Scripps Hopes to Hook Advertisers on Simulcasts of Shows

Brian Steinberg

When stars from some of the most popular franchises on Food Network, HGTV and Travel Channel band together, one channel may not be enough to contain them.

The owner of all three outlets, Scripps Networks, plans to broadcast a Halloween special featuring HGTV ‘s Egypt Sherrod, Drew Scott and Jonathan Scott; Food Network’s Tia Mowry and Duff Goldman; and Travel Channel’s Adam Richman striving to out-do each other in a Las Vegas competition across all three networks at once. In doing so, the company is suggesting that the simulcast strategy – reserved in recent months for special events and important show debuts – is becoming more mainstream.

“You are always looking for opportunities to create scale for your advertisers and for yourself,” noted John Dailey, senior vice president of corporate ad sales for Scripps Networks Interactive, in an interview. “The marketplace values scale. You get paid more for the bigger audiences and you get paid a higher CPM for being able to create a bigger audience,” he said, referring to the measure of reaching audience that is an integral part of how deals for TV ad time are negotiated.

Scripps has experimented with the technique before, but only with two of its networks. Last year for the holidays it aired a gingerbread-house building contest on HGTV and Food, snaring around six million viewers. In contrast, said Dailey, “Fixer Upper with Chip and Joanna Gaines,” one of the company’s best-performing programs, typically attracts between three and four million viewers per episode.

The one-hour “All-Star Halloween Spectacular” debuts October 8 at 8 p.m. eastern on Food Network, HGTV and Travel Channel, in which Scripps Networks, previously an investor, took full control earlier this year.

Scripps has enlisted an advertiser to help sponsor the venture. Ikea, the furniture retailer, will be featured in the program – Ikea shopping trip, anyone? – and around it as well, with custom announcements and “billboards” that tell viewers the company is sponsoring the show. Ikea is eager to show viewers that its desks, lamps and other habitat fillers can be considered for holiday decorating, not just for compleitng a new home, said Kelly Niszczak, media project manager for Ikea, and sees this sponsorship as a way to put that message in front of a broader crowd. “This gets us advertising exposure we hadn’t already received,” she noted.

Scripps isn’t the only company that has tested the idea. MTV has simulcast its flagshjpi “Video Music Awards” over a growing number of networks owned by its parent. Viacom, for the last few years. Ratings for recent editions have fallen despite the wider distribution. Last September, Viacom broadcast the debut of Trevor Noah at the helm of its popular “Daily Show” not only on its home network, Comedy Central, but MTV, VH1 and other outlets.  The audience grew to about 3.5 million, compared with the approximately 1.2 million that had been tuning in his predecessor, Jon Stewart.  Time Warner’s Turner aired the February 8 premiere of “Full Frontal with Samantha Bee” on five different networks: TBS, TruTV, HLN, Adult Swim and TNT. The broadcast reached about 2.2 million viewers, according to Nielsen.

The media companies are testing the technique as TV viewing splinters, thanks to the growing availability of mobile devices, streaming video and on-demand options. Where a single program was once often enough to gather together the masses of consumers an advertiser required, new viewing behavior makes the task that much more difficult. By simulcasting the programs, cable networks hope to build back some of the crowd they once could deliver more easily.

Scripps is taking additional steps to help Ikea stand out, said Dailey, the ad-sales executive. The company will not run ads from potential Ikea competitors during the Halloween program. Ikea has spent what Daily called a “high seven digit figure” overall with Scripps across TV and digital, and the multi-cast partnership is a “jewel” in the overall relationship.

Scripps is likely to consider testing similar ideas, Dailey said. “The times of year that are going to make the most sense are going to be holidays, springtime, the start of summer, and possibly back to school. These are the pockets of time we;’ve isolated when we will be looking for a way to do this. These are peak activity times in the categories that we program to.” If that’s the case, there may be more call for the stars of Scripps to gear up for new battles.

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