Must-See TV 2012: Top 10 Channels for Pay-TV Viewers

FRISCO, TX - The top 10 "must have" channels for a pay-TV service have changed little in the last year, according to new research by The Diffusion Group (TDG). The "Big Four" broadcasters - ABC, NBC, CBS, and FOX - top the list once again.

From a list of 35 channels, consumers were asked to select the 10 they considered essential to a pay-TV service. "For operators looking to craft a bare-bones tier, these are the channels that must be included," notes Michael Greeson, TDG founding partner and director of research. "To do otherwise runs the risk of alienating large numbers of consumers."

Top 10 "Must Have" Channels for a Pay-TV Service


In 2011, ABC topped the list (selected by 74 percent of respondents), followed by CBS (72 percent), NBC (67 percent) and FOX (64 percent). In 2012, the same four channels again topped the list, but all were selected by smaller percentages than in 2011.

Six cable channels found their way into 2012's top 10 list, including Discovery Channel (47 percent), The History Channel (46 percent), HBO (41 percent), ESPN (38 percent), SyFy (36 percent) and Comedy Central (35 percent). SyFy was the only new entrant in 2012's top 10 list, replacing Scripps' Food Network, which dropped to 12th place.

There continues to be widespread debate regarding the value of ESPN in an entry-level package. "Operators spend $5 per subscriber for ESPN - making it the most expensive cable channel and leading many to question whether it must be part of even entry-level packages," Greeson said. "Data suggests that the total addressable audience for a pay-TV package without ESPN would be at least 40 percent less than one that included ESPN."

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