Cable’s Friendly to Families, Beta Finds

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If family friendly fare is of concern to you and yours, then basic cable’s the place. When it comes to the phrase “family-oriented,” a host of cable networks wore the “very much” label when cable subscribers were asked to characterize services in the “2004 Beta Research Brand Identity Study.”

Some 86% of survey respondents called Disney Channel family-oriented, followed by Cartoon Network (79%), Animal Planet (78%), Nickelodeon (75%) and Discovery Channel (72%). TV Land (72%), The History Channel (66%), ABC Family (65%), TLC (63%), HGTV (62%), Food Network (61%) and AMC (55%) also received that designation from a majority of cable subscribers.

Each of these cable networks also topped broadcasters — ABC (47%), NBC (45%) and CBS and Fox (42% apiece) — in that regard.

“We have been ranking networks in terms of their being 'family-friendly’ since 1999 and a number of services have always performed well,” said Andy Klein, president of Beta’s cable division. “We think this is particularly interesting this year in light of the indecency issues before Congress.”

In gathering its survey results, Syosset, N.Y.-based Beta conducted telephone interviews in January with a random national sample of 600 cable subscribers. The study measured 41 networks with over 55 million subscribers, as well as the four major broadcast networks.

For the first time, Klein also pointed out, viewers were asked for their perceptions on advertising clutter. In this category, History ranked highest among respondents, as 42% cited the service as less cluttered with spots relative to other channels. Discovery placed second with 41% of responses, while The Weather Channel (38%), Animal Planet (37%) and TLC (36%) were third, fourth and fifth, respectively.

On the broadcast side, Fox was the least cluttered of the Big Four networks in the minds of survey respondents (22%), finishing ahead of NBC (21%) and CBS and ABC (both with 20%).

When it came to descriptions about being “valuable,” The Weather Channel (73%) ranked just ahead of History (71%) and Discovery (71%). TLC (68%) was fourth here, trailed by Food Network (60%) and HGTV (58%). The four broadcast networks averaged a 43% response rate, according to the survey.

Among networks described as “entertaining,” Disney and Cartoon topped the list at 83% apiece. Comedy Central and Discovery were next, garnering 79% of the responses and then Animal Planet and History, each with a 77% count. By way of contrast, the broadcasters averaged a 56% response among the survey group.

Elsewhere, Discovery placed first among subscribers who perceive networks as “bold and trying new things.” Discovery and History led the pack among “high quality” responses with 80% (see chart).

Networks were quick to tout their favorable Beta survey findings.

“The results of this year’s Beta Brand Identity Study reaffirms the standing of The Weather Channel brand as one of the strongest on television. We were encouraged by our very positive result in Beta’s new measurement of 'less commercial clutter,’ an attribute that we know is critical in today’s marketplace,” Patrick Scott, president of The Weather Channel Networks, said in a prepared statement.

Weather, which earned top “valuable” laurels for a fifth consecutive year, also was tied for first with History in the “informative” category, rising from a third-place finish in the 2003 poll.

Discovery Networks, U.S., also trumpeted the results that saw Discovery claim the No. 1 spot relative to “high quality” for the fourth year running, and for setting the pace among those networks having original program and series for a fifth consecutive year.

“This study shows that now more than ever the Discovery Channel promise of quality is resonating with viewers,” executive vice president of affiliate sales and marketing Bill Goodwyn said in a statement.

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