Research Shows Broadcast Networks Still Highly Desired by Consumers

Despite declines in viewing, broadcast networks top the list for most desired channel groups, according to research from The Diffusion Group.

Diffusion’s national study, Video Viewing Behavior in the Age of Quantum Video, examines preferred network groups by demographics and video behavior. The firm surveyed 2,030 connected consumers as to the five network families they’d prefer to have included in a five-group skinny TV plan. (Respondents were able to see which channels were included in each network group before selecting.) The big four broadcast network groups occupied four of the top five spots, led by NBC Universal (selected by 48%), followed by Fox (41%), Disney/ABC (41%) and CBS (38%).

“Live big-four broadcast viewing is diminishing, as with virtually every major network. This should not imply, however, that their death as brands or as major forces in consumer video is inevitable,” said Michael Greeson, Diffusion’s director of research, in a statement. “The value of their content is immense — top of mind for many viewers.”

The rankings offer important insight into the viability of direct-to-consumer services, according to Diffusion. For example, the fact that the ESPN family failed to rank in the top 10 suggests Disney’s decision to make ESPN Plus a premium add-on to its linear ESPN channel may have been a wise move, the research group noted.

“Many expected ESPN Plus to be the online equivalent of ESPN, but Disney decided that the risk of cannibalizing high-value linear pay-TV subscriptions would create substantial channel conflict and hasten the declines in pay-TV subscriptions,” Greeson stated. “This risk is inherent in the DTC model and must be addressed group by group, even channel by channel.”

For example, though ESPN Plus may be best positioned as a value-add to its live linear pay-TV service, Disney’s family-focused direct-to-consumer service appears destined to follow in the footsteps of CBS All Access – that is, serve as a full-on replacement to its linear channel, with a growing number of high-value titles reserved for the new service, according to Diffusion.

The standings also offer important insight into the viability of a new virtual MVPD entrant, Philo, which is populated by the channels A&E, AMC, Discovery and Viacom, the research firm noted.

“While this may at first glance seem too specialized to gain mass appeal separate from a broadcast bundle, the combination of networks may prove attractive,” according to a Diffusion release. “Keep in mind that A&E was selected as top-five by 37% of connected consumers, AMC by 28%, Viacom by 24% and Scripps by 21%.”

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