Scripps in the Niche

Dec 5, 2005  •  Post A Comment

Marking the start of its strategy for broadband delivery of new niche channels, Scripps Networks will launch the first of a half-dozen or so broadband networks when it fires up HGTVkitchendesign.com Dec. 15.

The network announced earlier this year its intent to build several broadband verticals on various niche lifestyle topics, but did not reveal any details. Now, as the first launch date nears, the network said it plans to go live with 200 videos and will program the new-style channel every day, essentially serving up those videos in various packages daily. On-air and online marketing follows the December soft launch in January. Scripps is launching the channel with six charter advertisers on board that are endemic to the kitchen category: Kohler, Moen, Viking, Dupont, Whirlpool and Sherwin Williams.

“Think of this as an on-demand service delivered via the Internet,” said John Lansing, president of Scripps Networks. “This is our first version of taking a video channel to a new distribution system.”

The kitchen design channel is the first step in the content company’s strategy to seed new channels not as traditional linear networks, but to craft them for new distribution platforms that are both emerging and maturing today. “We really see the growth of new categories using the Internet as a video delivery system. It’s the first of new channels that are interactive, but it’s ultimately a video site programmed like you would program any other channel,” he said. “We have to think about broadband as a serious delivery system for video programming in the future.”

Luring New Customers

Additional lifestyle networks scheduled for broadband launches next year include ones targeted at gardening and woodworking enthusiasts.

Mr. Lansing acknowledged that there are inherent risks in the broadband strategy, namely upsetting the cable and satellite distributors on whom Scripps’ four lifestyle networks-Food Network, HGTV, Fine Living and DIY-have built their reach. In an attempt to offset the risk, Mr. Lansing said Scripps plans to work with its cable partners to provide broadband video content for their Internet portals. He also believes the new broadband networks can indirectly boost broadband subscriptions because they represent yet another source of online video to lure new customers.

The marketing campaign for the kitchen design channel will consist of paid keyword searches on Google and Yahoo for “kitchen design,” and Scripps will cross-promote the kitchen channel on-air by tying in mentions at appropriate points in shows, such as when a couple is contemplating the kitchen in a home they might buy on HGTV’s “House Hunters.”

The six charter advertisers will have full schedules in various ad forms-traditional 15- and 30-second spots within the videos, banner ads and integration into the new centerpiece of the channel, an interactive kitchen planner, said Jeff Meyer, senior VP of interactive sales at Scripps. Visitors can use the planner to test kitchen design elements. They can check out new cabinets, change the color palette or move an island around. They can also store the plans in a folder on the site and e-mail them to a contractor or a friend. Mr. Meyer said he’s also talking to advertisers about creating long-form videos early next year in their content categories.

The broadband channels should give Scripps even more flexibility in the packages it can offer to advertisers, since they represent another specialized opportunity to reach a targeted audience, said T.S. Kelly, VP and director of research and insight for Media Contacts, the interactive arm of MPG, a unit of Havas. He added that Scripps has been progressive among cable networks, having offered video on its various Web sites for some time now.

Scripps has done well recently with its broadband approach. It launched a Web series “Eat This With Dave Lieberman” on FoodNetwork.com Nov. 21 and set an all-time traffic record for the entire site with 15.5 million page views. That record was topped the next day with more than 16.5 million page views from nearly 800,000 unique visitors. Those views were likely generated from both the series and interest in Thanksgiving recipes.