Cable television

I worked for a cable television company for over a decade. Here’s why they might all be gone soon.

Long before my days as editor of national interest or leading a think tank program, I have worked in the telecommunications industry. Specifically, I worked for a cable television company that sold traditional voice, video, and high-speed Internet. For the first few years it was a great job, but after competition and the Great Recession everything changed. After a battle with Lyme disease, I decided to put my health and my studies first and leave to pursue the career I love. I can honestly say that it was, besides marrying the love of my life, the best decision I have ever made.

I could also see that the writing was on the wall: Cable TV – heck, the whole cable pay TV industry – even as early as 2011, was dying. I knew that if I didn’t come out at some point, I wouldn’t have a job and no future. A recent study claimed that 14,000 people leave pay TV services every day – and that’s pretty amazing, but terrifying if you work for Cox, Comcast, Verizon or others.

The reasons, even nearly a decade ago, were obvious. Competition from then-robust platforms like Verizon Fios and AT&T U-verse meant that the company I worked for was losing customers in droves and profits at an astonishing rate. Morale was low, the hours long, and pay was down for many. What’s more, this was all happening before the words “cord cutter” were even widely known, even though these trends were just beginning.

Today, if you work in the cable TV industry, I have some advice for you: it’s time to look for another job, and fast. Sure, your business will still be selling high-speed internet and phone service, but the days of sky-high profits or job security are over as people abandon traditional cable TV.

Over the next few days, I’ll be detailing all the reasons why I’d say cable TV and cable companies are obsolete and could be gone completely before the end of the decade. And the first reason is obvious that many of us can relate to:

Customer service does not exist:

When you call a cable company or many companies these days, their goal is to sell you something or have you keep what you’re calling to cancel – nothing more, nothing less.

Nothing else matters, nothing. Often their compensation depends on what you do on that phone call, whether or not you buy something. Being nice, considerate, helpful is not part of their training or company ethics at all. The customer is nothing more than a number, a statistical factoid that is either a plus or a minus they can report back to their shareholders.

I know all of this is true because I was the guy on the other end of the line introducing you or begging you not to go. And it made me sick.

If you have any problem that doesn’t involve selling or saving, your cable company doesn’t care. Call and speak to a billing or repair agent. Have you ever wondered why your problems are not solved? That’s because the most talented customer service agents go for sales or retention. The rest goes to billing or general customer service, and often they are outsourced to another country to save money.

And don’t get me started on the technical issues. Your cable box is not working? Well, if you can’t fix it yourself and need help, the cable company first tries to automate your request for help in some way. If you need someone, you’ll wait a while – there’s no profit in helping a product that doesn’t work – and they’ll probably be outsourced to India, the Philippines or some other non-US location. These outsourced agents will read the scripts and do their best to get you to hang up and not book an expensive service call.

Remember, it’s all about profit. All. More to come tomorrow.

Harry J. Kazianis is a senior director at the National Interest Center. His work and ideas have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN, FoxNews, CNBC, USA todayThe Week, The Hill, the american conservative and many other outlets across the political spectrum. Harry likes to write about technology issues and products from a real point of view. You can follow him (or shout at him) on Twitter: @Grecianformula.