Fine Living Needs New Chief

After getting Fine Living off the ground and taking it to 23 million subscribers, founding president Ken Solomon is leaving to pursue new opportunities, officials said last week.

TV-industry veteran Solomon will be taking a Radical Sabbaticalof his own. He joined Scripps Networks in February 2001 to assemble a management team and develop Fine Living, a luxury lifestyle network. The service debuted March 17, 2002.

John MacDonald, Fine Living’s senior vice president of programming and network strategy, will serve as the network’s acting general manager following Solomon’s resignation.

“Scripps is great,” Solomon said. “It’s all been positive. This thing is a grand slam. This is the perfect time for me to do this.”

Most recently, Solomon was a candidate to replace Mindy Herman as CEO of E! Entertainment Television.

The job ultimately went to Ted Harbert, the ex-chairman of ABC Entertainment, but Solomon has been approached about a variety of other opportunities, some of them entrepreneurial pursuits. But he didn’t want to explore them while still in charge of Fine Living.

“There are so many great ideas still to be done,” said Solomon, a former president of Universal Studios/Studios USA Television, an initial co-head of DreamWorks TV and an ex-distribution chief for the Fox broadcast network.

When Scripps’ plans for Fine Living were first unveiled, naysayers questioned how another cable startup would be able to get traction.

“When we made the announcement, 'We’re going to launch a new network,’ the reaction was just, 'Come on,’ ” Solomon recalled.

Scripps has commitments for Fine Living with cable and direct-broadcast satellite providers covering 73% of cable homes. The network has won more than 40 creative honors for its long and short-form programming, along with its look and viewing format.

“In what has been arguably one of the most difficult periods in history to launch a new network, Ken’s entrepreneurial drive, strong vision and management skills proved the ideal combination for developing a fourth, powerful TV brand for Scripps Networks,” Ken Lowe, president of E.W. Scripps Co., said in a statement.

“Ken’s unique experience and ability have helped Fine Living surpass our every expectation.”