HBO, Netflix, NatGeo Wild score top marks in NPACT survey

UPDATED: 11:34 CT Non-fiction trade organization NPACT has revealed the results of its third annual network ranking survey today (Jan. 27), with HBO emerging as the new favorite network for unscripted producers ...
January 27, 2020

Non-fiction trade organization NPACT has revealed the results of its third annual network ranking survey today (Jan. 27), with HBO emerging as the new favorite network for unscripted producers surveyed.

This year’s survey comprises feedback from 51 production companies, which ranked 59 networks and streaming/digital platforms across 11 categories, including “best buyer to work with overall” and “the network/platform most improved since the last survey results were released.” The results include ratings from NPACT members and non-members.

WarnerMedia-owned premium cable network HBO took the top spot in both overall averages as well as in the rankings scored by producers individually, while Netflix led as “most improved” overall in the last year — followed by Travel Channel and National Geographic — and “most respected,” followed by A&E and Investigation Discovery (ID).

Overall averages across all categories saw Netflix, Nat Geo Wild, Oxygen, ID, CNN, History, USA, Bravo and A&E rounding out the top 10. Sundance, A&E, TBS/TNT, Nat Geo Wild, History, National Geographic, Bravo, Oxygen and CNN joined the top 10 with HBO under individual preference rankings.

Networks that ranked on the lower end of the overall averages across all categories included Freeform, VH1 and MTV. In terms of the network ranking system on an overall basis, ranging from “best to deal with” to “most difficult overall,” YouTube Originals, VH1, WE tv, MTV and VH1 ranked in the lower five positions.

Among all networks and platforms, Nat Geo Wild was cited in the top 10 across more categories than any other network, followed by Netflix and Oxygen in second place; and HBO, A&E, National Geographic, Bravo and CNN tied for third place.

HBO also led the rankings in the categories of “best to deal with overall,” “pitching,” “clarity regarding brand/content needs,” and “business affairs.”

USA Network took first place in the category of “program development”; Facebook led in “editorial oversight/notes”; ID was first in “production management”; Oxygen was the leader in “finance”; and Bravo came in first for “scheduling/promo support.”

This year’s survey also added “most improved” in individual categories. Discovery came in first for pitching; Oxygen in program development; History in brand clarity; Netflix in business affairs, editorial oversight/notes and finance; USA in production management; and TLC in scheduling/promo support.

For the first nine questions/topics, respondents rated each network on a scale from one to 10, with one representing the least positive response and 10 representing the most positive. Final rankings represent the weighted average scores for each network (“most improved” and “most respected” networks were determined by tally of total votes, rather than rankings).

Commissioners added to the 2019/20 survey were AMC, Facebook, Freeform, Fuse, Hallmark, Nickelodeon, Quibi, Sundance, TV One, USA, Velocity/Motortrend and Viceland.

NPACT’s 2018 survey, which culled feedback from 48 respondents, saw Showtime, CBS and A&E in the lead for “best networks to deal with overall.”

“The NPACT survey process over the last four years has gathered and communicated key intel and vital information from the production community, and it’s gratifying to see that resulting in improved relationships between producers and content buyers. With this year’s addition of ‘most improved’ data across all categories, we’re also pleased that NPACT can provide a forum for those positive changes to be publicly recognized and acknowledged,” said NPACT interim GM Michelle Van Kempen (pictured) in a statement.

(With files from Barry Walsh)

About The Author
Barry Walsh is editor and content director for realscreen, and has served as editor of the publication since 2009. With a career in entertainment media that spans two decades, prior to realscreen, he held the associate editor post for now defunct sister publication Boards, which focused on the advertising and commercial production industries. Before Boards, he served as editor of Canadian Music Network, a weekly music industry trade, and as music editor for As content director, he also oversees the development of content for the brand's market-leading events, the Realscreen Summit and Realscreen West, as well as new content initiatives.