Scripps Networks announced plans Monday for the first of several broadband channels to be launched over the next year, each featuring highly specific programming within its existing lifestyle categories for direct delivery to targeted consumers and affinity groups via the Internet. The new content strategy is consistent with the targeted approach that has proven so successful for the Scripps cable networks.
Scripps Networks, which has been at the forefront of providing content for emerging platforms, will introduce two to three broadband channels in 2005 with plans to launch as many as 10 over the next two years.
"With more and more people accessing video through high-speed Internet connections, we see an opportunity to expand our reach by offering new online channels, programmed to targeted niche audiences within the home, food and lifestyle categories," said John Lansing, president of Scripps Networks. "We will be leveraging the power of our lifestyle brands and their popular websites to 'super serve' audiences with specific passions related to our cable networks. For instance, under HGTV.com we are developing a specific broadband channel programmed to be a deep and rich resource on developments in kitchen design as our first entry into this business."
"While viewers of most networks watch traditional entertainment channels, our viewers tend to lean in and use our networks," Lansing added. "That's an important distinction that has led to high traffic on our websites and ultimately, we think, will help extend the consumer experience with Scripps Networks' brands into an even deeper, more interactive relationship through our broadband channels."
Lansing said the recent explosion of broadband now in more than 40 million households with annual viewing of video streams surpassing eight billion, according to AccuStream iMediaResearch makes this the right time for Scripps to launch this new business. In addition to distributing its branded broadband content through MSN Video and Comcast.net, Scripps Networks also has seen significant growth in broadband viewing on its own websites which collectively are viewed by 12 million unique visitors on average each month. Scripps Networks currently is delivering more than seven million video streams per month on its websites compared with only one million per month in 2004.
To support the aggressive rollout of the vertical broadband channels, the company recently reorganized its Emerging Media group. The broadband initiative was placed under the direction of Burton Jablin, president of HGTV who recently was named executive vice president overseeing the broader content strategy for Scripps Networks. Peter Clem shifted from Scripps Productions, where he was a leading producer, to serve as vice president for broadband programming and production.
The first of these highly targeted broadband channels to be developed by Scripps will center around kitchen design, an area that has demonstrated a high degree of interest on HGTV.com and DIYnetwork.com. The second broadband vertical will be project- or hobby-related, while the third is likely to be related to food.
Jablin said the broadband channels will combine high-quality video with interactive space planners, 3-D graphics packages and other tools to create a richness of content and depth of information currently not available on topics such as kitchen remodeling, crafting, woodworking, gardening and more.
"On the one hand, we see these broadband verticals as a means for solidifying our relationship with our core viewers, who have come to trust us as the resource for everything having to do with home, food and every day living," Jablin said. "When they aren't getting ideas and inspiration by watching our networks, they will be digging for the details on our broadband channels."
Jablin also sees the broadband channels as an opportunity to extend the Scripps brands and attract new viewers to the networks.
The broadband initiative will be supported by advertising. Several national advertisers including GMC, LendingTree and Whirlpool already have made placements related to broadband programming on Scripps websites.
"When you consider the targeted audience our broadband channels will reach, this becomes a very efficient, very effective advertising option for our clients," Jablin said.
Scripps also will explore a subscriber-based business model as a long-range strategy, Jablin added.
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