TV Networks Hold On To Brand Equity Lead In New Harris Poll Equitrend Study

Generation Z, Not Millennials, Poses Biggest Risk to TV Networks’ Brand Equity

NEW YORK –TV networks lead media categories in brand equity, but Internet radio, video streaming subscriptions and others are closing the gap, according to The Harris Poll 2016 EquiTrend Study. The 28th annual study reveals the strongest brands in nearly 100 categories across the media, travel, financial, automotive, entertainment, retail, restaurants and household industries, based on consumer response. Media leaders include Netflix, YouTube, ABC and CBS Television Networks, and Pandora Internet Radio.

Measuring brands’ health over time, the EquiTrend Brand Equity Index is comprised of three factors – Familiarity, Quality and Purchase Consideration – that result in a brand equity rating for each brand. Brands ranking highest in equity receive the Harris Poll EquiTrend “Brand of the Year” award for their respective categories. This year, more than 97,000 U.S. consumers assessed more than 3,800 brands (including more than 200 media brands), across nearly 500 categories. The complete list of Harris Poll EquiTrend Brands of the Year can be found at: Additional information can be found at:

“Brand equity in media appears to operate somewhat differently than it does in other categories, reflecting the changing relationships between mass, targeted and even personalized channels,” said Joan Sinopoli, vice president of brand solutions at Nielsen, which owns the Harris Poll. “Some of the highest equity media brands may have limited penetration among the media-consuming public, but those that consume them, love them. They are true ‘fan brands’.”

Netflix Tops the Charts

Netflix is Harris Poll’s 2016 Video Streaming Subscription Brand of the Year and holds the strongest brand equity among media companies. In addition, Netflix has the 34th highest brand equity among all brands assessed. Netflix’s brand equity score has risen 18 percent since 2013, placing it among the study’s top “rapid equity risers.” When reviewing media brands “on their way up,” consumers rated Netflix number three behind Google Fiber and Amazon Prime Instant Video.

Netflix holds a substantial lead over its nearest video streaming subscription competitor – Amazon Prime Instant Video – in both equity and connection (the emotional and rational bonds consumers forge with brands.) However, it scores immediately behind Amazon Prime Instant Video for momentum, with other video streaming subscription brand – including HBO GO, Twitch.TV and Hulu Plu – also seen as “on the way up” by more than 40 percent of consumers. 

“Netflix has enjoyed unopposed category dominance but the question is, how long can it sustain its astounding equity growth?” said Sinopoli. “While the overall category has room to grow with millennials and now Generation Z coming of age, Netflix will need to stay close to consumer needs or see its share and rate of growth begin to slow as newer, sometimes edgier competitors fragment the market — not unlike what happened to major TV networks when cable offered more targeted entertainment choices.”  


The 2016 Harris Poll EquiTrend Media Brands of the Year

Source: The Harris Poll EquiTrend® Study 


Award Category


Video Streaming Subscription 


Social Networking Site 


TV Network (TIE) 

ABC Television Network 

CBS Television Network 

Internet Radio Service 


Factual Entertainment TV

History Channel

TV News

The Weather Channel

General Entertainment TV

AMC Television Network

Kids TV

Discovery Family Channel

Sports TV

ESPN Television Network

Pay Cable TV Network

HBO Television Network

Health Information Website


News Service

Google News

Music TV

Great American Country (GAC)

TV Service Providers

Google Fiber


TV Networks Still Tops in Brand Equity, But Others Closing the Gap

According to the study, while TV networks maintain its media category equity lead, various cable networks with targeted content, as well as streaming entertainment, are making inroads. And, over the last five years, social networking sites and video streaming subscriptions have built brand equity, up 9 percent and 2 percent, respectively.

“Particularly with the Brands of the Year—ABC and CBS—TV networks have experienced a slight lift in 2016,” said Sinopoli. “However, consumers tend to view factual entertainment TV, which has a lot of educational content, as having a stronger positive social impact. This likely helps to push it toward the front in equity.”


The Harris Poll 2016 EquiTrend Study

Brand Equity by Media Category

Source: The Harris Poll EquiTrend® Study



Biggest Risk to TV Networks’ Brand Equity? Generation Z

Despite its strong lead over video streaming subscriptions (EquiTrend score 68.4 versus 61.1), the Harris Poll study shows that the TV networks category will face its strongest challenge not with millennials, but with Generation Z. According to the research, millennials award a similar level of equity to TV networks as do older generations, but a sharp decline in TV network equity among Generation Z tips the scales in favor of streaming.

The Harris Poll 2016 EquiTrend Study

Average Brand Equity by Generation

Source: The Harris Poll EquiTrend® Study

“While much focus has been on millennials’ media consumption, Gen Z stands to be the real disruptor,” said Sinopoli. “Among millennials and Generation Z, video streaming subscriptions have their strongest equity position, but TV networks’ equity drops dramatically among Gen Z consumers. Our research also shows that a gradual decline from the older generations to the younger in brand connection with TV networks becomes a significant decline with Gen Z. With an abundance of new media choices, such as Crunchy Roll and, the mobile-first generation will accelerate media fragmentation at a speed we can barely grasp today.”



The 2016 Harris Poll EquiTrend Study is based on a sample of 97,120 U.S. consumers ages 15 and over surveyed online, in English, between December 22, 2015 and February 1, 2016.  The survey took an average of 30 minutes to complete. The total number of brands rated was 3,837. Each respondent was asked to rate a total of 40 randomly selected brands. Each brand received approximately 1,000 ratings. Data was weighted to be representative of the entire U.S. population of consumers ages 15 and over based on age by sex, education, race/ethnicity, region, income, and data from respondents ages 18 and over were also weighted for their propensity to be online. Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Poll surveys. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in our panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

The Brand Equity Index is the keystone to the EquiTrend program, providing an understanding of a brand’s overall strength. A brand’s Equity is determined by a calculation of Familiarity, Quality and Purchase Consideration. Brand of the Year is determined by a simple ranking of brands.

The Harris Poll EquiTrend Brand Equity Index has been academically vetted[1], showing that strong brand equity is associated with strong financial performance, even during a financial downturn, such as that experienced in 2007-2010.

These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

About The Harris Poll
Over the last five decades, Harris Polls have become media staples. With comprehensive experience and precise technique in public opinion polling, along with a proven track record of uncovering consumers’ motivations and behaviors, The Harris Poll has gained strong brand recognition around the world. The Harris Poll offers a diverse portfolio of proprietary client solutions to transform relevant insights into actionable foresight for a wide range of industries including health care, technology, public affairs, energy, telecommunications, financial services, insurance, media, retail, restaurant, and consumer packaged goods. Nielsen acquired Harris Interactive, Inc. (which operates The Harris Poll) in 2014. Contact us for more information.


Harris Poll EquiTrend study results disclosed in this release may not be used for advertising, marketing or promotional purposes without the prior written consent of Harris Poll. All third party trademarks are the property of their respective owners. Use of such trademarks does not constitute or imply any sponsorship or endorsement.



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[1] The Harris Poll EquiTrend methodology has been validated by academic business experts in the Journal of Marketing Research (1994) and International Journal of Research on Marketing (2012).