NEW YORK: ABC is the most popular television brand among US viewers, beating off competition from CBS and Fox.

The Solutions Research Group (SRG), a consultancy, surveyed 1,400 consumers aged at least 12 years old, assessing which of 72 channels they would choose if forced to reduce the number of available options.

Some 47% of those polled believed ABC was "must-keep", slightly ahead of CBS, Fox and NBC on this metric.

But the proportion of participants affording one of these four networks such a status has declined slipped from 83% in 2007.

More specifically, 84% of contributors in the 50 year old-plus segment regarded a member of this group as especially attractive, measured against 68% of 20–29 year olds.

Significantly, ABC assumed the lead role for 18–49 year olds, considered a key target audience by every mainstream operator.

Robert Iger, Disney's chief executive, named shows like Lost, Desperate Housewives, Grey's Anatomy and Castle as examples of the properties driving ABC's recent success.

He also argued that while performance was not perhaps matching the level attained five or six years ago, there are reasons for optimism.

"We're currently in the middle of screening pilots and we're excited about the quality and the variety of the shows we're seeing," he said.

"This crop of pilots represents the work of a new management team and we're hopeful these new shows will firmly anchor our primetime schedule in the years ahead."

ESPN led SRG's cable charts, with the Discovery Channel, Food Network, History Channel, USA Network and TNT all proving popular.

Indeed, TNT gained two spots on the overall list, ascending from twelfth to tenth, as the Disney Channel, Lifetime and National Geographic also enjoyed improvements.

For 18–49 year olds, Comedy Central held particular appeal, boosted by offerings such as The Colbert Report and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

Less positively, HBO fell out of the combined top ten, taking thirteenth place.

In a bid to enhance its standing, HBO has focused on series like True Blood, Boardwalk Empire and Game of Thrones, the latter of which secured 8m viewers for its first instalment.

"At HBO, our investments in high-quality content are also paying off," said Jeff Bewkes, ceo of Time Warner, owner of HBO. "HBO now has the strongest slate of programming in its history."

Elsewhere, STG revealed that MTV climbed ten spots and claimed 23rd for the 18–49 year old audience, and eleventh for respondents under 34 years old.

Meanwhile, the Food Network made its debut in the second cohort's top ten.

CNN was the premier news provider for 18–49 year olds, and came in 22nd position across all stations, and Fox News sat just outside the top 30.

Even among "cord cutters", or individuals giving serious thought to ending TV subscriptions in the last six months, ABC recorded the best figures, followed by CBS, Fox and NBC.

Data sourced from Solutions Research Group; additional content by Warc staff