Scripps Networks COO Talks Digital Growth, Skinny Bundles and Ending Netflix Deal

Dan and Natalie Watson/Courtesy of Scripps Networks
Burton Jablin

"We stepped on the gas a year ago," Burton Jablin said of launching Scripps Lifestyle Studios to create digital content for Snapchat and Facebook.

Scripps Networks Interactive on Tuesday said it's making progress targeting millennials on Snapchat and Facebook with short-form video content.

"We've had a concerted effort over the last year to really ramp up our production and dissemination of short-form content. We realized we were a little behind there," Scripps COO Burton Jablin told a webcast UBS Global Media and Communications Conference presentation.

The digital content has come from the newly launched Scripps Lifestyle Studios unit, producing branded content to distribute digitally. Jablin said Scripps in the fourth quarter of 2015 generated around 250 million to 300 million views for its digital content, and in the same period of 2016 nabbed over 2 billion views.

"We stepped on the gas a year ago. We are now highly competitive in the digital space on the food side, and we're ramping up in home and travel," he added. Scripps, best known for its HGTV, Food Network and Travel Channel brands, is also not worried about the emergence of the skinny bundle, given the content and channel brands it offers distributors.

"We already pretty much are a skinny bundle. We have only six networks ... So, for us, the risk of not being included in bundles is much less because we're not fat to begin with," Jablin argued. The Knoxville, Tenn.-based media company is also giving a lot of love these days to the Food Network, the one brand among its half-dozen not to show ratings growth in 2017.

Jablin said Food Network relied for too long on hit shows like Diners, Drive Ins and Dives and Chopped, without doing enough to refresh the schedule with new on-air stars and concepts. The solution: launch new series like 12 Hungry Yelpers and Ginormous Food, see what works and build out in 2017.

Jablin also told investors that Scripps will not retreat on its decision to discontinue its Netflix licensing deal beyond 2016. "We wanted to experiment with that, and we did. But we can better monetize and make use of our content through our own products and services and the pay TV infrastructure," he said.

Jablin also noted Netflix has gone from being a distributor to now operating as a TV programmer, and so competing against Scripps. "When they start behaving like a competitor network, we would no sooner license content to them than we would to Discovery or any other competitor," he said.

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