Dumping your favorite TV network might be harder than dumping a long-time boyfriend or girlfriend. Just ask viewer Ciji Linares, who is very attached to her beloved programming choices.
"It would be sad," the 29-year-old Linares says of cutting the television cord. "I would mourn it a bit, but I would feel a loss upon impact."
Linares, a social worker from Alhambra, California, is a fan of NBC for its combination of news and entertainment programming, including shows such as "Dateline NBC" and "The Voice." To her, a day without NBC would be rough.
"I want to be informed and keep up with what's going on in the world," Linares says. "Out of all the mainstream channels, it's the one that's closest to being cable in primetime without being cable."
Linares apparently is not alone. NBC maintained its hold as one of the most popular TV entities favored by American consumers in a recent report by Solutions Research Group Consultants (SRG). In July 2013, the firm's sixth edition of its "Must Keep TV" survey yielded the following top 10 list of brands:
According to SRG, the top four positions were once again held by ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC, with ABC registering an oh-so-slight lead over CBS in 2013. ESPN, once again, held the No. 5 spot for the fifth year in a row, making it the top cable brand for American viewers.
SRG, a Toronto-based consumer research group, based its survey on interviews with 1,400 American consumers ages 12 and up in the spring of 2013. SRG's evaluations, the company says, involved 74 selected network and cable brands.
ESPN's lofty spot in the top 10 doesn't surprise Steven Lopez, a 45-year-old attorney from Pasadena, California. Lopez is a die-hard pro and college football fan who says the sports programming network deserves its high ranking.
"During the football season, there's always a game I want to watch on ESPN," Lopez says. "They have a number of ESPN channels, so it's like throwing a big net out there to get games."
But a year ago, Lopez was faced with a dilemma when his cable subscription rate exceeded his budget.
His solution? Lopez was able to keep ESPN when he switched TV providers and bundled his phone, Internet, and cable services at a lower monthly rate than his previous provider. That way, he avoided having to miss any of his must-see football games.
As a bonus, Lopez added HBO when he upgraded to a premium package. Lopez now gets phone, Internet, and cable service for about $225 a month. He says he used to pay nearly $200 for cable alone.
"I don't watch HBO, but it's nice to have when I have houseguests," Lopez says.
HBO rejoined the "Must Keep TV" top 10 in the No. 8 spot after a two-year absence from the upper echelon, SRG notes. And if you ask HBO fan Jessica Gonzalez, she will tell you the cable network is top-notch in her book. Two of her favorite shows on the network are "Girls" and "True Blood."
"I have HBO and I'm willing to pay extra for it," says Gonzalez, 24, of Temple City, California.
Also among Gonzalez's must-keep TV brands are ESPN and History, No. 6 on the SRG top 10 list.
"I graduated from college as a history major, so History keeps me entertained," Gonzalez says. "It provides knowledge, and I learn something from it every day. I think I get my money's worth."
On the other hand, not all fans of these "Must Keep TV" brands are willing to fork over extra dollars to satisfy their viewing appetites. Sean Ching, of Pasadena, California, says purchasing his favorite brands often means paying for dozens of other networks he doesn't watch.
"I shouldn't have to pay extra for something I don't want," says Ching, a model and martial arts instructor who is in his 30s. "There are like 600-something channels, but the average person only watches five. It's like giving me a pack of 128 crayons, but I might only color with three."
FX Networks ranks as Ching's favorite programming option, though it did not make the "Must Keep TV" top 10. However, SRG reports FX made big gains as a favorite in the 18-34 demographic in 2013.
Kliff Cramer, 32, a bartender from Rancho Cucamonga, California, says he cut the cord - and access to some of his favorite brands - three years ago due to rising cable bills. He now watches free, over-the-air TV.
"It's too expensive," Cramer says of pay television. "I work at a bar where I can watch the games, so why pay $100 a month for them?"
On the other hand, Edna Tomasian, a 28-year-old from Glendale, California, is willing to pay whatever it costs for her favorite brands: Lifetime and MTV.
Though these networks didn't make SRG's top 10 list, Tomasian says they're worth the money.
"I like the movies on Lifetime because they relate to real life," says Tomasian.
And the reason she must have MTV?
"I love all the reality shows like the 'Jersey Shore,' " Tomasian says.
Tomasian says she's fortunate that her parents pay the cable bill, but she would be willing to fork over some of her earnings as a waitress to help keep her favorite brands if it ever came to that point. Her favorite shows, she says, tend to "have a lot of drama in them."
And drama - whether in the form of entertainment, news, or sports - is what helps "Must Keep TV" brands worth keeping.