Can Emerging Networks Emerge as Apps?


Beta Research’s “Cable Network Interest Study” raises question about how mobile apps for new or mid-sized networks will evolve.

Not surprisingly, teens and young adults are most enthusiastic about watching TV shows on a smartphone or tablet. Among teens, 43% expressed “high interest” in such viewing, and 39% of 18-to-34-year-olds showed similarly high levels of interest in mobile app viewing. By comparison, only 22% of all adults said they want to watch show on a mobile handset.

While the research results may be most encouraging to a handful of networks (four of the top 10 choices were MTV brands, consistent with the young-skewing demographic), the overall favorites serve as a reminder about how hard it will be for TV channels with limited audiences to establish themselves as mobile content providers.

If audiences barely know you’re there, how and why would they look for your app on an iPad, iPhone, Android phone or whatever pocketable device they use?

Coincidentally, the Beta Research report surfaced on the same day as the widespread coverage of cable quarterly reports that added up to about 195,000 cord cutters. Many of the cutters (or trimmers) said they’ll rely on Web and mobile sources for their entertainment and information.

Andrew Klein, president of Beta Research’s Cable TV Division, says that his new study did not examine cord-cutting, focusing strictly on what, among emerging/mid-sized networks, viewers would like to see on a mobile device.

The study identified the top 10 choices: MTV Jams, Tennis Channel, Fuel TV, PBS Kids Sprout, MTV Hits, Bloomberg TV, Nick Jr., Fuse, Teen Nick and ESPNU.

Beta Research also looked at VOD and HD networks. Among all adults, channels from Discovery, National Geographic and USA Networks generated the highest interest levels for mobile viewing.

But perhaps most intriguing - given the widespread belief that few viewers will want to watch feature-length movies on a tiny screen - was the finding about the networks that are “most in demand” among all adults. Fox Movie Channel generated the greatest level of interest (70%), distantly followed by Crime and Investigation Network (51%), the Hallmark Movie Channel (50%) and HD Theater (42%).

Beta Research’s study should serve as a good benchmark as mobile viewers look for things to watch on their growing arsenal of handheld receivers.

Gary Arlen is president of Arlen Communications LLC in Bethesda, MD, and a long-time interactive TV enthusiast. Reach him at