4 Reasons Not to Hate Comcast Anymore

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Jeff Chiu/APComcast Chairman and CEO Brian Roberts
It probably wasn't a surprise to see Comcast (CMCSK)(CMCSA) top the list of most reviled corporations last year. The cable television and Internet provider gets routinely slammed for its high TV prices, spotty online connections and questionable customer service.

All of this was factored into Consumerist's annual Worst Company in America award last year with Comcast winning the unflattering distinction. If you deal with Comcast -- or used to deal with Comcast -- there's a fair chance that you dislike the company that has become the country's top dog in cable television and broadband connectivity. However, you may not hate the company as much as you used to last year. Let's go over a few of the reasons the public may be warming up to Comcast these days.

1. It's cleaning up its customer service. Prolonged service outages, a lack of punctuality with technician service appointments, and unkind customer service calls that have gone viral have stung Comcast over the years, but it's making a legitimate effort to improve the experience.

Comcast announced in May that it was creating 5,500 more customer service jobs, hoping to beef up its workforce. Late last year it struck a deal with UPS (UPS) to allow folks to return their cable boxes, modems and other rental gear directly with the parcel delivery specialist, eliminating the need to deal with long lines at local Comcast centers.

Spotty outages will continue to eat at its reputation, but at least it's getting better about responding to the difficult moments.

2. It's hopping on the streaming TV bandwagon. It may have been a late arrival to the stand-alone streaming television revolution, but it's hoping to make up for lost time now. Comcast will be rolling out Stream, a streaming service that for $15 a month will offer streaming access to HBO and all of the major networks. It also offers a cloud-based DVR to record shows to watch later.

It's not perfect. It will only be made available to its Xfinity customers. Stream can be viewed on PCs, phones and tablets, but only in their homes. That may be a deal breaker for many, but it's not a bad way to go for folks who were ready to cut their premium TV provider loose, looking for a cheaper home-based alternative. Comcast's Xfinity is the country's largest Internet service provider -- it now has more broadband customers than cable TV accounts -- so it stands to benefit from the popularity of streaming services.

Stream will kick off in Boston later this summer, rolling out nationwide by early next year.

3. Those theme parks are pretty irresistible. Comcast's chain of Universal Studios theme parks is on a roll. Its theme parks entertained 40 million guests worldwide, and it's closing the gap with Disney (DIS) in the U.S. with its theme parks in Florida and California on a pace to post double-digit attendance growth this summer. Disney isn't growing that quickly.

The addition of lavishly themed Harry Potter lands in Florida -- and California early next year -- have been helping. There's no shortage of Potter and theme park fans who have set aside their hate for Comcast long enough to patronize one of the theme parks.

4. Losing out on Time Warner cable makes it mortal. Consumers may have cheered when antitrust regulators shot down Comcast's proposed acquisition of Time Warner Cable (TWC), but it ultimately makes the company more human. Comcast doesn't always get what it wants.

Regulators have let other major deals go through, but drawing the line here for Comcast makes it less likely to continue growing by acquisition. It's going to have to earn its future growth organically, and that means that we can't say that it's just trying to buy its way to success.

Motley Fool contributor Rick Munarriz owns shares of Walt Disney. The Motley Fool recommends United Parcel Service and Walt Disney and owns shares of Walt Disney. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. Check out our free report on one great stock to buy for 2015 and beyond.​​
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