Skip to main content

Dreaming of fine living

Yet another niche network is joining the potpourri of specialty services. But the newest player to join the ranks, Scripps Networks' Fine Living channel, is ditching the how-to instructional model.

"This is entertainment mixed with information. The notion is about pursuing your passions. It's not about buying stuff," said Fine Living President Ken Solomon, a veteran programmer who has worked in top spots at Fox and USA Networks.

But few cable subscribers will be able to test the channel right away. Scripps's newest progeny, is set to launch on selected, but still unnamed, Time Warner Cable digital systems March 17. Solomon is still hammering out deals with other MSOs and satellite providers. He projects that Fine Living will be in 10 million homes by year's end.

The network has solid distribution prospects on digital tiers. Scripps's other recent addition, DIY: Do It Yourself, has sprouted on digital tiers and DirecTV. Analog carriage has been tougher to come by, as Fine Living will soon see.

Its positioning is to show, not tell, viewers about areas of interest like travel, health and design. But Solomon denies that the channel is snobby, despite what the name suggests. "No one is going to mistake this for Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous," he said. One series, Radical Sabbatical, follows people who have abandoned the daily grind for a dream life in, say, Tuscany or Africa. Ride of Your Life
surveys the coolest innovations in transportation.

Fine Living is billing itself as 100% original, launching with 14 series rotated throughout the schedule, but there's a twist.

Sister networks HGTV and Food Network budget $40,000 per 30 minutes of programming. Fine Living's budget is even trimmer. So the new channel is helping itself to Scripps video inventory and taking B-roll footage remixed by new writers and producers to end up with brand-new shows. About 25% of Fine Living's shows will be this revitalized strand.

Another tactic is piggybacking with Food and HGTV crews already going out on location.

Solomon said that Fine Living has already secured about two dozen high-end advertisers—including automakers, financial services and airlines—but would not name names.

Fine Living benefits from a proven corporate parent, says Marc Goldstein, president of media-buying firm Mindshare. "We've bought new ESPN networks and new Turner networks because they are experienced programmers and distributors."

Still, spotty distribution will hold Fine Living back. "They're going after audience they admit is hard to reach" said Horizon Media's head of research Brad Adgate. "It's going to be a concept sell for a while."

To attract advertisers, Fine Living plans to air fewer commercial spots per hour—about 6 minutes compared with an average 14 minutes—but will allow advertisers to break away from the traditional 30-second ad. Instead, they can air two- to five-minute infomercials. "This may be the future of TV advertising," Solomon said. "The 30 second commercial isn't going to be around long."