Viewing the good life

Ken Solomon to run new lifestyle network and seek analog distribution

Veteran TV executive Ken Solomon sold syndicated shows and then datacasting. Now, he'll sell cable as the former DreamWorks TV and Universal TV president is joining Scripps Networks to head up the companies' latest venture, Fine Living.

Solomon, who is leaving his post as president of digital content distributor iBlast Networks, takes over the helm at the new network, set to debut later this year. Fine Living aims its programming at upscale viewers seeking top notch products and vacations, and here's the tricky part: Scripps is seeking analog distribution, which is no slam dunk.

"This is a once in a lifetime opportunity," says the 38-year-old Solomon. "What Scripps has done to create these three brands out of thin air is unprecedented. Home & Garden and Food Network have incredible loyal audiences behind them. Fine Living will hopefully be the next successful one."

There's also the Do-It-Yourself channel, launched in Sept. 1999 as a digital channel and Web site, which pretty much does what the name suggests.

Solomon and Scripps executives won't comment, but the company strategy may be to use its leverage with Food, with over 50 million subscribers and HGTV, with more than 60 million, to quickly get Fine Living up in the analog world, rather than a digital tier like D-I-Y. "Make no mistake, this is the launch of a major cable network," Solomon said. "There are high-level conversations taking place right now about carriage on a number of different platforms."

Solomon says the set up for Fine Living won't be anything like a 24-hour Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous

"We are the exact opposite," he says. "While people remain interested in the ultra-rich and ultra-famous, the idea with this is never to be voyeuristic. It should be comfortable and something that's well within your reach. When you want to take that ultimate golf vacation, we want to be ready with the five best potential places you should go to."

Solomon says that much of the network's programming will be done on location around the world and that Scripps' existing facilities in Knoxville, Los Angeles and New York will all be utilized for production. Solomon will be based in Los Angeles.