Must-Have TV Networks -- Or Just Musty Networks?

Can you separate your must-have TV networks from your musty, little-used networks?

In an age of more over-the-top (OTT) services and possible big-time disruption from consumers being allowed to pick and choose what TV networks they want, ask yourself this question as a marketer and as a consumer: What are the TV channels you need to survive -- for the long term -- and which ones do you never watch?

Viewers regularly watch about 17 channels, according to Nielsen, out of a possible 200 overall U.S. channels: advertising-supported, pay TV and regional channels.

New OTT services are fostering marketing plans and TV packages with anywhere from 20 to 30 channels in the coming years -- all offering slower monthly fees than traditional pay TV packages.

Still, these services aren’t allowing true a la carte picking and choosing. Many are making their own guesses for what are the “must-haves,” according to current viewership levels.  Bigger TV networks are easy targets. But what happens after that?



Moody’s worries that a number of TV networks could in the not-so-must-have category, according to an article in Multichannel News. Recently it put the Weather Channel onto this list.

“[W]e believe that The Weather Channel is not… a ‘must have’ network or bundle of networks like some other larger cable networks,” Moody’s said in a statement reported by Multichannel News. “[T]herefore we believe [it] remains susceptible to the risk of receiving less affiliate revenue or potentially being dropped, perhaps permanently, by other cable, DBS and telco companies” – and also, from coming OTT services.

DirecTV had no problems putting the Weather Channel on the bench for four months last year because of what was seemingly a wrong-headed network expansion into “reality” TV programming and away from its central focus. This year Verizon FiOS let its carriage deal expire with Weather Channel.

So who’s next on the list of networks to be cut?

First quarter 2015 shows some 100 Nielsen-rated cable TV networks. The usual suspects are on the top, including ESPN, USA, Fox News Channel, TBS, TNT. Add in Nickelodeon, Adult Swim, and Cartoon Network, and Nick at Nite, when it comes to total day viewership.

At the bottom of the list are networks like Logo, VH1 Classic, Fuse, Cloo, Fox Sports 2 (formerly Fuel TV), Centric, and Al Jazeera America.

Where does The Weather Channel fall? Right in the middle.  In prime time, it ranks in 49th place for overall viewership, and sits in 46th place when it comes to total day viewership.

TV business dealings are always a numbers game. But what seemingly gets lost in the shuffle -- especially when it comes to the history of carriage disputes/deals -- is how pay TV providers factor in viewership.

New OTT services will look more closely at this element: something they “must” do.

2 comments about "Must-Have TV Networks -- Or Just Musty Networks?".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, April 6, 2015 at 3:41 p.m.

    Wayne, in fairness to The Weather Channel, it is not the kind of service that is designed to capture and hold a viewer for one hour or more per sitting. For obvious reasons, people tune in for a quick update about the weather, then go on to other channels or to other activities---hence the low average minute ratings. However, when the reach stats are tallied, The Weather Channel probably ranks way up there with the leaders and its programmers are now taking steps to try to hold audiences for longer durations. Whether the latter effort will succeed is anyone's guess but I don't think that this channel's worth should be judged mainly by its average minute Nielsens.

  2. Michael Kaplan from Blue Sky Creative, April 6, 2015 at 8:13 p.m.

    It's not all about the ratings, it's about PERCEIVED value. HBO learned that years ago; it doesn't matter if a particular program scores huge in the ratings, as long as it's the sort of programming that makes their subscribers feel good about having the channel in the living room. Huge ratings are great, of course, but it's not the only metric. (It's the opposite of highly rated network shows that attract the "wrong" demo, and lose advertiser support.) I think a lot of middle-tier networks will be successful as a la carte offerings than some networks with bigger audiences but blander programming.

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