Travel Channel’s all-American “Destination Summer” programming initiative kicks off May 20 with a week of American-themed travel programming followed by the launch of 7 new originals, including “Xtreme Waterparks,” “Insane Coaster Wars” and “RV Kings.” CableFAX spoke with Andy Singer, gm, Travel Channel, about defining the network and differentiating itself from competitors in Friday’s CableFAX Daily. Here Singer discusses this summer’s focus on domestic travel and the challenges of building a lifestyle brand.
Are you focusing on travel in America this summer because you expect people to plan more domestic vacations this year?
We see a lot of people staying domestic—that’s certainly one aspect of it. And if you look at the types of things people do over the summer, it’s what you’d probably except from a largely American audience, which is beaches, parks, theme parks, roller coasters, water slides, fairs… We see a lot of our audience going in that direction. Now that doesn’t mean that we’re not developing in the international space—we are. And we certainly have existing programming that speaks to that. But yeah, for this summer we think that’s pretty topical, and where a lot of our audience is going. But we do have a large portion that goes outside the states.
Will travel within the US be a consistent commitment for the network?
Yes, we’ll have a mix of both. But really I think a network like Travel Channel should really own summer as a destination. If you look at some of our competitor networks they play very well in other parts of the season, but for Travel Channel, this is a good season for us.
What are some of the challenges entailed in bringing the network up to the level of lifestyle brand like HGTV and Food Network?
Travel Channel has been around for 25 years and had 5 different owners—5 smart owners who may have wanted different things for the network. So it’s not a juvenile network, that’s adding subs rapidly. It’s a network that has a long history. But I don’t think that anybody has really attempted to program the network and really define what makes entertaining travel programming. If you look at what our sister networks have done at Scripps, they have defined what makes for interesting home-related content. They’ve defined what makes for entertaining food content. They have defined what formats work, that now competitors are also doing. We need to define what is travel entertainment and travel lifestyle programming. We have the ability to do that, because we have the subscriber base. We have the investment from the parent company and I think we have a great team in place to do that.
Will you go into magazines, as Food Network and HGTV have done?
Not in the short-term. Right now it’s about building programming and the content across multiple platforms. We have a pretty good website, a robust platform there. We want to grow the linear channel and the digital space and our partnerships. So in the short-term the answer is no, long-term, we’ll see—we may get there someday….Speaking to that point, I think that feeds back to our position as both [having] big distribution and having host experts. I think that really differentiates us from some of our competition, and if you ever wanted to get into other brand extensions, that’s how you do it. We expect at some point in time to continue our growth and be as successful as the sister networks within the company.