key metric we explore throughout the study is the number of tweets with angry language as a share of overall tweets about the company. The level of anger associated with cable providers is seven times greater than for either streaming services or devices, and four times as great with satellite providers.

What’s driving consumer anger? The report zooms in on five paint points, ranking companies on their performance along each dimension. Service and hardware failure tops the list, followed by cost, and then the availability of content. Sources of anger can differ significantly depending on whether you are in the cable, satellite, or streaming business.

How does this break down by company? Let’s preview one particular dimension — content. To what extent do companies bear the burden of consumer anger about around issues like dropped channels, cancelled shows, or limited availability of digital content? Here, we layer on an extra dimension of sentiment analysis: the extent to which consumers are using profanity to indicate their extreme displeasure at pay-TV companies. Content woes are greatest amongst satellite providers, a sports-driven phenomenon that we delve deeper into in the full report. Pre-merger Charter had the highest rates of content-related anger and profanity amongst cable companies. Amongst streaming providers, Netflix stands out from its peers due to a fluctuating and often limited content library.

If traditional TV providers are facing high levels of anger compared to their streaming brethren, what can they do to stem negative consumer sentiment towards their core pay-TV offering? To answer this question, we examine the performance of customer service accounts — like @ComcastCares or @SuddenlinkHelp —measuring the number of interactions with these accounts as a share of their subscriber base, and also the likelihood of receiving a response as a consumer. As revealed in our report, one account in particular stood out as having the highest rate of interaction with its customers and also scoring amongst the lowest in consumer anger.

Digital transformation and restive consumers are changing the TV industry. To learn more about this ongoing shift, download the full 56-slide presentation.

To discuss how we apply unique digital and traditional research methodologies to a range of brand measurement challenges, or to learn more about this report or schedule an interview, contact us here.

To learn more about self-serve social insights from Echelon Insights, visit