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 Study Finds Subs Want Even More Programming In Their Favorite Categories

ALEXANDRIA, VA., July 28, 2003 – Satellite television subscribers prefer a broad range of programming types, with the most watched categories, news/information, documentary, movies, and educational programming performing consistently strong across all segments of the subscriber population, according to a survey of current DBS subscribers commissioned by the Satellite Broadcasting and Communications Association and conducted by the Taylor Research & Consulting Group.

News and information programming is the most popular genre with 86 percent of DBS subscribers stating that preference; documentary programming closely followed, with 84 percent of subscribers claiming viewership. Popular with 82 percent of households were movies; and, educational programming is viewed by 81 percent of DBS homes. Other genres cited in the 2003 SBCA DBS Subscriber Study include: music, children’s programming, sports, religious, romance/soaps, ethnic, home shopping, adult entertainment, and foreign language.

Respondents were also asked to specify the channels they watched most often in genres they frequently view. CNN (62 percent) and Fox (40 percent) were listed as the top favorites in the news and information genre. In the documentary category, notable were History (59 percent) and Discovery (42 percent). Popular in households that often watch movies were HBO (36 percent), Starz (18 percent), and Showtime (12 percent). Among educational television viewers Discovery (59 percent) and TLC (28 percent) were most often mentioned as favorites.

Interestingly, although the findings conclude DBS subscribers already watch a lot of the top four categories, the programming study reveals that they continue to want more. Asked what types of channels they would like to see added to their DBS packages, the four, along with children and sports programming, rose to the top in the following ranking order: movies (51 percent), educational (49 percent), documentary (41 percent), children’s programming (32 percent), news and information (23 percent), and sports (23 percent).

“These category and channel preferences reinforce one of the industry's main assertions, that subscribers choose DBS for its broad range of programming options,” said David Charmatz, senior vice president of research, analysis, & strategy, at Starz Encore Group, and chairman of the SBCA Market Research Committee. “Interestingly, DBS subscriber preferences don’t necessarily match those of the general population. We know that different program types resonate with different audiences, but not in ways programmers might ordinarily assume.” SBCA’s Market Research Committee consists of DIRECTV, EchoStar, HBO, Scripps Networks, Showtime, Sirius, Starpath Communications, Starz Encore Group, Turner, and The Weather Channel.

The programming preferences of DBS viewers is part of a larger subscriber study that also assess the present DBS-cable competitive environment, gauges DBS customer satisfaction, and weighs interest in new technologies, like DVR, VOD, satellite radio, and HDTV. Of the 1,500 telephone interviews between very recent (within three months) and longer-term DIRECTV and Dish Network subscribers conducted in April 2003, 84 percent indicated overall satisfaction with their DBS service. DBS scores improved by five percentage points from a similar survey conducted in 2002, driven by improvements in such areas as programming channels, trouble-free installation, good value for the money, and quality customer service among the reasons for becoming or remaining DBS customers.

Other findings in breakdowns of the programming study include:

  • Interest in documentary channels rises as the age of the DBS subscriber increases, as 87 percent of persons age 65 and over watch often/sometimes versus 76 percent of persons age 18 to 34.  African-Americans displayed somewhat lesser interest in documentary channels than others (63 percent watch often or sometimes, versus 84 percent for all DBS households).

  • Movie channels are especially popular with those likely to subscribe to a premium service (91 percent).

  • Educational channels are far more popular with females (85 percent often/sometimes) than males (77 percent). Households with children are also much more likely than average to watch educational channels often or sometimes (92 percent versus 81 percent overall).

  • Music channels are especially popular with African-Americans (78 percent often/sometimes versus 64 percent overall) and Hispanics (83 percent).  Females watch more music programming (70 percent) than males (57 percent), and 18- to 34-year-olds (73 percent) tend to be bigger music channel watchers than those 65 and over (53 percent).

  • Children’s programming is especially well-watched by African-Americans (78 percent versus 60 percent for all) and Hispanics (76 percent).

  • Interest in sports programming varies little by ethnicity, age, income, and location.

  • Ethnic programming channels are most widely watched by African-Americans (60 percent watch often/sometimes versus just 22 percent of all DBS subscribers).

A second SBCA study looking at the competitive market is currently in development and will be released during in the fall. Further information about the DBS subscriber study is available from Brian Lynch at (800) 541-5981.

The Taylor Research & Consulting Group, Inc., headquartered in Portsmouth, NH provides research services in the U.S. and internationally for the media, entertainment, and sports industries.

The Satellite Broadcasting and Communications Association ( is the national trade organization representing all segments of the satellite industry.  It is committed to expanding the utilization of satellite technology for the broadcast delivery of video, audio, data, music, voice, interactive and broadband services.  The SBCA is composed of DBS, C-band, broadband, satellite radio, and other satellite service and launch vehicle providers, content providers, equipment manufacturers, distributors, retailers, encryption vendors, and national and regional distribution companies that make up the satellite services industry.