If you listen to TV industry executives about what it is that viewers want to see you’d get a picture that’s far different from reality.
A new report released this week by Digitalsmiths reveals that when viewers were asked to list channels they couldn’t live without, HBO, Comedy Central, and even ESPN rank far behind networks like The History Channel and the National Geographic Channel.
According to the report, viewers said that 17 channels at $38 a month would be an ideal package.
As this story from the Washington Post points out, these findings are important in that they show that many consumers would prefer a less costly, slimmer bundle of cable networks:
The findings were surprising even to the report’s authors, and they’re important in a few ways: ESPN is the most expensive channel in the cable bundle, making up about $5 of the packages charged by distributors such as Comcast and Time Warner Cable. Premium channels HBO and Showtime are commanding high prices for subscribers on cable TV and the highest prices for streaming services.
…But the channels apply to niche audiences, according to Billy Purser, vice president of marketing at Digitalsmiths. Discovery has been bucking the trend of declining cable ratings. In May, Discovery saw its primetime audience increase 8 percent, and the network ranked second for male audiences 25-54 years of age for shows such as “Deadliest Catch,” “Fast N’ Loud” and “Alaskan Bush People.”
“We’ve heard for years that the reason you don’t see skinny packages is because of of ESPN, which is resistant to slimmer cable packages,” Pursers said. “This will open the eyes of cable and satellite providers to say there is actually demand for skinny packages that can leave out ESPN.”
ESPN is available on SlingTV, the $20 a month streaming service by Dish Network. The CEOs of Disney and Dish negotiated for months over fees to bring live sports online. ESPN has also tried rigorously to protect its licensing contracts, which it said Verizon FiOs has violated with the introduction of skinny bundles on FiOs that include ESPN without the firm’s permission.
The study provides yet more evidence that viewers want choice. They want more flexibility in their cable packages. They don’t want to artificially subsidize channels the cable industry insists they need to have. The time for cable choice is now.
To see what you can do to help make cable choice a reality, click here.