The Date: April 8, 2008
The Venue: Cipriani 42nd Street, New York
Key Execs: Ken Lowe, president-CEO Scripps Networks; Jon Steinlauf, senior VP-ad sales, Scripps Networks; Donna Stephens, senior VP-ad sales, HGTV, DIY and GAC; Karen Grinthal, senior VP-ad sales, Food Network and Fine Living; Deanna Brown, president-Scripps Networks Interactive; Jeff Meyer, senior VP-interactive sales, Scripps Networks
The Food: As befits the home of Food Network, a surprisingly vast array of bite-sized gourmet breakfast selections, like mini Eggs Florentine and frittatas. There were also donuts, fruit and yogurt for the less sophisticated palette.
The Drinks: Coffee and tea galore, to prop up the dozens of junior buyers who attended the early-morning presentation.
The Swag: A trio of delectable Black Forest pecan cookies from the Food Network kitchen, plus an interactive media kit where buyers could redeem a code for a free gift online.
The Pitch: Scripps is positioning itself as a scaleable home to niche programming both on TV and online, and is finding increasing synergy points along the way. Its flagship brands Food Network and HGTV are both rolling out shows that began as web site features and expanded to their own series.
HGTV, for instance, has "Rate My Space," which began as a popular section on HGTV.com and evolved into a series where homeowners turn a low-rated room into a four-star room based on viewer suggestions. Similarly, Food Network is turning its "Dear Food Network" feature from the web into its own show where viewers can ask for help with preparing big meals like Thanksgiving dinner and even get a chance at an on-air spot.
On-air, integrations and commercial engagement initiatives will continue to be major parts of the Scripps strategy. The networks' commercial vignettes, called Short Stories, have already attracted the likes of La-Z Boy, Denny's and Dodge Caravan, the latter of which bought time on all five Scripps networks to tell its Short Story. Scripps is also developing more cross-platform partnerships with movie, retail and restaurant partners and promoting them on-air. Last year, Food Network partnered with Disney's "Ratatouille" for an in-movie integration, and has also teamed up with Wal-Mart for a customized in-store magazine. And last month, the network struck a deal with T.G.I. Friday's that awarded the winner of "Ultimate Recipe Showdown" the chance to have their dish join the Friday's menu, with prominent in-show integration for the national restaurant chain as well.
But Scripps' flagship network is also feeling the sting of competition from high-rated food series on other networks, which will be addressed by new shows like "Chopped" (a "Top Chef"-esque competition series with four chefs instead of 12) and "Eat the Clock." It will even take a step toward Discovery territory with the tentatively titled "Food Sleuths," which will explore some of food's oldest urban legends, like the digestion of gum and the "five second" rule.
Food Network President Brooke Johnson said of her 2008-09 plans: "We want to build on our momentum in primetime, continue to build legs to online and create more partnerships with our ad clients. When you have something like T.G.I. Friday's and the 'Ultimate Recipe Showdown,' it helps promote the show by buying this big companion piece."
Last Year's Take: Four of the five Scripps Networks -- Food, HGTV, GAC and DIY -- brought in combined revenues of more than $1 billion for Scripps in 2007, with HGTV ($557.3 million) and Food ($480.8 million) being the biggest moneymakers, according to TNS Media Intelligence.
The Ratings Game: HGTV just recorded its highest volume of women 18 to 49 in primetime, as did Food, which celebrated its highest-rated first quarter in the demo, along with a median age of 45, its lowest to date. DIY just earned Nielsen ratings last year, and is faring best with adults 25 to 54 with shows like "Blog Cabin, "Rate My Space" and "Cool Tools." Fine Living will be Nielsen-rated beginning first-quarter 2009.
The Digital Play: Scripps Interactive's suite of sites, which includes FoodNetwork.com, HGTV.com and the new FrontDoor.com, a real-estate site that launched in December, reached a combined 25 million monthly uniques last month, with FoodNetwork.com posting its highest month of traffic ever in December. Online traffic has also been a major boon for the two brands, with FoodNetwork.com the top-trafficked site in the online food category and HGTV.com the fourth in the home space, according to ComScore.
A series of acquisitions and new products in the last year is helping to build that reach, too. Food Network snapped up Pickle and Recipezaar to make its recipe database the most extensive on the web, while Scripps Interactive head Deanna Brown started up FrontDoor.com in December to serve as a companion real-estate listings site to HGTV.com. Now that the Scripps Interactive sites reach a cumulative 25 million monthly uniques, Ms. Brown has plans to syndicate Scripps content to social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace as well as reinvent its existing relationships with Yahoo and Microsoft.
"We're really starting to explore how our brands look on other people's platforms. It's about, how do you take the 800-pound gorilla and make it bigger?" Ms. Brown told Ad Age of her strategy.