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Scripps Rebranding Fine Living Into Cooking Channel

Scripps Networks Interactive is looking to give viewers even more food genre sustenance, as it will rebrand Fine Living Network into the Cooking Channel next year.

The conversion of the 55-million subscriber Fine Living Network is slated to take place in the third quarter of 2010 and will complement Scripps's Food Network in serving up what the programmer hopes will be a category-killing combo.

The move can be construed as much as a defensive play as an offensive gambit, given the success other networks like Bravo, with its Top Chef franchise, and Travel Channel, with Man v. Food, have grilled up.

Scripps also likes the complementary network approach, feeling it has worked well with HGTV and DIY.

Ironically, the announcement comes shortly after publisher Conde Nast opted to close venerable food magazine Gourmet, favoring newer title Bon Appetit instead.

Featuring both new talent and Food Network personalities, the new Cooking Channel will provide avid food lovers with 24-hour multiplatform menu of food information and instructional cooking programming. It will be presented in both standard- and high-definition formats, flanked by video-on-demand fare, as well as fully interactive Internet and broadband components.

The network will deliver more content focused on baking, ethnic cuisine, wine and spirits, healthy and vegetarian cooking and kids foods.

FLN general manager Chad Youngblood, who since 2005 has been repositioning the channel as a younger, but still upscale network with a pop-culture bent (sort of a mini Bravo) under the tagline "Entertainment You Can Use," is expected to stay with the network through its transition next year.

In the past year, FLN acquisitions have included the Martha Stewart parody show Whatever, Martha!, starring the domestic doyenne's daughter Alexis; NBC's weight-loss competition The Biggest Loser and former Bravo hit Queer Eye. This past spring it added several new originals including dating show Wingman. Other mainstays include fashion makeover show Closet Cases! with Lloyd Boston. 

Cooking Channel will operate out of Scripps Networks studios in New York City's food-centric Chelsea Market. The company expects to name a programming executive to focus exclusively on the network by year-end.

The primetime lineup is expected to feature original new shows hosted by new talent, as well as some of the most familiar faces in the food genre. Daytime programming will strike a balance between new cooking shows with food-oriented content from the extensive Scripps Networks library.

More than 30% of FLN's lineup is food or cooking related, according to Scripps, with such notable series as Emeril and recently acquired drinking travelogue Three Sheets.

Scripps has been in discussions with its distribution partners since summer about the rebranding and has been encouraged by carriers' receptivity to the conversion, according to officials.

"We've seen an explosion of interest in food and cooking in America," Kenneth Lowe, chairman, president and CEO of Scripps Networks Interactive, said in a release announcing the Cooking Channel. "Food, as a television programming category, has grown significantly, creating a highly promising business opportunity for new programming and related ventures that will, in effect, super-serve the vast number of media consumers who are passionate about food and cooking."

Lowe noted that Food Network doesn't have enough room on its plate to sate the "tremendous interest and growth in this programming genre, appealing to general entertainment fans while continuing to serve cooking and food lovers. But, with only 24 hours in a day, we aren't taking advantage of the market's full potential. We see considerably more consumer demand for food programming that we believe the Cooking Channel will fulfill."