SOURCE: The Diffusion Group

The Diffusion Group

September 04, 2012 10:17 ET

'Must Have' TV Channels Little Changed Since 2011

'Top 10' List Remains Relatively Stable, Though Order and Strength of Preference Have Shifted

FRISCO, TX--(Marketwire - Sep 4, 2012) - New research from The Diffusion Group (TDG) indicates that the top 10 "must have" channels for a pay-TV service have changed little in the last year. 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
 Channel 2012 2011 YoY % Difference
Ranking % Ranking %
ABC 1 68.4% 1 74.4% -6.1%
NBC 2 66.6% 3 67.4% -0.8%
CBS 3 64.2% 2 71.9% -7.7%
FOX 4 60.9% 4 64.2% -3.3%
Discovery Channel 5 47.3% 5 48.9% -1.6%
The History Channel 6 45.7% 6 46.1% -0.4%
HBO 7 41.0% 8 35.8% 5.2%
ESPN 8 37.5% 7 39.8% -2.3%
Syfy 9 35.7% 11 30.8% 4.9%
Comedy Central 10 35.1% 9 34.7% 0.4%

In 2011, ABC topped the list (selected by 74% of respondents), followed by CBS (72%), NBC (67%), and FOX (64%). In 2012, ABC again topped the list, but was selected by only 68% of respondents (a net decline of 6.1%), followed by NBC (67%, a net decline of 1%), CBS (64%, a net decline of 8%), and FOX (61%, a net decline of 3% from 2011).

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

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% less than one that included ESPN."

This data is featured in TDG's latest primary research study, Video Behavior in the Age of Quantum Media. Study results are available exclusively to TDG members. For more information on becoming a member, visit or contact our Research Services Team ( now at 469-287-8050.

About The Diffusion Group
TDG provides actionable intelligence on the quantum shifts impacting consumer technology and media behaviors. Since 2004, our market research and advisory services have helped technology vendors, media companies, and service providers understand how consumers access, navigate, distribute, and consume broadband media -- whenever and wherever they may be.

For more information about The Diffusion Group, visit our website at

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