Friday, February 4, 2000
What residents want from cable television
The review and renewal process of Cablevision's franchise license with Carlisle began in 1999; part of that process includes assessing what Carlisleans want from cable television. Last year, the Carlisle Cable TV Committee sent a questionnaire to town residents to learn their viewpoints on their experiences with cable TV services as provided by Cablevision. The committee has collated, compiled and analyzed the data.
The group was most gratified by the terrific response from residents, both in terms of numbers of respondents, as well as the high level of thought and amount of time that was put into writing comments. In total, 580 surveys were returned, a very impressive reply rate of nearly 30 percent. Of all the respondents, 49 percent used conventional television for some or all of their viewing, 9 percent used direct broadcast satellite (DBS) and 64 percent used cable TV. One percent of the respondents used none of those options. The total exceeds 100 percent as some households use more than one mode of TV reception.
In general, Cablevision received average grades in terms of viewers' assessments of quality, reliability and customer service. However, in terms of grading Cablevision on the value of its service relative to the price charged, Cablevision received a below average score.
Rating and score Excellent Good Average Fair Poor Average
Picture quality 16% 29% 31% 17% 7% 2.68
Sound quality 25% 35% 26% 10% 4% 2.32
Equipt. reliability 28% 33% 21% 13% 5% 2.33
In-home service 24% 29% 25% 11% 11% 2.55
Customer service 22% 27% 29% 11% 11% 2.60
Price/Value 4% 14% 35% 30% 17% 3.39
One question in the survey concerned the balance of programming in terms of channel offerings. For most categories, respondents felt the mix was about right. However, there were some areas in which viewers wanted to see more programming; these included travel, arts, history, children's educational programming, hobbies and recreation, and classic and current movies. Subscribers wished to see less programming in the areas of home shopping, "adult" entertainment, music videos, and religion.
% of viewers wanting more programs about: % of viewers wanting fewer programs about:
Travel 49% Adult entertainment 34%
Arts 48% Home shopping 80%
History 47% Religion 33%
Classic movies 39% Music videos 32%
Children's education 38% Pay-per-view 28%
Hobbies/recreation 36% Children's entertainment 15%
Recent movies 32%
Of keenest interest to the committee was what services cable subscribers would like to see in the future. In total, 373 respondents answered this question. The number one item on the wish list, by an overwhelming percentage, was high-speed Internet access; 84 percent, or 315 people, expressed an interest. Other services that people wanted were digital TV (46 percent) and video-on-demand (40 percent). All three of these services require an upgrade in the infrastructure of the cable plant. The first twocable modems and digital TVare already available in many communities and are being rapidly deployed by many cable operators. Additionally, true video-on-demand, with full VCR-style functionality, such as pause, fast forward, and rewind, will be launched by several cable operators around the country in the second half of 2000.
Carlisle cable subscribers also wanted more à la carte channel choices (63 percent, or 235 people) and more "out of town" channels (158 respondents, or 42 percent).
Some of the more requested channels, which currently exist but which are not offered by Cablevision in Carlisle, were the Golf Channel,the Food Network, Animal Planet, Speedvision, MSNBC, BBC, TV Land and Classic Sports Network. Additionally, there were requests for more foreign language and more international offerings.
The cable committee was interested in determining how residents felt about local programming that appears on Channel 8. Of the 373 cable respondents, 95 residents or 25 percent answered the question on whether or not they felt that the Channel 8 program they had most recently seen was relevant. In response, 63 residents or 17 percent said yes; 59 residents or 16 percent were able to mention a specific program. The two programs that were cited most frequently were the Concord-Carlisle band concert and the Carlisle and Concord selectmen's meetings. For people who had watched Channel 8 programs, a slight majority, 53 percent, were not satisfied with production values.
As a corollary, the committee asked if viewers would like to see productions by and for Carlisle residents. Of the 269 people who responded (72 percent of all cable respondents), 161 said yes. However, only 79 residents said that they would be willing to participate on-camera or behind the scenes. In sum, 43 percent of all cable respondents wanted productions with Carlisle content and 21 percent were interested in participating in such programs.
Channel 60 is currently set aside as the school bulletin board; 47 (12 percent) of those cable subscribers who responded said that someone in their family used it.
We were also interested in who did not subscribe to cable and why. The most prevalent reason was simply that cable does not go past their house. Of the 580 respondents, 138 or 24 percent, lived in areas that are not wired by Cablevision. Additionally, 42 respondents were not subscribers because Cablevision had quoted them a high fee for installation. Some respondents, 66, chose not to subscribe because they felt that monthly charges were too high. Other respondents, 26, used direct broadcast satellite and 58 used conventional television antennas for over-the-air signals. Another 37 respondents did not subscribe because the content was of no interest, and two respondents did not have television sets in their homes.
Direct Broadcast Satellite
There are 50 DBS homes in Carlisle; 24 also subscribe to cable. Satisfaction levels were quite high with this group, particularly on technical criteria such as picture quality from satellite. Using the same scoring system that we used for cable subscribers, the DBS results were as follows:
Rating and score Excellent Good Average Fair Poor
Picture quality 75% 10% 0% 2% 14%
Sound quality 70% 12% 2% 2% 14%
Equipt. reliability 68% 11% 2% 7% 11%
Price/Value 34% 26% 18% 8% 14%
The committee's objectives, as they move forward in the franchise renewal process, are to convey to Cablevision the strong desire for the town to be completely wired for access, to see the infrastructure upgraded to a more robust level, to provide better programming choices, and to provide the new services which the industry in general is deploying across the country, such as digital cable, high-speed access, and telephone service over the TV cable.
The members of the Carlisle Cable TV Committee would welcome any further comments and input from the community. They are Paul Gill, Darice Wareham, Ray Pichulo and Ellen Miller. Future Mosquito articles will concern the status of the Cablevision renewal process and new directions in broadband services.
© 2000 The Carlisle Mosquito