Emerging Cable Nets: Taking It to the Next Level

Apr 3, 2006  •  Post A Comment

Scripps Networks’ Bob Baskerville has been with the media company for 12 years, long enough to witness the launch of HGTV in 1994, DIY Network in 1999 and Fine Living in 2002. While HGTV is of course a fully penetrated network, both DIY and Fine Living have now passed 36 million homes, well on their way to shedding their “emerging network” monikers.

But the landscape for an emerging network today is vastly different. “If we had to launch Fine Living or DIY today it would be a major challenge,” said Mr. Baskerville, president of emerging networks at Scripps. “The paradigm has shifted so much with what media consumption is all about. We talked multiplatform now for years and you see it really bearing itself out. It almost feels like the TV network is one of the smaller ingredients in the mix.”

Times have indeed changed since the two Scripps “digi-nets” entered the linear world a few years back. But their success stories contain lessons for networks launching today.

Getting carriage for DIY and Fine Living wasn’t a walk in the park, Mr. Baskerville said, and Scripps had to work to convince advertisers of the value proposition. So the company relied on street cred. “The thing we said is a differentiator is we have followed the path HGTV and Food [Network] have. Almost all our content is original,” he said.

More than 90 percent of the content on DIY and Fine Living is original. “It helps our position when we are selling to advertisers and MSOs,” he said. “When you are talking to major distribution partners and clients, the ability to say, ‘Look at our track record with HGTV and Food,’ helps. And we will do something similar with DIY. It won’t be the network that consists of nothing but reruns.”

More recently Scripps has been aggressive in offering content for VOD for its networks, a value-added service for distributors, he said.

Room to Grow

In the fourth quarter, DIY will reach an important milestone for a growing network when it becomes rated by Nielsen. “That’s significant because we have had great support from our ad partners and they have had a lot of faith in what we are doing. We need to offer that to our advertisers because they have believed in us from the beginning,” Mr. Baskerville said.

DIY and Fine Living still have room to grow, he said: “We think, minimally, 50 million homes is a reasonable goal for us over the next few years.”

Today, Scripps Network is launching new networks as broadband channels. While the media company would be unlikely to even consider a kitchen design channel or a bath channel-two of its broadband niche networks-for full-scale linear launches, broadband video has evolved to the point where it has become the medium for many new channel launches.

“The fact that we are rolling out broadband channels is a recognition of the changing times,” Mr. Baskerville said. “We would have to think long and hard if we were to do an entirely new category. If you aren’t well-funded, [even if you] have a category killer, it’s a tough fight today.”

Quick Tip for New Networks

While both DIY and Fine Living are showing positive cash flow, their transition to profitability did not occur overnight, said Bob Baskerville, president of emerging networks for Scripps Networks. “Make sure you have an ownership base that has deep pockets,” he cautioned. “What helped Scripps through all this is we had a parent company like E.W. Scripps that understood what kind of time frame [it took] to create a valuable commodity.”