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Study: Web Sites Boost Program Loyalty

Web TV may have taken on a new meaning. According to a study released Friday, television network Web sites can play a key role in creating loyal program viewers.

The Food Network -- with programs such as Emeril Live and FoodNation -- and ESPN -- which features NFL Football and Major League Baseball -- emerged as the television networks that best tied-in viewers to their Web sites. Broadcast television stations trailed behind but did better than other cable stations, such as MTV, HBO, Nickelodeon and Discovery.

"Television networks that offer wider varieties of programming have a tougher challenge turning their Web sites into resources that viewers will use on a regular basis," noted Cary Nadel, vice president, Burke Inc. Burke Inc. and NFO Interactive conducted the study, entitled "Connecting with Viewers: TV Programs and Their Web Sites."

The results were obtained by polling 8,605 adult panelists who were asked which of 315 programs on 27 broadcast and cable channels they had watched in the three months prior to taking the survey.

Viewers were then asked if they had visited the Web site for those programs and whether they had gone to the site for details before or after their viewings.

A total of 2,682 individuals (31 percent) indicated that had watched at least one of 14 Food Network programs, with 876 (33 percent) additionally tuning into the Web site of the programs that they viewed.

Meanwhile, 3,970 participants (46 percent) indicated they had watched one of the five listed ESPN programs, with 1,179 (30 percent) visit ESPN's sports-oriented Web site.

"These networks have clearly done an excellent job of turning their identities into brands," said Nadel.

The major television networks had the most viewers but Web site traffic was lower. CBS had 7,920 viewers with Web site visitors numbering 2,118 (28 percent); ABC had 7,979 viewers with online visits totaling 2,118 (27 percent); NBC had 8,127 viewers with 2,094 Web site visitors (26 percent); and Fox showed 7,208 viewers with Web visits numbering 1,503 (21 percent).

During the study period, most participants were watching Survivor and Big Brother on CBS, Who Wants to be a Millionaire on ABC, The Olympics on NBC, and NFL Football on Fox.

Participants also revealed which Web sites propelled them to watch particular programs. In that arena, 417 of 4,595 (9 percent) watched Discovery, 220 of 2,682 (8 percent) tuned in to the Food Network, 53 of 862 (6 percent) watched the Disney Channel and 283 of 4,700 viewed PBS.

By contrast, only 4 percent of Internet-enabled viewers of each of the major broadcast networks indicated they had a program because of a visit to a Web site.