ESPN Tops Beta Research Survey

ESPN is once again atop the advertising world’s wish list, as a new Beta Research report suggests that nearly half of media buyers and clients surveyed will dedicate more dollars to the sports net in 2010.

According to the results of the latest Beta study, 45 percent of industry pros said they would increase their ad spend with ESPN over the next 12 months. Discovery Channel came in a close second, as 40 percent of respondents indicated they planned to invest more dollars on that network.

Those results reversed the findings of last year’s Beta survey, which had Discovery edging ESPN by a slight margin (45 percent to 44 percent).

Other nets that should enjoy a lift in ad sales revenue this year are: TNT, which was given the thumbs up by 36 percent of those quizzed by Beta; TBS (36 percent); Food Network (35 percent); top-rated USA Network (34 percent); ESPN2 (33 percent), HGTV (32 percent), Comedy Central (31 percent) and Bravo (29 percent).

There may be some correlation between perceived quality of each network’s upfront presentations and the likelihood that buyers and clients will spend more on a given property. Per Beta, 77 percent of those surveyed rated Discovery’s upfront pitch at least a four on a five-point scale. Scripps Networks followed, with a 75 percent approval rating, edging Cartoon Network/Adult Swim (74 percent), A&E (73 percent) and National Geographic Channel (73 percent).

Those figures referred to one-on-one client pitches, and not the large-scale dog and pony acts of mid-spring.

Among the Big Four broadcast networks, ABC was credited with the best upfront presentation, getting the nod from 76 percent of those who weighed in on the matter. Fox took second (72 percent), followed by NBC third (63 percent) and CBS (61 percent).

The Beta study also focused on the issue of audience retention during commercial pods. According to the researcher, 53 percent of executives who do business with ESPN/ABC Sports said that the cable and broadcast properties rated at least a four-of-five on a scale where a perfect five indicated that the group’s strategies to reduce commercial churn were particularly effective.
Discovery Networks, which includes the flagship channel, as well as TLC and Animal Planet, also earned high marks, as 51 percent of those surveyed applauded the programmer’s various retention strategies. Turner Entertainment (TNT, TBS, truTV) notched 47 percent, as did the Weather Channel. Scripps Networks’ willingness to develop strategies to hold onto viewers during commercial time earned it a 45 percent nod, besting MTV (44 percent).

The broadcast nets haven’t been nearly as nimble as their cable counterparts, as ABC was given a grade of 44 percent on the “stickiness” issue, a percentage point higher than Fox. NBC (35 percent) and CBS (34 percent) fell well behind the rest of the pack.

The Beta ad executive study was based on telephone interviews with 226 media executives, of which 151 were culled from agencies. The remaining 75 respondents were clients.