Exclusive: Scripps Stars to Tout Disney In 'Best Places' Special

A show all about Disney vacations, sponsored by Disney, will air in primetime next month-but not on the Disney Channel, or any other network owned by the Walt Disney Co.

Best Places I've Ever Been: Disney Memories will premiere Feb. 12 at 8 p.m. on Travel Channel, acquired from Cox Communications by Scripps Networks Interactive in 2009. For the first time ever, a Scripps show will feature hosts from all six of the company's cable networks. Each of them will talk about their favorite Disney travel memories, both during the program and in individual promos for the show that will appear on their respective networks.

Food Network's Melissa d'Arabian recalls the day her 4-year-old daughter saw Cinderella's Castle, and DIY's Matt Blashaw talks about his honeymoon on a Disney cruise. Also participating are HGTV's David Bromstad, GAC's Nan Kelly, Cooking Channel's Roger Mooking and Travel's Samantha Brown. Each promo notes the special is sponsored by Disney Parks.

Best Places was dreamed up by Travel Channel's advertising staff and was part of an overall upfront deal between Scripps Networks and Disney, says Greg Regis, senior VP for ad sales at Travel Channel. But the show was produced under the supervision of the Travel Channel programming team. Disney has taken all of the commercial time in the show.

Scripps Networks has rules about keeping programming and advertising distinct. But it is also known for producing vignettes that link a show to a sponsor, as well as a number of what the company calls "custom on-brand specials," or shows built around an advertiser. "This flowered into a primetime special, and it's a real show," Regis says, adding that Best Places will not contain a heavy- handed sales pitch. "I think in the long run, [clients] realize the inherent value in not pissing your viewers off and not trying to fool them."

Also helping is that the format is not dissimilar to Best Thing I Ever Ate, which airs on Scripps' Food Network. Travel also is working on a show in which people talk about great things they have done or great places they've been.

Regis could not put a price tag on how much the show cost; Disney will be paying production costs. For the hosts, Best Places is part of the promotional activity they are required to do under their contracts with Scripps. The rest of the commercial time is baked into the larger upfront deal. "[Disney has] a relationship that's pretty deep, and so this is in keeping with the upfront commitment. . . the premium is built into their upfront commitment," Regis says.

According to Kantar Media, Disney spent nearly $20 million on advertising with Scripps Networks in 2009 and was slightly ahead of that pace for 2010.

The show also is a good fit with Disney's "Let the Memories Begin" slogan for both its theme parks and cruise ships. Disney gets testimonials from Scripps hosts, who "bring their integrity and authority to the project," Regis notes. At the same time, those hosts are sharing personal moments, often involving their families. "That's pretty cool, to further the relationship with our talent and the viewers," he says.

Jon Lafayette

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.