CBS is the new top "must-keep TV" brand in America , chosen by 49% of viewers, and narrowly beating its rival ABC (48%), which had led the pack as the top brand for two years, according to a survey of US consumers by SRG. FOX is now in the third spot (44%), followed by NBC (42%).

Below, other findings from the third annual "Must Keep TV" survey conducted in the fourth quarter 2009.

NBC's struggles continued in 2009: Only 42% of viewers selected the network as one of their must-keep brands, down 8 percentage points from the 50% who said the same in 2007. Each percentage point represents just over 1 million TV households.

HBO, ESPN, Discovery, Food Network, Fox News Channel, and HGTV rounded out the top 10 list among those with household income greater than $100,000.

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Below, key trends from the age 12+ demographic:

  • Food Network was one of the two top movers in rankings, up three spots to No. 7 in 2009 (from No. 10 in 2008). USA also gained three spots to No. 8 (from No. 11).
  • The Cartoon Network, A&E, Animal Planet, TBS, FX, HGTV, and Showtime all recorded year-over-year gains.
  • CNN recorded the biggest decline of any brand on the list overall, down 15 spots to No. 29 (from No. 14).
  • SyFy dropped from No. 8 last year to No. 11, and History Channel dropped from No. 7 to No. 10.

Results were slightly different in the important advertiser demographic of adults age 18-49:

  • ABC edged out CBS for the No. 1 position, followed by FOX and NBC. ESPN, Discovery Channel, Food Network, HBO, USA, and Comedy Central rounded out the top 10.
  • Food Network moved up three spots to No. 7 (up from No. 14).
  • Fuelled by shows like Vampire Diaries, Gossip Girl, and Melrose Place, CW rose five spots to No. 16 (from No. 21 last year).
  • FOX, Animal Planet, HGTV, and National Geographic all gained momentum in the category.

Other highlights:

  • Top kids' brands according to moms of kids age 12 or under were Nickelodeon, Disney, ABC Family, and The Cartoon Network.
  • Hallmark moved up six spots to No. 23 and Oxygen moved up nine spots to No. 43.
  • The four broadcast networks are still very important to viewers: 77% of all households (compared with 83% in 2007) identify at least one of the four major networks as a "must keep TV" brand, and 54% (60% in 2007) identify at least two.

CBS is also the most-watched US network, with an average audience of 11.6 million viewers, followed by ABC (9.1 million), Fox (8.7 million) and NBC (7.6 million), according to Reuters.

About the data: Results are based on the third annual "Must Keep TV" Tracking survey—an independent syndicated annual TV brand tracking survey conducted by Solutions Research Group (SRG) among a representative sample of 1,200 American consumers. 

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