The sites, including CBS, ABC, Discovery Channel, and FOX, were ranked highest in almost all usability metrics, while online video streaming sites Hulu and YouTube ranked close to the bottom of the pack.
The research is based on Change Sciences' Experience Cloud platform, which compares how people experience sites with competitors and with the best sites on the Web.
Among the attributes of Web sites measured was how easy it is to find a full episode of a show. People were able to complete this task at significantly higher rates on network sites. For example, they were 23 percent more likely to be successful finding a full episode for a show using CBS.com than using Hulu.com.
In addition to ranking lower on objective scores like success rate, people reported feeling 27 percent less happy after using Hulu compared to the user ratings for happiness on top sites.
"It would be natural to assume that the sites designed solely for the purpose of streaming TV episodes would outperform the network TV sites, but this isn't what we found,” said Pamela Pavliscak, a Change Sciences founder. “The activity that people want to do on TV sites most is watch full episodes of shows. The sites that made this easiest were ranked best for engagement and conversion too."
There is room for network sites to improve, the research found. Improvements in support for finding out about new shows, when a show is scheduled and when a new season is starting are needed.
According to Change Sciences, its Experience Cloud platform used for the research makes it possible to identify high-performance design patterns and measures Web sites more accurately than traditional surveys since it captures what people do while using sites, not just what they say.