Scripps Networks Focused on Growing Niche Channels

The company will continue to build up original content at Travel Channel, Cooking Channel and GAC, while proceeding cautiously with streaming deals.

NEW YORK – Scripps Networks Interactive if focused on growing its portfolio of niche destinations which include GAC (Great American Country), DIY, Cooking Channel and Travel Channel as well as flagship networks Food Network and HGTV.

Speaking Wednesday at the UBS Global Media and Communications Conference in New York, Scripps chairman, president and CEO Kenneth W. Lowe said that the company is focused on investing in original content and will look to further expand internationally as it did with the launch of the Food Network in the UK (in 2009) and Asia (last year).

Scripps has beefed up the original programming on GAC as it works to make the network less reliant on country music videos and launch a slate of original programming that can be exploited on multiple distribution platforms.

The company acquired a 65 percent interest in Travel in 2009 and still putting its stamp on the channel. Last month Travel announced a robust slate of original programming for 2012 with eight original series including programs featuring the Miami International Airport, hotel fixer Anthony Melchiorri and the auction specialists who unload lost luggage and multiple additional series in development.

Lowe characterized Scripps’ stewardship of Travel as “a good start.”

“We’ve [taken] a very consistent, thoughtful approach. You’ll see us staying very much on brand. Going into 2012, I don’t think I’ve been this excited about a new network in quite a while. This is a network that could easily be right up there with Food and [HGTV] in a few years.”

Scripps will also look to buy out the minority stakeholders of many of its channels, said Lori A. Hickok, executive vp of finance, including the 31 percent minority interest in Food Network held by Tribune, which is currently mired in bankruptcy.

And it will continue to explore streaming deals with content distributors including Hulu and Netflix, though not an exclusive basis.

"We want to be very careful there," said Hickok. "There are other potential partners (besides Netflix). We are looking at what we can do with (our) content."

"I don't think those quote unquote opportunities are going away," added Lowe.

Hickok was rather bullish on Scripps' ad revenue forecast, though analysts have predicted a gloomy fourth quarter with some single digit declines.

"We are cautiously optimistic," said Hickok. "Right now everything is looking really good as we move into (fourth quarter) and (first quarter 2012). But our crystal ball is not any better than anyone else's."

Scripps will also look to increase subscriber fees from carriers; many of Scripps' distribution contracts expire in 2012 and 2013.

"We really don't think we're fully monetized  and compensated for (HGTV) and Food," said Hickok.

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