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Specialty beats conventional, says survey

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Alliance Atlantis
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Advertising and Ratings
TORONTO - As the national ad buyers begin to get ready for the fall 2004 upfront market buy, traditionally the most lucrative time of year for broadcasters, a new national consumer survey commissioned by specialty service broadcaster Alliance Atlantis indicates that specialty channels surpass conventional networks in terms of audience preference and time spent viewing.

According to the survey, released this morning, more than half of Canadians (53%) feel programming is better on specialties and almost half of specialty viewers (45%) report they have increased the time they spend watching them.

Specialty viewers report that 52% of their viewing time is spent watching specialty channels and of those who have watched specialty, almost 40% of viewers say those channels are their first destination when they do not have a viewing appointment. Only 27% of viewers say they would go to a conventional network first when they do not have a viewing appointment.

The press release did not indicate how many of the viewing appointments viewers do have are with programs on specialty channels and how many appointments remain with the conventional broadcasters.

The survey entitled the "State of Specialty: Wave One," was commissioned by Alliance Atlantis, and conducted by The Strategic Counsel. It queried 1,174 Canadian television viewers on their perceptions and attitudes towards both specialty and conventional channels.

The study found that 47% of Canadian television viewers say they prefer specialty channels to conventional broadcasters - with only 31% saying they prefer conventional networks. Among those who prefer specialty channels, the bulk (44%) cite better quality and/or more interesting programming as the main reasons for their preference.

The majority of specialty viewers (54%) say they will check out one or a few specialty channels when looking for something to watch.

"The results of this study are consistent with Nielsen Media Research data which clearly indicates that audiences for specialty channels have overtaken audiences from conventional television channels," says Brad Alles, senior vice-president, Alliance Atlantis Broadcasting, sales and promotion. "Over the last several years, specialty television has come of age in Canada and is now surpassing conventional television is terms of audience share. This survey was undertaken to report on why the shift is happening and to what extent it is happening. In the end the message is clear, Canadians prefer the programming on specialty and are spending more time with the specialty channels. This shift represents an enormous opportunity within our industry."

The results of this survey were presented this morning at the first-annual Spotlight on Specialty Television event held at the Four Seasons in
Toronto, hosted by the broadcaster and Strategy Magazine.

Results in the report are based on 1,174 telephone interviews with Canadians randomly selected from the general population. The interviews were completed between January 14 and 30, 2004. Results from a sample of this size can be considered accurate to within +/-2.9%, 19 times out of 20. When analysis is done among "sub-samples" the margin of error increases. Data was statistically weighted to ensure the sample's regional and age/sex composition reflects that of the actual Canadian population according to the 2001 Census data.
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