Fine Living Network became the latest channel to get a total makeover, with Scripps Nets turning it into the Cooking Channel Mon morning. But Scripps is not alone in switching up heavily distributed nets. Earlier this year, Fox Reality Channel became Nat Geo Wild. In Oct, Discovery Kids becomes The Hub. Next year, Oprah and Discovery’s OWN Network takes over Discovery Health. And Disney was the latest to the party, announcing plans last week to turn SOAPnet into preschool channel Disney Junior in ’12.
But after several years on the dial, what about those networks’ legacy fans? In many cases, the new network has at least some shows aimed at the previous channel’s viewers. Fine Living began running commercials Apr 18 alerting viewers to the change.
“We hope to convert a lot of those fans into Cooking Channel fans because if you look at Fine Living, it’s a mix of 2 or 3 different types of programming,” said Cooking gm Michael Smith. “There’s a lot of home programming, some travel programming and then a lot of food programming. ‘Emeril Live,’ ‘Iron Chef of Japan,’ ‘Molto Mario,’ throughout the daytime there’s tons of food programming. We think the people who like the food programming on Fine Living will be even more excited by the food programming on Cooking Channel.”
Kids programming will still be the norm at Discovery and Hasbro jv, The Hub, with some Discovery Kids shows, like “Bindi the Jungle Girl,” staying in place. Discovery Health skews female, which is OWN’s target. SOAPnet doesn’t seem to have a lot in common with a pre-K net, but some of its fans are likely moms to young children. It’s also a bit of a different bag in that it was created before DVRs really took off so that soap fans could catch up on their favorite shows. Fox Reality bit the dust after never being able to do much on the ratings front.
Operators, which usually have to strike new agreements for the updated nets, seem amenable to the changes. Fine Living kept its 58mln subs when it made the switch, with the last major distributor, Comcast, signing a deal late Fri. Nat Geo Wild had 40mln of Fox Reality’s 50mln HHs at launch, with DirecTV and Mediacom not signing on. Several months ago Cox programming chief Bob Wilson told CableFAX that both ops and programmers going forward are going to have to come to terms with “channels that we are paying for that probably, from the standpoint of value to consumers, the value really isn’t there.”
Smith said distributors viewed Cooking’s debut positively. “They like to have channels that have a very well defined value proposition,” he said. “I think they all agree that having a channel that’s laser focused on a growing category like food is an even better value proposition than a channel that’s maybe more diffused in its positioning.”