From Brian Stelter of The New York Times
: FOR the upfront
season of advance television advertising
sales, Scripps Networks has something new to share with clients: a
second 24-hour cable channel for food lovers and the advertisers who
Scripps, the owner of the Food Network, plans to turn on the Cooking Channel on Memorial Day,
May 31, this year, enhancing its position in the category of kitchen
programming. Before meetings with advertisers, the company is
announcing half a dozen series for the channel on Friday, including new
ones starring Bobby Flay and Rachael Ray. It might as well be called Food Network, the Sequel.
two years ago, when the company started considering a second culinary
channel, “the advertiser demand for Food was outstripping the audience
growth,” Jon Steinlauf, the senior vice president for ad sales for
Scripps Networks, said this week. “Therefore, creating a second channel
started making more sense.”
The Cooking Channel, which is a
replacement for Fine Living Network, FLN, a low-rated lifestyle
channel, was announced last fall. At that time, Scripps said the
channel would focus on information and instructional programming, much
as the Food Network did before it gravitated toward higher-rated
reality competitions like “The Next Food Network Star.” In recent
months, Scripps has altered its plans for the second channel to include
more entertaining fare.
“We listened to the audience and
realized they weren’t necessarily saying they just wanted more
instruction or more reality or more travel shows. They just wanted
more,” said Michael Smith, the general manager of the Cooking Channel.
craving for food programming is insatiable, Scripps executives like to
say. (They rarely pass up opportunities for food puns; the first press
release for the Cooking Channel said that “the time has come for us to
have our cake and eat it, too.”) The ratings were up markedly for the
Food Network last year, and shows set in kitchens have flourished on
“When you see Fox lining up its third Gordon Ramsay cooking show in prime time, I think food’s arrived as a mainstream genre,” Mr. Steinlauf said.
Scripps wants to capture as much market share as it can. “If there are
1.2 rating points available for food programming, we want to be able to
get the 0.9 on Food and the 0.3 on the Cooking Channel,” he said. “For
this to be a good business for Scripps, we have to be able to grow the
combined audience for these channels.”
Mirrored channels are not unprecedented on cable, where further fragmentation seems certain. ESPN has ESPN2, MTV
has MTV2, and CNN has HLN, formerly called Headline News. Mr. Smith
says he expects the Cooking Channel’s core viewers will be the ones he
calls “hyper-passionate fans” of Food — the recipe bloggers, the Yelp reviewers, the amateur chefs.
“It’s all those people we saw during Cablevision,”
said Cindy McConkey, a Scripps spokeswoman, referring to Scripps’
protracted fight with the cable distributor over higher subscriber fees
for the Food Network. Thousands of fans flooded Cablevision with
complaints when the network was removed from the distributor’s lineup
in January, reinforcing the view that it had amassed a major following.
Will those followers want to watch a second channel?
the Food Network, “there’s a lot of things we just don’t have time to
cover,” Mr. Smith said. As implausible as that may sound, he makes a
strong case for it.
As the Food Network’s ratings have risen, its
definition of success for new shows has changed accordingly, squeezing
out space for niche shows. That is where programmers at the Cooking
Channel say their opportunity lies. The new channel will have room for
programs about alcoholic beverages, brunch, low-calorie eating, and
food history, among other topics. A broad range of instructional shows
during the day will give way to more shows driven by storytelling at
Ms. Ray, the celebrity chef turned talk show host, will
headline “A Week in a Day,” a one-hour show about stocking up on the
week’s meals. Mr. Flay will be the host of a half-hour show, “Brunch
With Bobby.” Emeril Lagasse
will present “Fresh Food Fast,” a show that focuses on organic and
locally grown ingredients. The channel is also importing several hosts
from Food Network Canada, including Chuck Hughes, Roger Mooking and
The Cooking Channel will cross-pollinate some
programming with the Food Network. It is contemplating a postgame show
for “The Next Food Network Star,” and an instructional series, “Cook
Like an Iron Chef.”
Scripps will package the Cooking Channel and the Food Network when it sells upfront ads this spring.
switch from FLN to Cooking, originally planned for the third quarter,
is now timed for Memorial Day, the unofficial start of summer. The
company says it will conduct a marketing campaign for the new channel a
few months after the debut. Already, Scripps is scheduling more food
programming on FLN to better prepare viewers for the switch.
the roughly 40 advertisers that paid in advance for FLN inventory this
season have the option to withdraw their ads from the Cooking Channel,
“no one has said no yet,” said Karen Grinthal, who oversees the food
category of ad sales for Scripps.
Ms. Grinthal said Scripps would
release a “tool kit of solutions” for Cooking Channel advertisers
shortly. It will outline ways to integrate brands within the channel’s
programming: for example, a customized half-hour series called “From
the Kitchens of” featuring an advertiser’s recipes. The series, which
would be produced on a limited basis, would be “in the network’s voice
but with the advertiser very clearly exposed,” Ms. Grinthal said.
much of this comes down to having a brand environment,” Mr. Steinlauf
said. “People habitually go to the destinations rather than the
one-offs. And advertisers like the destinations. They like the comfort
of knowing that their ad schedule will be wrapped up in this food