As much as cable operators complain about ESPN’s increasing carriage fees, they still believe that offering the network is money well spent. New research shows operators rank ESPN as the most valuable network to their business -- almost double the worth of the Disney Channel.
A Beta Research survey of 110 cable operators of all sizes found that the average “perceived value” to them is 96 cents per customer a month, compared to 50 cents for the Disney Channel. Perhaps showing the power of sports programming, ESPN2 (60 cents) and the NFL Network (55 cents) also topped the kids/tween network.
Fox News Channel was determined to be the fifth-most-valuable at 48 cents a month, topping CNN at 42 cents. Disney Channel did beat Nickelodeon, which came in at 42 cents, by a considerable amount.
Last week, Rodger Johnson, the CEO of top-15 operator Knology, said: “For the entertainment dollar that people are going to invest … cable television is still very, very powerful. As much as you hear about ESPN price increases, sports is a big factor in a lot of peoples’ decisions about what they buy.”
ESPN and its sister Disney networks finished first in the Beta survey in helping operators sell services, such as broadband, HDTV and VOD. Loads of operators offer high-speed Internet customers ESPN3 -- a service that streams live events for no additional cost -- and market the offering.
(The Beta survey was conducted from August to November of 2011. Forty percent of respondents had 200,000 or more subscribers and 49% had 100,000 or more.)
Among operators with 100,000 or more subscribers, 76% cited ESPN and the Disney networks as the most helpful in that arena -- sports also plays well in HD. Discovery Networks, which also offers programming that has a certain appeal in HD, came in second with 67%, followed by the NBCUniversal cable fleet at 61%.
Among all cable operators, ESPN and Disney also finished first in a category that measured programmers most helpful in multiplatform programs, such as iPads and smartphones. A WatchESPN app allows viewing of ESPN networks outside the home, although it is only offered by Bright House, Time Warner Cable and Verizon FiOS.
The NBCU, Fox Cable and Turner network groups finished second, third and fourth. Turner has been aggressive in attempts to launch TV Everywhere, which would work similar to WatchESPN and give access to networks on the go.
Not listed by Beta are the MTV Networks, which are locked in a battle with Time Warner Cable about allowing the operator to stream programming live on iPads inside the home. Cablevision does have a deal with MTVN to do so.