Scripps Networks Interactive CEO: Travel Channel Growth Is Priority

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Ken Lowe

Exec Ken Lowe also outlined plans for international expansion and new online programming

Scripps Networks Interactive CEO Ken Lowe called the company's Travel Channel "a work in progress" and said its growth, especially among women, is one of his top priorities.

"We're really going out of the Scripps playbook where it's more about catering to an upscale audience," Lowe said Thursday at the 23rd Annual Goldman Sachs Communacopia Conference in New York. "Just over the past year we've seen median income levels go up almost to double digits...that continues to be our top priority."

He said he's "very excited about" new online programming coming in October through the first quarter.

Lowe also named international expansion among his priorities. Today, about 15 percent of the company's revenue comes from foreign markets, and executive vp finance Lori Hickok, also at the conference, said she'd like to grow that to between 25 and 30 percent over the next five years.

Lowe said Scripps owns 98 percent of its programming and more shortform content for digital distribution is to be expected.

While he acknowledged a down upfronts season, he said Scripps still sold $1 billion in advertising for the third year straight. He said half of the company's ad inventory was sold, by design, and that he's "cautiously optimistic" about the scatter market.

"What helps us is to be able to take national brands, like an HGTV let's say, and localize it for a Home Depot or Lowes," he said. "We consistently are at the top of the peer group when it comes to year-over-year percentage increase in advertising. We deliver a high-quality audience, an engaged audience, an audience that, if you will, rings the cash register."

The "Holy Grail" going forward, he said, is "quality measurement." 

So-called C7, whereby viewership is measured seven days after a show first airs, "doesn't work for everybody," he said. "If you've got a Labor Day special you don't want your commercial airing seven days from now, you want them airing this weekend."

He said that 93 percent of the viewing on Scripps' channels happens in the C3 window, nearly as high as sports and news. 

"Part of that is the fact that we're viewed for long periods of time and people tend to watch brand from show to show as opposed to just individual shows," he said. "They leave the Food Network on, they leave HGTV on. They're more engaged with the commercials because they don't necessarily view them as interruptions. In some cases, our research shows, they view them as additional information."

Lowe said one of his ad executives coined the term "C-zero" at the recent upfronts, a stark contrast to CBS CEO Les Moonves who, at the same conference Wednesday, used the term "C-infinity" to express his opinion that advertisers should pay at least some fee for reaching audiences no matter how a show is viewed. "Overnight ratings are virtually irrelevant now," Moonves said Wednesday.  

Sept. 12, 9:55 a.m. An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported that Scripps would like to grow international revenue to 25 to 30 percent within the next 12 months. THR regrets the error.