ESPN Tops Beta List of ‘Must Have’ Cable Channels

ESPN SportsCenter set in Los Angeles
ESPN‘s ‘SportsCenter’ set in Los Angeles (Image credit: Allen Kee/ESPN Images)

ESPN was named as a “must-have” cable channel most often in Beta Research’s latest poll of pay TV subscribers. 

ESPN got the highest marks from 40% of Beta’s respondents. It was followed by Discovery Channel, Food Network, History, CNN, National Geographic, The Weather Channel and Fox News Channel.

A year ago, Food Network was the top finisher with 34%, followed by History, ESPN, Discovery, CNN and National Geographic.

In its 2021 survey, for the first time, Beta polled both cable subscribers and satellite subscribers. The higher scores for some cable networks also might be the result of people who placed a lower value on cable networks cutting the cord, said Andrew Klein, president of Beta’s cable TV division. 

Klein added that the “must have” scores were higher among heavy streaming network viewers and among subscribers of at least two streaming services. “These cable subs really like television and value both streaming networks and the basic networks that they watch,” he told B+C.

Among heavy streaming network viewers, the must-have channels were led by ESPN, Food Network and Disney Channel, ranked highest by 48% of those surveyed. 

When subscribers were asked how much individual channels were worth to them, Disney Channel had the most perceived value at $2.08 per month. 

ESPN followed at $2.05, followed by ID and Cartoon Network at $2.04, Nickelodeon at $2.02, ESPN2 at $2.01 INSP at $1.99 and Hallmark Movies & Mysteries at $1.98.

ESPN was the top network a year ago at $1.95, followed by Disney Channel, Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network, ID and FS1.

Men in the survey, asked for their five favorite basic cable networks, most often named ESPN, followed by CNN, History, Fox News Channel, Discovery, National Geographic and Comedy Central.

Among women the favorites were Food Network, ID, HGTV, Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, Hallmark Channel, TLC and Fox News Channel.

For its 2021 Multichannel Subscriber Study, Beta Research conducted online surveys with 1,200 cable and satellite subscribers ages 18 and up during June. The study measured 42 basic cable networks.

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.