TBI Tech & Analysis: Who’s ahead of the game in global channel reach?

South Park has aired on ViacomCBS-owned Comedy Central since 1997

As more brands go global, the battle to place content in front of the greatest number of potential viewers around the world becomes ever-more competitive, but Omdia’s Edmund Ludlow and Tim Westcott reveal that one group has an advantage.

According to recent research from analyst group Omdia, US-based ViacomCBS has the largest cumulative reach of any channel group, able to gain a foothold in a total of 2,410 million households.

To clarify, cumulative reach calculates the combined number of households in which each of the group’s channels are available, and ViacomCBS has a large catalog of 104 pay-TV channels and 26 free-to-air channels, for a total of 130, including the UK’s Channel 5 and Network 10 in Australia.

Importantly, a large portion of the group’s catalog, including the Comedy Central, MTV, and Nickelodeon channel brands, is available in the sizeable US market – 82 of its 130 total channels.

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The all-important US market

While ViacomCBS comes out in front, many of the major US groups also benefit from recognisable channel brands and a large presence in the US, including Discovery with 108 channel brands, The Walt Disney Company with 102 and Warner Media with 103.

The largest channel groups play an important role in the TV landscape: the top-20 firms operate 25.7% of all channels.

Omdia’s research shows that only two out of the top-10 channel groups by reach are based outside the US, namely ARD and Sky.

Sky owns the most channels of any group in the data with 192 brands across its three major markets of the UK, Germany, and Italy. Importantly, 92% of Sky’s catalog is pay-TV channels in contrast to the German public broadcaster ARD, whose catalog is only 4% pay-TV.

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Channel by channel

However, when you break these numbers down further, in terms of individual pay-TV channels, it is the WarnerMedia-owned Cartoon Network that comes out as the most widely distributed channel brand across all territories – largely due to it being usually available as part of basic channel packages.

NBCUniversal’s showbiz news channel E! and the ViacomCBS-owned Comedy Channel are also widely available.

Meanwhile, of all the channels in the distribution data, only three are available in each of the 10 territories covered by Omdia’s research: Cartoon Network, MTV, and the National Geographic Channel, all of which are run by US groups.

National Geographic has escaped the cull of Disney-branded channels over the last year and is the most widely distributed subscription service outside the US. Omdia estimates that the factual channel was available in 85.3 million households worldwide and 46.2 million outside the US.

Furthermore, two channels with UK parent companies are the only non-US channel brands in the top 10: Ginx eSports, a gaming channel, is available in 30.8 million households, while Sky Sports News (the same brand but a different channel in each Sky territory) is in 30.2 million.

The analysis above was taken from Omdia’s Channel Distribution Report – December 2021 – written by Edmund Ludlow, senior data analyst, and Tim Westcott, senior principal analyst, for digital content & channels.

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