Netflix Rises to Top Four in ‘Must Keep TV’ Rankings

Subscription video-on-demand pioneer Netflix broke into the top four of an annual survey of “Must Keep” TV networks, pushing Fox Broadcasting to fifth place, the first time in 10 years that all of the Big Four networks failed to dominate the list.

Netflix ranked fourth overall in Solutions Research Group’s (SRG) annual survey of top network brands, trailing ABC, CBS and NBC. Rounding out the top 10 were ESPN, HBO, Discovery, PBS and CW. History came in at No. 11, followed by AMC at No.12, unchanged from last year. HGTV showed the most momentum, climbing six spots from No. 19 in 2016 to No. 13 this year.

SRG included the three largest streaming video brands – Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Hulu – for the first time this year and all performed well. According to SRG all three landed in the top 25 of the overall rankings, with Amazon Prime Video at No. 14 and Hulu at No. 22.

The streaming services fared even better with millennials. In the 18-34 year-old segment, Netflix claimed the top spot while Hulu finished at No. 9 and Amazon Prime Video was No. 11.

With President Trump’s daily tweets dominating the news cycle, it was no surprise that news channels performed well in the rankings, as CNN finished at No. 15, neck-and-neck with Fox News (No. 16). SRG said the two news networks were this close only once before in the past decade – in 2008 when CNN was ranked No.14 overall and Fox News was No. 18.

According to SRG, CNN was most popular with viewers under 50 years old, placing No. 15 among individuals aged 18-49, outpacing Fox News at No. 28 in that demographic. Fox News was slightly ahead in more affluent households – those with incomes of more than $100,000 annually ranked Fox at No. 8 while CNN finished at No. 12 with that segment.

ESPN was No. 6 overall and was the No. 1 cable channel for men aged 18-49 for the 10th straight year. Fox Sports 1 and ESPN 2 were ranked No. 20 and No. 25 respectively, similar to their previous positions, while Fox Sports 2 dipped slightly and NBC Sports was up a bit.

The broadcast networks still represented the bulk of “Must Keep” TV channels, but their influence is declining. SRG said that in 2017, 72% of those surveyed included at least one of the big four networks on their must keep list, down 11 points from the historic high of 83% in 2007. Brand equity among the Big Four networks eroded more with younger viewers –only 62% included one of the Big Four in their top ‘must keep’ list in 2017, down 19 points from 81% a decade ago. Smartphones, tablets and other connected screens are also pushing traditional TV sets out of living rooms. In 2017, 51% of households reported owning three or more TV sets, down from 56% in 2013 and a high of 65% in 2007, according to SRG.

SRG’s research is based on online interviews with 1,425 American consumers aged 12 and older and was conducted in April. Respondents are shown a list of 77 broadcast, cable and high-penetration streaming brands and are asked to identify which ones would be on their ‘must keep TV’ list if they had to choose a limited number. Sample design is balanced by geography, gender and ethnicity, including African- American and English-speaking Hispanics according to known universe parameters.