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News Analysis
WebTV Report Card 2001,
Pt 3: Summing Up the Grades


By Net4TV Voice Research Staff
(May 24, 2001)

In our WebTV Report Card Part 1: WebTV Product, we examined how users grade WebTV as a product, and in Part 2: WebTV Service, we looked at the grade for the various aspects of the service.

Now, the real assessment -- how do users grade the product overall, and what will they do about it?

The Final Overall Questions

Meets Expectations of Time of Purchase

A  35.56% 2702
B  27.35% 2078
C  19.09% 1451
D  9.83% 747
F  8.17% 621
NA  6.78% 553
Score: 2.72 Importance: 4.32
Prior Year Comparison
1998
3.01
1999
2.90
2001
2.72
WebTV users still generally feel that the product met their expectations at the time of purchase, although the perception is falling a bit.

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Meets Expectations Today

A  16.49% 1255
B  27.03% 2057
C  26.49% 2016
D  16.73% 1273
F  13.25% 1008
NA  6.66% 543
Score: 2.16 Importance: 4.28
Prior Year Comparison
1998
2.34
1999
2.23
2001
2.16
WebTV's "Expectations for Current Use" score continues to slip, in this area that users rank with a very high importance score.

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Impact On My Life

A  45.80% 3452
B  29.35% 2212
C  18.54% 1397
D  3.87% 292
F  2.44% 184
NA  7.54% 615
Score: 3.12 Importance: 4.10
Prior Year Comparison
1998
3.25
1999
3.23
2001
3.12
Although the "Impact" grade has slipped slightly, it still is a very high grade and shows how much WebTV has meant to its users.

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Overall Grade for Current Use

A  15.32% 1184
B  35.47% 2741
C  30.10% 2326
D  13.29% 1027
F  5.82% 450
NA  5.20% 424
Score: 2.41 Importance: 4.42
Prior Year Comparison
1998
2.65
1999
2.51
2001
2.41
When users were asked to grade WebTV overall, it is still in the acceptable range despite a bit of slippage and increasing problems reported in individual grades.

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Grade Summary -- WebTV's Flying Colors

WebTV is clearly succeeding in some very important areas. These are the categories in which users ranked the average importance factor at 4.0 or above on our 5-point scale, and where WebTV has a GPA OVER 3.0 (on the 4-point grade scale). WebTV needs to keep doing these things right, and in its marketing, lean on these important successes.

Email

Importance: 4.62
Grade: 3.09

WebTV delivers a functional, easy-to-use email client that includes HTML, which many users love. If they would add BCC (the ability to send a "blind" copy so the email address doesn't show) and individual spam-filtering, it would likely be virtually perfect. WebTV's email client is miles ahead of any competing set-top box client.

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Ease of Use

Importance: 4.46
Grade: 3.03

Ease of use is another critically-important area where WebTV shines. In comments, many users mentioned that they had a PC at work (or even at home), but it was just so much easier and more comfortable to use their WebTV. For users without a PC or PC experience, it's even more important. The service design is easy to navigate, and help messages are generally well-written and available where you need them.

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Impact on Its Users' Lives

Importance: 4.10
Grade: 3.12

WebTV doesn't seem to recognize one of its biggest successes -- the overwhelmingly positive impact that it has had on most of its users' lives. If they'd dropped all the expensive celebrity advertising and had just let the users tell their stories about what WebTV has done for them, they could have had an enormous success.

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Grade Summary -- WebTV's Failing Grades

But all is not rosy, and in some other critically-important areas, WebTV has a failing grade. These are the categories in which users ranked the average importance factor at 4.0 or above on our 5-point scale, and where WebTV has a GPA UNDER 2.0 (on the 4-point grade scale). WebTV needs to address these areas immediately and bring up its performance if it wants to keep users from leaving, and remain viable in the face of coming competition.

Connection Reliability

Importance: 4.71
Grade: 1.98

WebTV may be a wonderful product in many ways, but if you can't connect, it's a doorstop. This has been WebTV's Achille's heel in every survey, and it's not getting any better. There can't be that many bad phone lines out there, or the Internet never would have taken off in the first place.

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Speed

Importance: 4.57
Grade: 1.50

WebTV's worst grade is speed, the third-most important area to users after connections and email. It's getting worse, and it's a system problem, not just the phone lines and typical Internet "latency." Over 50% of the poll respondents ranked WebTV a "D" (26.9%) or "F" (24.3%).

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Compatibility with Websites Users Want

Importance: 4.35
Grade: 1.96

WebTV is falling further and further behind the Internet at large, and its lack of evangelism or communication about its platform and users to website creators has just made things that much worse. The satellite boxes, which are supposed to Microsoft's new flagship, graded this the lowest of any of the platform groups. Look out, Ultimate TV.

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Upgrade Content

Importance: 4.34
Grade: 1.64

The flaws in WebTV's "upgrades" over the last year has dropped this grade out of the "needs to improve" range into failure, and the largest single grade in this question (over 25% of respondents) was "F." The other failing grades may be WebTV's inattention, but flawed upgrades are the area that WebTV is actively harming itself.

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What Will The Users Do?

Well, whether WebTV appreciates them or not (probably not), they certainly have a community of very loyal users who really want to stay on WebTV. When we asked the respondents about their assessment of the product and their plans, these were their responses.

Q: Are You Happy with WebTV Overall?

Yes  78.7% 6416
No  21.3% 1736

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Q: Do You Recommend WebTV to Your Family and Friends?

Yes  77.87% 6348
No  22.13% 1804

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Q: Do You Feel the WebTV Product Is Improving?

Yes  33.4% 2723
Same  44.84% 3574
Worse  22.76% 1855

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Q: Do You Feel the WebTV Service Is Improving?

Yes  21.45% 1749
Same  49.30% 4019
Worse  29.24% 2384

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Q: Do You Expect to be a WebTV Subscriber 6 Months From Now?

Yes  85.97% 7008
No  14.03% 1736

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Next Time, More Insight

We've just begun our analysis of the results, and in our next issue, we'll have more insight from the WebTV Report Card Poll.

One interesting thing to note is that "your mileage may vary." Even where WebTV was scoring the worst, some users were still giving it "A's," and even where it scored the best, there were a few "F's." It's one of the reasons that large-scale surveys are important, as opposed to just anecdotal evidence, to get a sense of where most of the users' experience is on a wide range of issues with the WebTV product and service. Thank you so much for your participation!

Methodology: How We Conducted and Analyzed the WebTV Report Card Survey, we show how we tallied the poll.

In WebTV Report Card: Part 1, we looked at users' grades for the WebTV product.

In WebTV Report Card: Part 2, the users rate the service and we looked at how the users grade the WebTV service.

In WebTV Report Card: Part 3 we summed up the grades and examined what all of this means.


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