By Anne Becker -- Broadcasting & Cable, 10/23/2005 8:00:00 PM
EW. Scripps Co. President and CEO Ken Lowe was enthralled by broadcasting when he was growing up in rural North Carolina. As a little boy, he'd stay up late listening to the radio, and, by the time he was 10, he had even built a small radio station of his own that broadcast out a couple of miles.
“I'm afraid the only audience we had was chickens or cows, but some of the neighbors listened,” he jokes. “Television and radio were my window to the world.”
The penchant for radio continued through Lowe's youth. At 15, he got a job as a radio personality at a local radio station. He later majored in radio, television and motion pictures at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where his roommate was weekly top-40 radio host Rick Dees (they're still good friends).
Lowe started his post-college radio career at Southern Broadcasting in 1969 and held several management jobs in radio and television with Harte-Hanks Broadcasting in the late 1970s.
Through radio, which he describes as the “theater of the mind,” Lowe gained an appreciation not only for creating pictures with words but also for targeting very specific audiences as the format evolved to encompass stations playing to fans of every sub-genre.
“Instead of the top-40 formats, you'd have stations that played all contemporary or all jazz,” he says. “I learned firsthand how important targeting was to affinity groups, listeners passionate about a certain type of music.”
That knowledge served him well in understanding how broadcast would spawn hundreds of niche cable networks, each with its own targeted audience of passionate viewers.
Lowe joined Scripps in 1980 as general manager of the company's radio properties and became VP of programming, promotion and marketing for its nine network-affiliated TV stations in 1988.
He rose to chairman and CEO of the Knoxville, Tenn.-based Scripps Networks, leading the company to several big milestones and helping change it dramatically over the past 10 years to a leader in programming on all platforms.
He founded and launched Home & Garden Television (HGTV) in 1994; managed Food Network, in which Scripps owns a majority interest; and oversaw the launch of Do It Yourself (DIY) in September 1999 and Fine Living in March 2002. He also oversaw Scripps' acquisition of the Shop at Home network in late 2002.
Lowe's successes led him to return to Scripps' corporate office in Cincinnati as president, COO and a director of the company in January 2000. In October 2000, he was tapped as president and CEO of The E.W. Scripps Co.
The cable networks are the star of Scripps' portfolio right now. In mid October, the company announced strong third-quarter results: Ad revenues of $163 million were up 27% from the same time last year, while revenue from the affiliates gained 18%.
Synergy among the company's various newspapers, TV and Internet ventures is key, and Lowe, 54, credits his able co-workers with fostering his own success.
“I enjoy running this company,” he says. “It's a magnificent company and family. It's a wonderful mix of businesses, and it's fun to get up every day and come to work.”
Lowe credits former Scripps Howard Broadcasting Co. President Dick Janssen, who first hired him at Scripps, with mentoring him in the business of media. He's focused on continuing to fill Scripps' ranks with bright and creative people, as well as growing the developing networks—DIY, Fine Living and Great American Country (GAC)—and continuing to build Shop at Home into a venue for selling products from each network in Scripps' cable portfolio.
Lowe is also set on staying on the cutting edge by putting resources into new technology: growing the cable networks' individual Web sites, planning broadband launches, and tooling up with recently acquired Internet price-search engine Shopzilla.
“One of the biggest challenges any CEO of a publicly run company faces today is looking out over the future a little and making the right bets,” he says. “The best way to predict the future is to create it.”
For relaxation, Lowe enjoys all things outdoors. He golfs, skis, SCUBA-dives and fly-fishes, and he enjoys soaking up the great outdoors with his wife and two dogs.
He's also vice chair of marketing and a member of the Zoological Society of Cincinnati's board of trustees, as well as a trustee for the Fine Arts Fund; he also serves on the board of directors of Fifth Third Bancorp, the Greater Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce and the Cincinnati Center City Development Corp.
Though he sits on various civic boards, there's a lot of country left in Lowe. Besides mentors in the business, Lowe credits his father, a tobacco farmer by trade, with teaching him “the ethics of living a good life and being a good person.”
“We came from a rural area and a fairly basic lifestyle, but he taught me the value of hard work and keeping your word,” Lowe says. “That's really served me well, especially in rising to become the CEO of a company today.”
Co-workers say Lowe is passing on those values to the Scripps team.
“I've never met a business leader who inspires as Ken does,” says Susan Packard, president, Scripps Networks Affiliate Sales and International Development. “He binds a team together toward a common vision and moves us to do great work. And we have great fun in the process.”
I GREW UP KNOWING KENNY AND EVEN LISTENED TO HIS SMALL RADIO STATION IN WESTFIED NC. KENNY WAS ALWAYS ON THE CUTTING EDGE AND I KNEW HE WOULD BE SUCCESSFUL. I AM VERY PROUD OF HIM AND IT IS NICE TO SEE SOMEONE WITH SUCH GREAT VALUES DO SO WELL. I AM SURE THAT HE TOUCHES MANY LIVES.
YVONNE SLAPPEY - 7/2/2008 1:48:00 PM EDT
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