Cable operators are most interested in adding Animal Planet
and TV Land among midsized networks and The Biography Channel and Speedvision among
emerging networks, according to the latest Beta Research Corp. survey, released last week.
Beta found that 75 percent of nonaffiliates would like to
add Animal Planet by the end of 2000, followed closely by TV Land (68 percent) on the list
of midsized networks, ranging from 15 million to 49 million subscribers. Six other
networks were at 60 percent or higher.
Among emerging networks -- from 1 million to 14 million
subscribers -- 72 percent felt that way about Biography, with Speedvision close behind at
70 percent and Discovery's digital networks at 69 percent. About 61 percent of the
operators voted for Discovery Health Channel separately. Eight other networks were at 61
percent or higher.
All told, Beta's 20-minute telephone survey of 153
operators measured 16 midsized networks and 30 emerging ones. A total of 76 percent of
systems surveyed had 10,000 or more subscribers and 52 percent had 25,000 or more.
Discovery Networks U.S. was quick to promote its Beta
showing with an ad in last Thursday's CableFAX Daily trumpeting its being "No.
1 in operator interest." FX, meanwhile, touted its being "No. 1 in
subscriber interest among adults 18 through 34 and men 18 through 34."
At Discovery Networks, affiliate sales and marketing
executive vice president Bill Goodwyn boasted that Discovery Health was the top-ranked
health service in Beta's survey, and that 24 percent of nonaffiliates are "very
interested" in adding it.
Travel Channel ranked as the No. 1 midsized network among
systems with 25,000 or more subscribers and third among those with 50,000 or more, he
Interestingly, History Channel International, CNN/SI and
ESPNews were among networks ranking far higher in terms of interest among subscribers than
among operators. Meanwhile, Lifetime Movie Network, Speedvision, Romance Classics and ZDTV
were among those ranking much higher among operators than subscribers.
Pointing to the strong showings by Discovery's newest
networks among consumers, Goodwyn said in a prepared statement, "We believe our
affiliates will reflect these consumer priorities in their network lineups."
According to Andy Klein, president of Beta Research's cable
division, some surprises emerging from the data included the fact that operators continue
to add analog channels and that they still can make room for such networks, despite all of
the talk about channel lock.
Although Beta didn't ask how they planned to do so,
presumably, operators would switch out some networks to make room for others.
About 35 percent of surveyed operators said they planned to
add one or two networks to their basic or expanded-basic service before 2001, while 27
percent mulled adding "10 or more."
Among those planning to add analog channels, Beta reported,
the average operator intends to add "four to six channels."
Another surprise: the strong upsurge planned for digital
channels, Klein said. The percent of operators that now have digital tiers rose to 40
percent from 21 percent last year, Beta found. Moreover, the percent of systems that
either have digital tiers or plan to have them before 2001 jumped to 80 percent in this
study, from 61 percent in 1998 and 45 percent in 1997.
Among those operators, Beta learned, Biography (70
percent), LMN (66 percent) and Do It Yourself (65 percent) were the top selections.
Beta didn't ask operators whether their network additions
were dictated by customer demand or carriage incentives. But when operators were asked in
the past, customer demand was "the No. 1 factor" influencing such decisions,
Cable subscribers' choices were also released last week.
LMN topped Beta's emerging/digital networks list in terms of "high interest" at
44 percent, followed closely by History International and Discovery Digital Networks (43
percent each) and Biography (42 percent). Discovery Health was cited separately by 32
percent of subscribers.
Among midsized networks, subscribers heavily favored Encore
(52 percent), Fox News Channel (48 percent) and Disney Channel (46 percent).
Rather than listing network names, Beta researchers read
the 1,000 consumers in its sample edited "concept descriptions" supplied by the
networks, Klein said.
MTV Networks executive vice president of research Betsy
Frank said the results were "certainly good news for TV Land."
Although its other newer networks, being younger-skewed,
"may not be as much on operators' radar," one-half of subscribers with kids
under 12 were interested in Noggin, especially women, she noted. In addition, MTV2 and The
Suite fared well among adults 18 through 34, she added.
Frank -- who said she was "not sure" whether MTVN
would promote its Beta results to consumers -- said, "If anything, it probably would
be TV Land." She also expressed surprise that so many operators intended to make
analog additions, adding, "That's great news."