Beta Research Corp. last week released its first survey
ranking the value and importance of cable networks among operators.
Matched against last fall's subscriber report, Beta
found that Cable News Network, Discovery Channel, ESPN, Lifetime Television and The
Weather Channel ranked highest among both constituencies.
In the major networks category (50 million-plus
subscribers), the new Beta "Viewing/Evaluation of Basic Cable Networks Study,"
also conducted last fall, put ESPN and Discovery in the two top slots. A total of 57
percent and 55 percent, respectively, of cable-operator respondents described those
networks as "very important to [their] cable system."
CNN, TWC and Lifetime rounded out the top five, with 50
percent, 49 percent and 47 percent, respectively.
In "average [monetary] perceived value among
affiliates," Beta found Discovery leading the way at 74 cents, meaning that operators
felt the network was worth 74 cents per month, per subscriber to their system.
Discovery was followed by ESPN (72 cents); Lifetime (67
cents); Nickelodeon/Nick at Nite and Cartoon Network (tied at 66 cents); and A&E
Network (63 cents).
The report -- which measured 27 fully distributed and 16
midsized networks -- came from a telephone survey of 153 operators, conducted from
September through November. Beta said 59 percent of those systems had 25,000 or more
Discovery Networks U.S. executive vice president of
affiliate sales and marketing Bill Goodwyn said this latest study "confirms that our
programming and local marketing initiatives are important to the overall local
Similarly, ESPN research vice president Artie Bulgrin
called the findings "very positive" for ESPN and ESPN2. "We're very
pleased with the results," which show ESPN "ranking even higher among
operators" than among subscribers, he added.
But MTV Networks executive vice president Betsy Frank said
MTVN didn't subscribe to this study because it is "really much more subjective
[focusing on] the cable operators' perception of a network and the perceived
valuation," rather than on interests and plans for the future.
Beta cable-division president Andy Klein said this
measurement of networks' value among operators will be done annually.
On the whole, Beta reported, "The perceived value of
the average major network did not differ significantly between cable operators [55 cents]
and subscribers [56 cents] surveyed." But the value of the average midsized network
was higher among operators (46 cents) than among subscribers (33 cents).
Among midsized networks (15 million-plus subscribers), Beta
said, Disney Channel led with 50 percent of operators calling it "very
important," versus 42 percent for Country Music Television, trailed by WGN (30
percent) and TV Land and Animal Planet (24 percent each).
Affiliates thought Disney Channel was worth 77 cents,
followed by Food Network (63 cents), WGN (53 cents), MSNBC (52 cents) and CMT (49 cents).