Scripps: We Fit the Times

Cable TV Upfronts 2009: Complete Coverage From Multichannel News

Scripps Networks officials, heading into upfront presentations with ad buyers, are highlighting their shows’ relevance to viewers in tough economic times.

“Our brands are brands that have longevity, and they are brands that, with our viewers, there’s a real connection,” said senior vice president of ad sales marketing Laura Galietta, explaining the network group’s tagline at the upfronts: “Brands for Life.”

Food Network and DIY are the fastest growing of the five Scripps Networks outlets — the others are HGTV, Fine Living (or FLN) and Great American Country — according to senior vice president of ad sales Jon Steinlauf. “They’re very well-suited to these times because they provide skills for homeowners to help them cook and entertain, do home projects, save money,” he said.

Senior vice president of advertising sales Donna Stephens noted that HGTV president Jim Samples made it a priority to go through the program schedule and remove episodes of shows that made “a little more extravagant” claims, such as how successful certain homeowners were in getting offers when they put their homes up for sale.

“But we also produced a lot of new programming that is relevant,” Stephens said. “Whether you got transferred to a different state and you can’t sell your house, we have shows like The Stagers, to help you sell your house quickly.”

In a mini-preview of the upfronts (which kick off March 25 in Boston), Scripps ad-sales executives also pointed to My First Place, about first-time home buyers, and Property Virgins, an advice show for people in that category, as other HGTV shows that have done well.

In another example of fitting the times, Food Network will highlight Sandra's  Money Saving Meals, in which Sandra Lee shares budget-friendly recipes and clever kitchen tricks for the home cook..

Other shows to get singled out will be HGTV’s Property Shop, Unsellables (about fixing up hard-to-move homes) and Income Property; Food’s Take On Take Out, Fast Five and Chopped,  which challenges four up-and-coming chefs to turn a selection of everyday ingredients into an extraordinary three-course meal; DIY’s Ten Grand in Your Hand, Bathtastic, Kitchen Impossible (with carpenter/electrician Marc Bartolomeo) and King of Dirt; FLN’s Closet Cases, Pack Your Toothbrush and Bartender Wars; and GAC’s Our Song and Backstory.

When the economy turned south in the fourth quarter — triggered largely by problems in the housing industry — HGTV actually was doing well, Stephens said. “Advertisers that had maybe expanded to 14 or 15 networks were now coming back home, putting the bulk of their money where they knew it will have the most relevance for them,” she said. Even tough categories like doors, windows and flooring, were putting money into HGTV, she said.

Overall last year, the Scripps networks saw ad-sales growth of about 9%, while cable networks overall grew an estimated 3% to 4%, Steinlauf said.

“We think that’s a remarkable achievement given the ties we have to the housing industry and to those advertisers,” he said. “So we’re upbeat — there were very good signs in ’08.”

Steinlauf won’t predict how ad sales will go for Scripps in 2009. “We think it’s likely that the cable advertising market will be flat at best,” he said. “But we haven’t lost hope that we can grow.”

Kent Gibbons

Kent has been a journalist, writer and editor at Multichannel News since 1994 and with Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He is a good point of contact for anything editorial at the publications and for Before joining Multichannel News he had been a newspaper reporter with publications including The Washington Times, The Poughkeepsie (N.Y.) Journal and North County News.