Ken Lowe10/21/2005 08:00:00 PM Eastern
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
“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
That knowledge served him well in understanding how broadcast would
spawn hundreds of niche cable networks, each with its own targeted audience of
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
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
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
“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
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
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.”