Whether you're looking to re-watch a classic movie you love or diving into a new gripping series, sinking into your streaming options from the comfort of your couch is one of the most relaxing ways to unwind after a long day. More than ever, Americans are moving away from traditional cable and satellite TV and turning to streaming services to find their favorite viewing options or discover new ones. According to Pew Research Center, the share of people in the U.S. who say they watch TV via cable or satellite has plummeted from 76 percent in 2015 to 56 percent in 2021. However, not all the streaming services they're switching to are created equal, as the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) recently found out.
For the ACSI's 2021 American Customer Satisfaction Telecommunications Study, researchers interviewed 37,907 streaming customers chosen at random, who were contacted via email between April 1, 2020, and March 29, 2021. Customers were asked to describe their experiences with major streaming services based on 15 different factors: quality of the mobile app, reliability of the mobile app, website satisfaction, ease of understanding bill, ease of using on-screen menus and programming guides, overall performance and reliability, call center satisfaction, quality of original programming, variety of TV shows by category, availability of TV shows' previous seasons, number of movies, number of TV shows, variety of movies by category, availability of current season's TV shows, and availability of new movie titles. ACSI used those results to calculate an overall customer satisfaction score out of 100 for each service. At Best Life, we looked at the streaming services that got a below-average score (under 74) to see which services in the U.S. are the least reliable, according to customers. To find out which service is at the back of the pack, read on!
Paramount+ (formerly CBS All Access)
ACSI score (out of 100):73
With a score of 73, Paramount+, previously known as CBS All Access, was only one point away from the average customer satisfaction score. But compared to the 2020 ACSI survey, Paramount+'s score dropped two points.
On the consumer review site TrustPilot, the ViacomCBS streaming service has a bad reputation, netting a 2.6-star overall customer rating out of 5 stars. And it appears that Paramount+'s disappointing customer service and plan changes are what's bringing the rating down.
"After months of watching, all of a sudden my commercial-free plan starting having constant commercial breaks," one customer wrote on TrustPilot. "Emailed them and got the usual bot response telling me to delete the app, reinstall, etc. Nothing worked. I googled… This is apparently an ongoing issue that a lot of people are having… Finally emailed them for the 4th time and told them, either fix it today or cancel me and pro-rate a refund for me." The reviewer noted that Paramounnt+ canceled their subscription and gave them a refund as a "one-time courtesy."
ACSI score (out of 100): 73
Vudu's score went up by one point this year on the ACSI's survey, but it's still struggling with its reputation. The streaming service—owned by Fandango Media—has an even lower score than Paramount+ on Trustpilot, with a 1.6 overall customer rating. On the review site, multiple customers expressed that to them, Vudu wasn't worth the money.
"I purchased a movie from Vudu," one wrote. "When I tried to play it, I got a 'will not upload' message. When I contacted their rep, I was told that I had bought the movie on sale, but the price had gone up and if I wanted to see the movie I would have to re-purchase at the higher price."
ACSI score (out of 100): 72
Customers seem to have become less impressed by Apple TV+, as its 2021 ACSI score was two points lower than its 2020 rating. It appears that Apple TV+'s offerings leave something to be desired, compared to what other streaming services have to offer.
"The selection of programs is very limited," a reviewer wrote on ConsumerAffairs. "They have a good movie or two and that's about it. The platform is not easy to navigate and takes time to see summaries."
Another subscriber agreed that Apple TV+ was difficult to operate. "The experience of watching their content completely [is] off-putting," they wrote. "The content aside, it is hard to use, and one has to go through all kinds of rigamarole, over and over again, just to watch. I received the app and content free for a year, as many have. However, free or not, giving this channel two stars is probably overly generous." Overall on ConsumerAffairs, the streaming service fared better than Paramount+ and Vudu with an overall rating of 3.6 stars out of a possible 5.
DirecTV Stream (formerly AT&T TV Now)
ACSI score (out of 100): 72
While DirecTV Stream, formerly known as AT&T TV Now, may not be the most reliable option, it's consistent with a score of 72, the same numbered it earned on ACSI's 2020 survey.
But looking at the ratings on ConsumerAffairs, it's on par with Vudu thanks to its 1.6-star overall customer rating. Based on their reviews, many DirecTV Stream users think that the service's customer support department is in need of some improvements.
"You may as well go with a different company," a customer wrote. "My bill increased 3 times without my knowledge! The service rarely works! I want a full refund, no exceptions!!!!"
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ACSI score (out of 100): 72
Like Paramount+, Showtime comes from ViacomCBS, but it ranks higher than its counterpart. The streaming service is up by one point on the ACSI survey, compared to its score in 2020. Still, customers have found a few faults with the service, expressing in reviews on Amazon that Showtime is unreliable.
"I tried to watch a movie for 10 minutes and all of a sudden it logged me out and asked me to sign in again," one wrote. "First, we watched 2 episodes of The Judge and for the next 3 days, we could not watch the 3rd episode. Every 1 to 5 seconds, it says loading. This happens any time of day… They have all episodes listed backward. Nothing works right here."
Another user said that they did not keep Showtime for long due to a lack of options. "Not that much to choose from, out of about 60 movies, I've seen several (elsewhere) and their 'original content' looks boring," they wrote. "Not going to keep past the 'free' trial."
ACSI score (out of 100): 72
Sling TV's score also went up by one point on this year's ACSI survey, but it still has one of the lowest scores, which aligns with its 1.3-star overall customer rating on Trustpilot. Along with many of the streaming services on this list, users have called SlingTV out for its bad customer service.
"There are many technical difficulties with the service," one reviewer wrote on Trustpilot. "I tried upgrading many times and the website would not confirm my upgrade. I thought the upgrade never went through until I got the charge on my bank statement but I was never able to view the upgraded channels. Customer service will take no responsibility for the technical issues of the website and will not give any types of refunds… In fact, my customer service representative actually tried to get me to upgrade my account after I asked to cancel my account."
ACSI score (out of 100): 71
While Peacock wasn't evaluated by the ACSI survey in 2020 since it only launched in July 2020, the service's score of 71 this year shows that customers are not impressed. On Trustpilot, the NBCUniversal-owned service has a 1.8-star overall customer rating, with streamers calling out Peacock's lengthy commercials and unreliable customer service.
"All the movies I watch on Peacock have a statement that says it's ad-free for paying customers and I'm still watching ads," one wrote. "Whenever I typed a message to complain about it and I clicked send, I get a message that says, 'Oops something went wrong'… I wish there was a negative number cause I'd rank them at negative 5 on customer service."
ACSI score (out of 100): 68
For the second year in a row and with a score of 68, Crackle was deemed the least reliable streaming service on the ACSI survey. On SiteJabber, a site designed to help consumers find trustworthy businesses, Crackle has a 2.56-star overall customer rating out of a possible 5 stars. Even despite the fact that it's free, customers think that this streaming service makes watching a movie or show too much of a hassle.
One reviewer called Crackle the "absolute worst free TV site on the internet." "There are a hundred things wrong with Crackle," another wrote. "If you pause a movie just a little too long, it will time itself out and you have to start all over again. If you fast forward or rewind, it stimulates some kind of algorithm that will make you watch 6 commercials immediately before you can resume your show."