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Food Network Seeing Huge Growth From Web Offerings

Revamped Content Offerings, Portal-Like Presence Is Luring Marketer Dollars

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- What's the secret ingredient to finding double-digit revenue increases in an almost universally brutal first quarter for media companies? In the case of Food Network, guacamole.

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The Scripps Interactive cable network saw a 44% spike in online ad revenue from food marketers in January, thanks in large part to viewers flocking to FoodNetwork.com and Recipezaar to find recipes for the Super Bowl staple.

"Being in tune with the consumer palette allows us to think smartly about what people are thinking about on a day-to-day, week-to-week basis," said Deanna Brown, president of Scripps Networks Interactive.

Since July 2007, FoodNetwork.com has grown by more than 3 million unique users to 11.3 million monthly in January 2009, according to ComScore. That's largely thanks to a revamped content offering that's equal parts Food Network programming and portal site for recipes and food facts.

Beating the spread
Yet monetizing the expanding audience has become the proof in Food Network's pudding. Jon Steinlauf, senior VP-ad sales for Scripps Networks Interactive, said Food Network's online properties account for 7% to 8% of its annual revenue, a ratio that far outpaces many of its cable counterparts.

Walmart, one of the Food Network's biggest retail clients, is one marketer that's already looking to the web as a separate destination for spending its media dollars. "There's a challenge we've seen with other cable networks in that they might have a great program on-air, but their site is not as robust," said Stephanie Prager, associate digital director for Walmart at MediaVest, its media agency.

FoodNetwork.com is also being used as a launch pad for TV programming. Dear Food Network, a popular web feature that allows viewers to ask celebrity chefs for cooking tips, recently became a recurring TV show of the same name, and Walmart signed up as the show's first convergent sponsor for TV and online.

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