ESPN is still the most 'valuable' channel to pay-TV operators, survey finds

Despite ample hand-wringing about its suddenly discovered mortality, ESPN is still far and the most "valuable" channel to pay-TV operators, according to a new survey conducted by Beta Research.

Surveying 100 cable operators from August to October, Beta found that the "average perceived value" per subscriber for ESPN was $1.03. ESPN 2 finished in second place at 75 cents, followed by the NFL Network (73 cents), Fox News (72 cents), Disney Channel (69 cents), TNT (65 cents), Fox Sports 1 (63 cents), USA Network (61 cents), Discovery Channel (60 cents), CNN (57 cents) and TBS (57 cents).

ESPN and its parent company also ranked first when operators were asked which programmers were "most helpful" in regard to supporting TV Everywhere.

Not surprisingly, Disney sent out a press release Wednesday promoting the Beta Research report.

The research comes as ESPN seems to be on the cusp of an important victory -- the restoration of ESPN into the basic tier of Verizon FiOS' Custom TV package. 

"We believe Verizon (NYSE: VZ) will soon adjust its Custom TV packages to include ESPN in the base tier, which will be one less source of pressure on ESPN subscribers," Bryan Kraft, an analyst at Deutsche Bank, told investors.

Disney and ESPN sued Verizon last year after the FiOS operator relegated ESPN and ESPN 2 to an "add on" package within Custom TV.

However, during Verizon's fourth-quarter earnings call last month, the company hinted that it was ready to move ESPN back. 

For more:
- read this Investor's Business Daily story

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