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Sports Broadcasting Technology

ESPN Rated No. 1 Must-Have Basic-Cable Channel: Survey

December 09, 2010


The recent influx of services like Google TV, Hulu (News - Alert) and Netflix's new streaming option has broadcasters and service providers terrified that cable subscribers will soon recognize that it is no longer necessary to pay the outrageous monthly fees to have access to television programming.

However, the numbers indicate that only a small percentage of cable and satellite subscribers have cut the cord and left pay-TV behind them. So what's stopping them?

To find out, Needham & Company analyst Laura Martin recently conducted a study where she asked participants what TV channels must be available online for them to cancel their TV subscriptions for good.

Not surprisingly, the four major networks topped the list, with CBS just edging out ABC, Fox and NBC with 35 percent of the vote. However, Martin found that the majority of people who listed one of the four major networks tended to list all of them.

 “They think of the four broadcasters as a monolith," she wrote. “This may be because consumers actually watch shows on all four broadcast networks, or it could be because they have no idea which network their favorite shows are on.”

Meanwhile, the biggest winner in the survey was clearly ESPN (News - Alert), which garnered 31 percent of the vote, making it the most indispensible basic-cable channel included in the study. This number is especially impressive considering ESPN is in one-third of the households as the four major networks.

Even though HBO finished seventh on the list with 14 percent of the vote, it too was a huge winner. HBO is only carried in one-third of the homes as ESPN and other basic-cable channels.

“This equates to a 33 percent rating (similar to the broadcast networks) after adjusting for the relative audience sizes,” said Martin.

Other stations that represented well in the survey include the Discovery Network (27 percent), the History Channel (19 percent) and Comedy Central (11 percent). Stations like TNT, TBS and Showtime did rather poorly.


Beecher Tuttle is a TMCnet contributor. He has extensive experience writing and editing for print publications and online news websites. He has specialized in a variety of industries, including health care technology, politics and education. To read more of his articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Tammy Wolf