News

Beta: Ops Find Value in Programming Trio

2/03/2002 7:00 PM Eastern

The various cable networks of ESPN, Discovery Networks U.S. and Turner Broadcasting System Inc. rank among the strongest in perceived value in the eyes of operators.

The trio of programmers also scored well when ranked in their effectiveness in driving in driving cable operators' subscriber-acquisition campaigns and local ad-sales efforts, according to Beta Research Corp's recently released "Cable Operator Evaluation Study."

ESPN finished first among major or established networks in perceived dollar value among affiliates at $0.94 monthly. The all-sports network, also in the top spot a year ago, was followed this time around by Discovery Channel ($0.74), Cable News Network and ESPN2 (tied at $0.71), Disney Channel ($0.69) and CNN Headline News ($0.66).

Beta's survey found that Food Network led mid-sized networks with a perceived value $0.48 monthly, ahead of Travel Channel ($0.43) and three others tied at $0.41: Country Music Television, Turner Classic Movies and WGN superstation.

Beta collated the data from a telephone survey of general managers and marketing directors from 151 cable operators conducted last fall. The interviews began on Sept. 25, with the bulk conducted throughout October. All told, 33 fully distributed basic networks were measured, along with 11 mid-sized networks.

ESPN and CNN were the survey leaders, in unaided mentions, among basic networks deemed "most effective for subscriber acquisitions." With 74 percent and 55 percent respectively, those channels easily outdistanced Discovery Channel (42 percent), Fox News Channel (25 percent) and Lifetime Television and The Weather Channel, each with 24 percent.

ESPN also took the top spot when it came to networks regarded as "most helpful for local ad sales." The network led on an unaided basis among 70 percent of affiliates, a ratio perhaps befitting its long-standing position as the annual leader in generating sales in that space. CNN was second, registering with 51 percent of the operators polled. Lifetime (37 percent), USA Network (35 percent) and Discovery (27 percent) rounded out that top five.

According to the study, the most-visited affiliate Web sites belonged to Discovery Networks U.S. (cited by 56 percent of affiliates surveyed by Beta), with Turner as the runner-up (51 percent). Rounding out the top five in this category: ESPN (48 percent), MTV Networks (42 percent) and NBC Cable Networks (41 percent).

As usual, networks were quick to boast their latest favorable positions in the Beta rankings.

"We're thrilled that our operating partners continue to identify the Discovery Channel as a business-building tool for their systems," said Discovery executive vice president of affiliate sales and marketing Bill Goodwyn. Moreover, he cited Travel Channel's No. 2 ranking in average perceived value among mid-sized networks and No. 1 in systems with 25,000 or more subscribers.

ESPN executive vice president of affiliate sales and marketing Sean Bratches said in a prepared statement, that the network "will continue to develop ground-breaking sports programming, innovative marketing campaigns and local ad-sales promotions to enhance our overall value."

What It's Worth to Them
Network Average Perceived Value
Source: Beta Research Corp.
ESPN $0.94
Discovery Channel 0.74
CNN 0.71
ESPN2 0.71 (tie)
Disney Channel 0.69
Headline News 0.66
Weather Channel 0.64
Fox News Channel 0.59
Nickelodeon/Nick at Nite 0.59 (tie)
Lifetime 0.58

September