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Lifestyle programming is attracting live viewers—and that’s attracting sponsors.
At Scripps Networks Interactive, advertisers have attached themselves to big events upcoming on Food Network.
Walmart, Booking.com and Almond Breeze will be integrated sponsors as Iron Chef returns to Food Network as Iron Chef Gauntlet. And Volkswagen, Walmart and Popeye’s will sponsor FoodNetwork Star, which comes back for another season once Iron Chef Gauntlet concludes.
At a time when most ratings are eroding, viewership for lifestyle programming is rising. All six of the Scripps Networks lifestyle channels were up last year. And from the 2010-11 season through 2015-16, Moffett-Nathanson Research noted, lifestyle programming’s share of live cable gross ratings points was up 20%, while general entertainment was down 27%.
Advertisers like live viewing because it provides fewer opportunities to skip commercials than delayed viewing on a DVR.
That lifestyle programming powered Scripps Networks Interactive’s ad revenues to a 10% gain for 2016, beating the industry average of less than 2% by a wide margin. The growth is “a strong testament to Scripps’ continued consistent, high-quality audience delivery,” Sanford Bernstein media analyst Todd Juenger said. He increased his his 2017 ad-growth forecast for the company to a strong 6.5%. By specializing, Scripps Networks has become the leader in the genre, but NBCUniversal with Bravo, A+E Networks with FYI and Discovery with Destination America are also represented in the lifestyle category.
Genre Accentuates the Positive
Lifestyle programming also offers an escape from the negativity that’s been in the air lately, particularly for advertisers trying to reach young families, said Volkswagen of America senior VP of marketing Vinay Shahani. “It’s positive, and finding positive connections is really important,” Shahani said.
Volkswagen also looks for content that matches its target consumers’ interests. “We see cooking come up as a very friendly family activity that tends to overindex with consumers in the active millennial couple stage,” he said. “Cooking is a fun thing these days, and we’re able to tap into that.”
This is the third year VW is sponsoring Food Network Star. Last year’s integration resulted in a 200% increase in purchase consideration for the VW Passat, the model featured in integrations. This season, VW will be promoting its new Atlas seven-seater SUV. “You’re going to see a lot of really cool tie-in with our product and we’ll be leveraging those in a very active way in the show,” Shahani said.
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The theme of the Scripps Networks upfront this year is Environment Matters. “We’re going to be talking about how this environment, the brand and the content and the audience is more engaged in this environment,” Jon Steinlauf, president of ad sales for Scripps Networks, said.
Steinlauf said Scripps is completing a new study that tests engagement across five television genres to see how advertising is received, perceived and acted upon. He hopes Scripps’ lifestyle programming scores high, as it has done in past research.
Advertisers also have their own data sets to tell them which advertising generates a return. “As data becomes more of an everyday factor in the ad market, those with great audiences will grow share. Those without great audiences will lose share,” Steinlauf said. Advertisers who buy targeted audiences also need to focus on the context of what those audiences are watching, or they won’t get the results they expect, he noted.
For advertisers, a major issue is commercial avoidance. Netflix and Amazon have joined HBO and Showtime as places where consumers can view scripted content without seeing commercials. Sports reaches men with live viewing, but it’s expensive, Steinlauf notes. And news content can be controversial. “That leaves us in a very unique place in terms of our share of higher income viewers watching live and watching in the C3 ratings window, particularly on the female side,” he said.
Scripps programming has been successful but there will be some tweaks and specials on display during the upfront.
Food: Going Beyond Competition
“At Food Network, we’re changing the focus a tiny bit, and that to expand beyond competition shows,” Scripps chief content, programming and brand officer Kathleen Finch said. One sleeper show that’s gaining traction on the channels is Ginormous Food, a travelogue about restaurants that serve giant dishes. (A tiny food show is also in the works.)
“You’ll see a lot more titles like that where we’re outside, we’re with real people. It’s like bringing it back to the roots of the Food Network,” Finch said.
Scripps’ Travel Channel will be doubling down on its Chillcation special. “It just proves that people want to sit on the couch and watch things like climbing a glacier or staying in an ice hotel,” Finch said. “Ratings were huge so we’re going to expand it—probably much to our hosts’ disappointment. We’re going to send them back, this time for two episodes instead of one, and do a two-week stunt.”