Xfinity: New Name for the Same Old Comcast?

By  |  Thursday, February 4, 2010 at 2:56 pm

Comcast, the nation’s dominant provider of cable TV and broadband services, has apparently decided it doesn’t like its 40-year-old moniker. The company isn’t changing its corporate name, but it’s announced plans to rebrand its consumer services–TV, Internet access, and phone–as Xfinity. (The name has already been in use for the past six weeks for Comcast’s subscriber-only Internet TV service.) The Xfinity name will be rolled out to eleven cities next week, with more to come as the year progresses.

Why would you change one of the best-known brand names in America today? “This is about our product,” Comcast spokesperson Jennifer Khoury said in a statement. “It is about providing our customers with products that just keep getting better.”

I suspect that most Comcast customers don’t care whether the service is called Comcast or Xfinity or Irving. When I lived in the suburbs of Boston, the cable provider started out as Continental Cablevision, renamed itself MediaOne, and then was bought by and renamed after AT&T. Today, it’s Comcast–but Boston is one of the first eleven Xfinity areas, so it’ll change again next week. That’s five different names in fourteen years, and I don’t think any of the switches did a thing other than to provide work for branding consultants and signmakers.

(Of course, I still instinctively refer to the stadium where the San Francisco Giants play as “PacBell park,” and have been known to correct myself to to “SBC” before settling on the correct “AT&T.”)

The obvious temptation is to accuse Comcast of shedding its venerable name because consumers hold it in low regard. Could be. The company has historically fared poorly in satisfaction surveys (although it’s done a bit better recently). I’m not a Comcast hater on principle: The Internet service I have from it now is the best broadband I’ve ever had, and I’m impressed by its @comcastcares customer service on Twitter. But the user interface on the Comcast TV box I had was freakishly horrible to the point that it interfered with my ability to watch TV rather than aided it. (If I hadn’t swapped the box out for a TiVo, I swear I would have ended up flinging it through my living-room window in a fit of rage.) And my local Comcast office has a bit of a Department of Motor Vehicles feel to it, with long lines and a threadbare aesthetic.

In short, Comcast still feels like it’s operating under the misimpression that it’s a monopoly. Which it isn’t, thank heavens–even if it’s the only cable game in town in many places, it’s perfectly possible to be a happy, well-entertained, reasonably-informed person without ever turning a dollar over to it.

If the Xfinity name signals a new attitude towards customer satisfaction, swell. Me, I kind of wish that the dollars Comcast will pour into the rebranding effort had been spent on upgrades to set-top boxes, remote controls, and customer service–the stuff that means far more than the name on the bill. Maybe I’ll start calling it “Continental Cablevision” again until I see real improvement.



14 Comments For This Post

  1. Dave Mackey Says:

    No different than what Cablevision did a few years ago – they rebranded their cable service as Optimum, and more specifically as IO TV. It will allow them to market without the albatross of their name.

  2. SirFatty Says:

    Just switched to Comcast after 12 years with Dish. Switched because the combined cable/internet/phone deal save me $40 a month. And no contract.

    What struck me is your comment about the DVR they provide. I thought I was being picky, but the Motorola device is a serious POS. Having made my own (using Snapstream), I had a benchmark which to measure against, and Comcast fails. Wish I could record HD and get back to my own DVR hardware.

    Thanks again!

  3. alur Says:

    I’m neutral on supporting or criticizing Comcast, but I wonder what specifically are the areas in which Comcast customer service fails? I have had occasion to use their customer service many times in the last few years and the reps fall all over themselves to be helpful. Problem with my cable TV, and I am updated on area problems or scheduled for an appointment which is very prompt. Problem with my internet, and I get the same fast response. I think the fees are high, but I get quality service. If so many people are give poor marks to Comcast, I wonder what the problem is.

    As for the drab interiors of Comcast offices, I am glad I don’t see marble-lined interiors and brass railings like I see in my doctor’s offices. That is a waste of money. The long lines are due to people who wait to pay their bill until they are about to be shut off because most upgrades and changes in service can be done over the phone. I have had to exchange modems more than once, so I had to stand in line, but no more than 15 minutes when they were at their peak business.

    Anyway, I would like more specifics on which customer services Comcast fails. I think people like to gripe too much.

  4. ImNoPrincess Says:

    I'm sorry I'm replying to your post so late, but I had a personal experience of a complete failure from Comcast in the past. When I signed up for new service, I scheduled installation for a 4-hour window. No one showed up. 4 hours wasted. Calling customer service got me nothing but an empty apology. Rescheduled. Again, no one showed up. Another 4 hours wasted. Called customer service. Still no real explanation or attempt to buy my love with discounts or freebies. Sigh, resheduled one more time. Guess what? No one showed. Can you believe it? If you don't want my business, just freakin' say so from the get-go! I got stood up 3 times by Comcast. He wasn't even a hot date and I kept giving him chance after chance after chance. At this point, I expected them to grovel for my business. Nothing. They only offered to reschedule yet again. I canceled my new service that hadn't even begun and closed my account.

  5. ImNoPrincess Says:

    From my own experience, Comcast failed miserably in customer service in the past. I have recently seen the new commercials stating they'll make their installaton appointment or they'll credit your account $20. If they had that gaurantee back then, I'd have $60 credited to my account for wasting my time. Makes you wonder how many people they screwed that they had to pay $millions to make this commercial and air it to try to fix their image. I can see why they're changing their product name.

  6. Nathan Says:

    Is it just me or does this remind anyone else of Dunder Mifflin Infinity?

  7. billlozito Says:

    You have to give Comcast a little credit for trying. It’s the most effort the company has put out in years to try and improve anything about them. However, Xfinity? C’mon, they could have given us a little something better.

    As a naming firm, we conducted a survey on what over 500 consumers think of the new Xfinity name. Not surprisingly 70% didn’t like the name and thought it could be better used elsewhere-like a porn site or for condoms. Here is a link with the results:

  8. pat borgert Says:

    I had xfinity triple play installed 5 weeks ago. It took 2 appointments to finally get an installation. I was told by the technician that the dvr I wanted would allow for 3 rooms to be veiwed by that dvr. Wrong! The dvr controls only 1 tv with all of its programming, which is 250 channels(35 % are foreign language channels). The other 2 rooms have this simple remotes with only 79 channels(25%0 are foreign language channels). You pay extra to have dvrs in those rooms. Comcast has so-so customer service and the package was misrepresented by Comcast,and no compensation was ever offered. I would not refer them to anyone I know.

  9. Joe14 Says:

    Why would you change one of the best-known brand names in America today?

  10. Stacey Says:

    Now we can't call it Comcrap!

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  14. consumer Says:

    It would be nice if Comcast took the dollars they're spending on getting the Xfinity name to hire legible English speaking individuals. Comcast has provided horrible customer service, in my experience and trying to get Xfinity, I was given one price and information that didn't jive with what I was told when I called to inquire about the service I would receive.

    Five phone calls and speaking to 6 different individuals (I was "kindly" transferred during one phone call), I ended up cancelling the order all together.

    Honestly, if they really do "record" the calls for training and quality, they fail miserably.

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