Beta: Nonsubs Still Seeking Discovery

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Discovery Channel dominated the major basic-cable networks in Beta Research Corp.'s latest study gauging cable nonsubscribers' interest in programming services.

Among midsized networks, Turner Classic Movies finished on top, the Syosset, N.Y.-based research firm reported last week. Discovery Health Channel was the most sought-after emerging network.

According to Beta figures, 64 percent of nonsubscribers expressed the greatest interest in Discovery Channel, followed by The History Channel (50 percent), American Movie Classics and The Weather Channel (tied at 43 percent) and Disney Channel and The Learning Channel (tied at 42 percent).

Three Turner Broadcasting System Inc. services — Cable News Network, TBS Superstation and Turner Network Television — and USA Network were next (all at 38 percent). Respondents also cast major-network votes for Fox Family Channel (36 percent) and A&E Network (34 percent). Beta defined major networks as those channels that reach at least 65 million subscribers.

Last March, Beta conducted telephone surveys of 500 consumers who don't subscribe to either cable or direct-broadcast satellite in regions where both services are available (though 59 percent of respondents were former cable subscribers). Respondents rated their interest in the networks on a scale of one to five, with one meaning "not at all interested" and five signifying "very interested."

Among midsized networks — defined as those reaching 30 million to 64 million subscribers — TCM was the most sought-after service. Forty-six percent of respondents expressed an interest in the classic-film purveyor, followed by TV Land (33 percent), Food Network (29 percent), Fox News Channel (28 percent) and Odyssey Network (27 percent).

Health was the topic of choice for respondents asked about emerging basic-cable services, defined as those reaching less than 30 million subscribers. Discovery Health Channel was No. 1 in respondent interest at 33 percent, followed closely by The Health Network (26 percent). Toon Disney (25 percent) and Independent Film Channel (21 percent) ranked third and fourth, respectively, according to Beta.

Oxygen, TechTV and The Outdoor Channel were tied at fifth, with 18 percent each.

Beta figures also showed that 34 percent of cable nonsubscribers were interested in digital cable, compared with 25 percent who showed interest in DBS service. Those consumers All the survey respondents tended to be ex-cable subscribers, aged 18 to 34, whose households included children.

Beta interviewees described American Movie Classics, Disney Channel and TCM as commercial-free.

Per usual, Discovery Networks U.S. was the first company to tout the Beta data. Discovery dominated in Beta's major- networks category for the 10th straight year, while TLC placed among Beta's top five for the fifth consecutive year, Discovery Networks executive vice president of affiliate sales and marketing Bill Goodwyn noted in a prepared statement. He added that Discovery Health was tops among newer networks for the second year.

He added that Animal Planet, cracked the top 10 among nonsubscribers with children in its first year as a major network.

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