Fine Living’s Fast Start

Mar 17, 2003  •  Post A Comment

Despite a difficult advertising and economic environment, the Fine Living Network has gotten off to a faster start than expected in its first 12 months, putting it on track to reach 20 million viewers by the end of this year.
Now the Scripps Howard-owned cable and satellite network is rolling out several new series and specials, including a pair of shows for wine lovers: The Wine Show, hosted by Master Sommelier Andrea Immer, debuting in June, and a new show from Napa Mavericks host Michael Chiarello.
It is also expanding short-form series with the additions of Lost in Italy, Gold Architects: Local Knowledge and a series of one-hour specials, Fantasy Camp, which examines the popularity of adult camps..
All of these series and specials are designed to serve the network’s self-branding motto: “Live like you mean it.” In an era when reality shows tend to mean getting normal people to participate in complex and sometimes humiliating acts, Fine Living focuses its programming on simplicity, according to network President Ken Solomon.
“A lot of cable networks are becoming more and more about general entertainment and I think maybe some have lost their way,” he said. “We find ourselves in a position of finding a form of true reality that hits home with our audiences and that has left us sitting on a library of thousands of episodes.”
It’s not only audiences that are starting to take note. Advertisers have swelled from a dozen at the cable’s launch to more than 70, including most of the automakers. In January, the network garnered more than $1 million in upfront sales for the coming year, considered very positive for a start-up network.
“Advertisers realize that we are successful because people are finally taking the time to enjoy themselves and realizing that life’s too short to be working all the time,” Mr. Solomon said.
With Fine Living airing in DirecTV’s 10.5 million homes as well as a number of local cable platforms, the channel is currently in almost 14 million homes, significantly higher than the projection in the network’s business plan of 8 million.
“We are very pleased, flattered and thankful with the widespread support we are receiving at all levels of the industry for Fine Living only one year after its launch,” said John Baird, senior VP of affiliate sales at Scripps Networks. “I believe it speaks volumes about what happens when you deliver an original concept with 100 percent original programming. We remain on track to meet or break our goal of 20 million subscribers by the end of the year.”
Fine Living is the latest cable channel from the E.W. Scripps Co. of Cincinnati, which also operates 21 newspapers, 10 TV stations, the Shop At Home network, United Media, a news service and three other cable networks-HGTV, Food and DIY. Fine Living already has 35 series and 52 specials in its library.
It rolls out new shows at various times. This year it launched Sheila Bridges: Designer Living, Tricks of the Trade and Smart Travels With Rudy Maxa, which joined shows like Radical Sabbatical and Your Private Island.
Fine Living has also sold itself as advertiser friendly, and a place to tie in with programming outside of the normal commercial clutter. Program sponsorships have been reincorporated into each of the channel’s shows, with advertising options ranging from logos on opening and closing credits to minute segments known as “take-aways” that offer information to the viewer relevant to the episode.
“Fine Living is a phenomenal example of a cable net that is performing beyond what industry watchers would have expected, especially from an ad sales perspective,” said Steve Gigliotti, senior VP of advertising sales at Scripps Networks. “When other networks were wondering how to keep the lights on, Fine Living has been able to aggressively grow its advertiser base. It’s a testament to the quality programming, the innovative advertising opportunities and the ability of our clients to see the potential.”
Many advertisers seem to agree. Chuck Bachrach, executive VP of media resources and programming at Rubin Postaer and Associates, whose accounts include Honda, noted that Fine Living surprised him with the strategy for its first year.
“The ability to create one of those program modules has helped the channel stand out with both advertisers and audiences because it is so focused,” he said. “For Scripps to come along and make a dent so quickly is a testament to what we can expect from Fine Living in the future. Advertisers can make a pretty good deal right now to protect themselves in the future as the channel grows. This is an opportunity for advertisers in the upscale category to target a very select audience, one that is willing to come into the stores and showrooms.”