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ESPN, Discovery Are Top 'Must-Keep' Cable Nets: Survey

If viewers had to pick just a handful of TV channels they could keep, ESPN and Discovery Channel would be the first two cable networks on their lists, according to a survey by research firm Solutions Research Group.

SRG asked 1,200 U.S. TV viewers which channels they considered "must keep" given a limited lineup during the sweeps period in November 2008.

The four major broadcast networks topped the rankings, with consumers selecting in order of preference ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox. About 81% of those surveyed said they would keep at least one of the four networks if they had a very limited set of channels, and 57% said they would keep two of the four.

Rounding out the rest of the top 10 in order were: ESPN, Discovery Channel, History, Sci Fi Channel, HBO and Food Network. Of the two major cable news networks, CNN came in at No. 14 and Fox News was No. 18.

Compared with a similar survey SRG conducted in the fourth quarter of 2007, Sci Fi moved into the No. 8 spot from No. 14 a year earlier, and Food Network entered into the top 10 for the first time.

Other "momentum brands" in the 2008 survey included USA at the No. 11 spot (up from 20 a year earlier), TNT at 13 (up from 23) and TBS at 23 (up from 32).

A&E slipped to 21 from 16, according to the survey, while MTV fell to 36th place from 33 in the fall of 2007. CW also lost momentum, now ranking  25th, down four spots from a year earlier.

Top gainers in the 18-34 demographic were VH1 (up 10 spots to No. 13), Bravo (up 14 spots to No. 19) and Spike (up 10 spots to No. 21), according to SRG.