Scripps Networks' Aggressive Game Plan for Olympics Counterprogramming

By Discovery Inc. InSites Archives
Cover image for  article: Scripps Networks' Aggressive Game Plan for Olympics Counterprogramming

The entire Scripps Networks Interactive ecosystem -- including HGTV, Food Network, Travel Channel, DIY Network, Cooking Channel and GAC -- will aggressively counterprogram the Summer Olympics. Kathleen Finch, Chief Content, Programming and Brand Officer, advises that she wants viewers to know "we are always here for you" -- even opposite one of the biggest and most expansive events in all of media. (Finch is pictured above.)

This kind of counterprogramming is strategic as an audience retention strategy, fulfilling Scripps'promise to deliver specific lifestyle content 24/7. It is also an audience acquisition strategy: Scripps expects to capture new fans while other networks opt not to aggressively compete against the Games. If such growth occurs, it will add to the company's ongoing success in 2016 -- Scripps Networks' ratings have increased across the board all year, with total day viewing for all six networks up in 2nd quarter.

Here is the backstory.

Mary Ellen Holden:  Counterprogramming the Olympics is a bold move. What is it about your audience that makes you confident it will work?

Kathleen Finch: We have diehard, passionate viewer fan bases that we're looking to build on.  Throughout the year, we super-serve our audiences and the Summer Olympics timeframe is no exception. Our viewers expect that we will provide great original programming each and every day on each and every one of our networks. Historically, we have done well against the Olympics -- and this year we are allocating 100 additional premiere hours to build on that success.

Mary Ellen: You talked recently about moving audiences across the Scripps Networks ecosystem.  How do you cross-pollinate audiences that seem on the surface to lack connective tissue (home improvement, cooking, travel)?

Kathleen:The Scripps Networks brands are all about lifestyle.  We are providing great information that covers almost everything people care about.  For example, we grab audiences early in the evening with 8 p.m. co-viewing programming to get them hooked. Once we bring the family in with Chopped Junior, they will continue to view Food Network or move among our lifestyle networks for other informational programming that feeds their appetite. 

Mary Ellen: Both the Olympics and Scripps lifestyle programming are likely to be co-viewing experiences; how do you win?

Kathleen: Our expert lifestyle content works well to differentiate Scripps Networks as we capture and cultivate passions led by mom.  With a hefty supply of new premieres, new episodes and upcoming previews we only expect our viewers to turn to the Olympics if there are events that they are particularly passionate about watching.  We will run marathons of primetime hits during the day to build passionate audiences which will lead into new episodes in prime.

Mary Ellen: What is your communications strategy to potential viewers? How will you let viewers know that you are counterprogramming the Olympic Games?

Kathleen: We will let viewers and potential audiences know both on- and off-air. On-air we are pooling our promotional inventory to "turn the firehose on."  We will air cross-network promotions and off-channel campaigns for iconic shows like Cooks vs. Cons, Tiny House Hunters and Flip or Flopand stunts such asDive into Summeron Travel Channel.  We will also tease new programming like Food Network Star Kidswhich will premiere after the Olympics.

Without giving our media strategy away, we will buy cable bundles, digital -- including Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat to attract Millennials -- and off-air.  I can tell you that the off-air promotion will not be about the Olympics.  It will feature our talent and their shows.

Mary Ellen: How are you involving advertisers in the mix?  Can you give me an example?

Kathleen: Yes. Top advertisers will be involved in the premieres as part of a complete collaboration between ad sales and programming.  For example, HGTV's House Hunters Renovation and DIY Network's Blog Cabin will feature integrated sponsors, while Subaru will be integrated into the National Parks Centennial celebration special on Travel Channel, and the upcoming film Kubo and the Two Strings from Focus Features will be integrated into Chopped Junior on Food Network. These and other advertisers are excited to be on board with us when other networks will be in repeats.

Mary Ellen: NBC will carry over 6,000 hours of coverage which will be streamed live.  Will Scripps be streaming its new programming live?

Kathleen: Live feeds are available on our owned sites as well as through connected TV apps such as Roku, Apple TV and Amazon Fire on an authenticated basis. We will also continue with our aggressive digital programming strategy with exclusive content on Facebook Live, Snapchat Discover, Twitter parties with talent, and digital series such as Chopped After Hours(a behind-the-scenes view of the Chopped judges in their own "turn-the-tables" competition).

Mary Ellen: What are your benchmarks for success?

Kathleen:Up against the Olympics we will look at how we are ranking each night based on cable rankings.  Specifically, we will look at adults 25-54 with a female skew, Millennials and upscale rankers.  We will also look at engagement metrics from our digital programming.

Mary Ellen: If you had a headline that summarized your brand positioning to consumers, what would it be?

Kathleen: That's a good question. "Scripps Networks: We're Here for You." [pause] "Scripps Networks: We'reAlwaysHere for You."

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