With six channels under the corporate umbrella of Scripps Networks, witnesses to the company's annual New York breakfast presentation could count on a lot to digest. They appeared in a fair mood to digest both cuisine and channel-by-channel information, at least on this mid-April morning in question.
Venue: Almost two months after playing host to the first upfront covered in this set of columns (TVOne), Cipriani's was back in action. The flexible atrium across from Grand Central Station looked far more stately this second time around, perhaps too stately--rows of brown chairs instead of plush sofas and pillows. On stage, silos on either side showcased network logos and the overall "Brands For Now, Brands For Life" mantra. Food from the in-house chefs hit the spot again, especially the banana/hazelnut mini-cakes. Grade: B-plus
Presentation: In earlier years, Scripps rarely deviated from its upfront style--each network's chief executive delivers overview of past rating results, current and future programming highlights, illustrated by videos. This time out, the approach was modified in two effective ways. Instead of a well-edited opening montage of show clips, the montage featured well-edited feedback from viewers and show hosts, demonstrating the appeal and impact of each service. Second, personalities from each net hit the stage to wax briefly about their work or fan reaction before passing the baton to their exec boss. Favorite line from multi-show Food Network/Cooking Channel host Bobby Flay: "If you watch the last 10 seconds of that video (where he does a brief shuffle behind the grill), you'll know why I turn down Dancing With The Stars every year." Runner-up line, again from Flay: "Guy Fieri (another multi-show regular)'s made an art form of eating every fried egg sandwich in America." Grade: A
News Value: Twenty is the magic number for the majority of Scripps' services--as in at least 20 new series starting on Travel Channel, Home & Garden TV, DIY, Food Network and Cooking Channel over the next year. That's 100-plus new shows on these services combined, making it a daunting task to hit every potential highlight. That's not counting specials or stunt weeks, including Food's first-ever live Thanksgiving Day adventure this fall. Scripps gave it a nice college try, with the promising new shows in this corner Forbidden Access and Sand Guys (Travel); Run My Makeover, HGTV'd, My Yard Goes Disney and All American Handyman (HGTV); Tough Cookies and Heat Seekers (Food). Wished Food disclosed more about the Thanksgiving Day plans, given you're out to expand what's viewable live that day beyond parades, football and dog shows. Grade: A-minus
Host: Good picks on the personality side, especially Flay, Great American Country's Nan Kelley and Travel's Adam Richman. The ebullient Richman is of particular note--he was in the advertising industry before switching careers to matters of taste rather than time buys.
All the execs did their sections well, from Laureen Ong at Travel and HGTV's Jim Samples to Brooke Johnson (doing double duty for Food and Cooking Channel). Suggestion for next spring: invite Nadia G, the all-attitude proprietor of Bitchin' Kitchen on Cooking to pay a visit. Her food is fun to watch and her humor spot-on. Grade: A-minus
Overall Grade: A-minus Scripps seasoned its format stew a bit this year, giving its pitch more relevancy, and ultimately, more connection among the audience being pitched.
Special Recognition: For wrapping up with an example of innovative work by an advertiser transforming how people perceive that company or their products. Kellogg's participated in a Next Iron Chef episode last fall where contestants whipped up dinners using cereal. That's the first time thousands of people saw Raisin Bran or Special K used beyond breakfast, and the episode (supplemented by on-air/online campaigns) gave the company legitimacy as an all-purpose food supplier.
Until the next time, stay well and stay tuned!
Simon Applebaum is host/producer of Tomorrow Will Be Televised, the Internet radio/podcast-distributed program about the TV scene. The program runs live at 3 p.m. Eastern time, noon Pacific time, over www.blogtalkradio.com, with replays available 24/7 at www.blogtalkradio.com/simonapple04. Podcasts are downloadable off ITunes.com and 17 other Web sites arranged by Sonibyte (www.sonibyte.com). Have a question or reaction? E-mail it to email@example.com.
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