Report: The Most Expensive Cable Channels Aren’t the Most Watched

Mar 14, 2014  •  Post A Comment

During the past 15 years, the average cable bill has increased by 4.5% each year, and now reaches more than $90. But the most expensive channels, which are a big part of those rising bills, aren’t always the most watched, reports TheWrap.com, which cites data compiled by SNL Kagan.

ESPN, for instance, is the most expensive channel based on its subscriber fees, with the network receiving $5.54 per customer. That means the network gobbles up about 6% of basic cable bills. But ESPN was only the No. 3 network last year when it came to viewers, the story notes.

The most watched cable network was USA Network, which ranks as the sixth most expensive network. It collects only 71 cents per customer, on average.

The study found that the top 10 most-watched basic cable channels aren’t the most expensive according to subscriber fees. And four of the 10 most expensive networks — the NFL Network, ESPN 2, Nickelodeon and CNN — aren’t among the 10 most watched on cable.

The gap between the cost of ESPN and the price tag for the other channels is huge. With a monthly subscriber fee of $5.54, ESPN is more than four times as expensive as the No. 2 network, TNT, which comes in at $1.33, according to the report.

Rounding out the top 5: Disney ($1.15), NFL Network ($1.13) and Fox News ($.94). Of the five, only Disney and ESPN are among the top 5 most watched — Disney at No. 2, behind USA, and ESPN at No. 3. Rounding out the 5 most watched: History at No. 4 and TNT at No. 5.

“The ESPN disparity can be explained in part by the hugely expensive professional sports contracts the network holds to broadcast games. But cable providers are afraid to play too much hardball with the sports networks, because they consider them too valuable,” the story notes.

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