Upfronts 2009: Scripps Networks Interactive Pitches Snoop Dogg and Cup Cakes

Company maintains programming investment despite recession

Upfronts 2009: Complete Coverage from Broadcasting & Cable

CEO John Lansing may have missed Scripps Networks Interactive presentation due to rainstorms but around 600 ad agency executives turned out in New York this morning to watch a slick one hour presentation on the group's upcoming shows.

Among the programming; a Food Network documentary Chefs in the City, which looks at the indignities faced by personal chefs of the rich and a series, Cup Cake Wars, chronicling store owner battles to become the dominant cupcake purveyor in Los Angeles. In the network's sizzle tape, one character moans, "Sprinkles just want to take-over." Over at DIY Network yet more sizzle with a series called, Man Caves. One episode features hip-hop star Snoop Dogg, who brings in the channel to help him renovate his home.

Scripps, which largely programs aspirational shows has tweaked its approach to stay in touch with the realities of the economy. At HGTV a show, titled Real Estate Intervention helps hapless homeowners recognize the drop in the housing market.

HGTV president Jim Samples said: "We have to find the balance; we are not a news network. We tell stories about the home." He pointed out that many of the viewers of home sales show Househunters were not actively looking to sell their homes.

Scripps Networks Senior-VP ad sales, Jon Steinlauf said the company is out discussing a new form of advertising prompted by advertisers' need to expedite their commercials in tandem with just-in-time buying tactics. The network is offering a 15 second ad format called an ‘intramercial,' which introduces a commercial with graphics and music and is aimed at helping retain viewers through the breaks. The network is in its second year of selling three minute programming blocks called "Short Stories," to advertisers who want to be involved in mini make-overs.

While niche networks such as Scripps are expected to fare well in this upfront, Scripps has signaled the possibility that it will offer less than the standard 50% of its inventory in the market if the pricing isn't there. Steinlauf expects money to move from broadcast to cable. Steinlauf argues that affluent consumers are coming to his networks shopping for more value and now is the time to capture them. He's also seen about a half dozen auto advertisers back in the market this past month. "The autos need to move product and are striving to find an audience in cable that is credit worthy and they're looking at income levels to build their prospects."

DIY netork has the highest median household income of $70,000.
Scripps also said programming investment for the upcoming year is up around 10 percent. 

Like other channels, Scripps is cutting back expenses but has maintained its level of investment in programming. The company produces and owns almost all the content across its networks and has 30,000 episodes of programming in its library. HGTV alone produces some 750 hours of programming a year.