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Scripps Pays Higher Bill for Fare

2/13/2012 12:01 AM Eastern

Scripps Networks Interactive is putting
its money where its mouth is.

The owner of such cable stalwarts as Food
Network, HGTV and Travel Channel boosted
its spending on new shows by 33% for full-year
2011 and plans to spend another 13% to 15%
in 2012 in an effort to diversify its programming
lineup and ease its dependency on a few
hit shows.

Man v. Food

The move is part of an announced effort to
launch new shows on all its networks, but the
bulk of those funds will probably be steered
toward the Travel Channel, which it purchased
in 2009 for about $1 billion.

The added spending comes at a critical time
for Travel. Its top show, Man v. Food, is nearing
the end of its expected run and most of
the carriage deals for the network come due
in 2012 and 2013. Scripps has said in the past that it anticipates
it will significantly increase carriage fees for Travel
— which currently gets about 11 cents per subscriber per
month, according to SNL Kagan — once its deals come
up for renewal.

At its peak, Man v. Food, in which host Adam Richman
travels the world in search of competitive-eating challenges,
had accounted for more than 40% of Travel Channel’s primetime
impressions, SNI CEO Ken Lowe said on a conference
call with analysts. The program has since dropped in the ratings
— it now accounts for less than 30% of primetime impressions.

“Unfortunately, Man v. Food as a format just was not
sustainable beyond the three-year arc,” Lowe said, adding
that the network continues to work with Richman to
develop new series.

Travel Channel has also seen a decline in ratings — viewership
in the 25-54 demo was down 12% in the fourth quarter.
Adding new series could help boost that performance,
especially as carriage-renewal time nears.

“We really had a network that was fairly reliant on a small
number of hit series,” Lowe said. “What we’re doing today is
building out some new formats that help us create the brand
around Travel.” Lowe added the goal is to launch two to four
new shows on the channel and increase the number of programs
driving the Travel Channel brand, from two to three
today to as many as six to eight shows in the future.

September