Beta: Digital Cable Still Behind DBS

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Lifetime Movie Network, ESPN Classic, The Biography Channel and National Geographic Channel may rank as viewer favorites among digital-basic services, but digital cable ranked well behind direct-broadcast satellite in terms of customer satisfaction and intention to keep the package.

Those were among the key findings of the most recent survey from Beta Research Corp.

Results of Beta's "Subscriber Study Evaluation of Digital Basic Networks" indicated that 61% of respondents were "very satisfied" with digital cable, while 43% said they would "definitely" continue their digital-cable subscriptions.

By way of contrast, 73% of the respondents to the "2003 Beta Satellite Dish Subscriber Study" were "very satisfied" with their DirecTV Inc. and EchoStar Communications Corp. Dish Network packages, and 71% said they would "definitely" continue their DBS subscriptions.

Beta's latest survey, released Tuesday, found that 38% of respondents had viewed LMN over the past week. Fox Movie Channel was second with 35%, followed by WeatherScan and Biography (both with 34%); ESPNews (33%); ESPN Classic (32%); and NGC (31%).

Gauged on a perceived-value basis, MTV Jams had the highest ascribed value among digital-cable subscribers at $1.87 per month. Toon Disney was second at $1.77. SoapNet was third at $1.72, while LMN ($1.67) and NickToons ($1.64) rounded out the top five.

Beta said the perceived value was based on network viewers being asked the monthly amount the networks would be worth to them and other household members if they were sold individually.

All told, data for Beta's survey were collated from 1,009 telephone interviews with digital subscribers from nine systems affiliated with Comcast Corp. or Charter Communications Inc. during July and August. The final sample comprised 905 adults and 104 teens aged 12-17.

The study measured 37 digital-basic services carried by most of the cable systems surveyed.

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