Scripps Is Planning a 6-Network Halloween Crossover Special

Upfront highlights multiplatform brand opportunites

Marvel and DC aren't the only media companies engineering major crossover events to showcase their biggest properties.

Scripps Networks Interactive—home to HGTV, Food Network, Travel Channel, DIY Network, Cooking Channel and Great American Country—is planning a Halloween special featuring talent from many of its channels to air on all six networks.

The company discussed cross-network and cross-platform opportunities for advertisers during a media briefing before today's upfront presentation, which will be held at New York's Alice Tully Hall. It's the third stop on Scripps' seven-city upfront tour, which kicked off March 15 in Atlanta and also includes stops in Minneapolis, Chicago, Detroit, Boston and L.A.

Jon Steinlauf, president of national ad sales and marketing, touted Scripps' robust portfolio and said its top three channels are growing in ratings, revenue and share. "We're delivering our advertisers' schedules with a growing stable of hit shows that families can watch together," Steinlauf said. And almost all of those shows are being watched live: 97 percent of Scripps' C3 audience watches either live or later that same day, making Scripps the No. 1 network group in the category.

Scripps' ratings growth is led by HGTV, which had its highest rated year in 2015 and as of February is the No. 4 prime-time cable network in the 25-54 demographic, its highest ranking ever. Kathleen Finch, chief programming, content and brand officer, attributed the success to Scripps' decision to air new programming every night of the week. "Our goal is to hit our prime average number seven nights a week—and we've reached it at HGTV—not just some of the week and then hope for the best on one really strong night," she said.

Added Steinlauf, "Advertisers like the consistency, because there are a lot of networks where they have a 1.8 rated night, and then they'll be back down to 0.2 the next three nights. That's true of Food Network also; we stay within a zone."

Scripps is also making strides with "emerging consumers," its target demo of 25-39-year-olds, who "are at a major, critical life stage that requires spending," said Steinlauf. "So when somebody gets married, starts a family, buys a home, furnishes a home or wants to really learn how to cook, Scripps becomes much more important to them."

Four Scripps networks are growing their millennial audiences: HGTV, Food Network and Cooking Channel. Scripps has had the most success on that front with Food Network, which has created a slate of family-centric shows at 8 p.m., including Chopped Junior. "Once the kids have gone to bed, we then stack enough shows that mom and dad will continue to like, and we hold them, sometimes three hours straight," said Finch.

During its upfront presentation today, Scripps is highlighting branded content opportunities for advertisers via its Scripps Lifestyle Studios. Beth Lawrence, evp of digital ad sales and marketing, showed off the company's most successful cross-platform marketing concepts last year, including campaigns for Lowe's (#LowesLovetheLook, featuring HGTV talent), Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce (which returned to TV for the first time in 50 years with a starring role on Chopped Grill Masters on Food Network) and U.S. Cellular (which partnered with Travel Channel on the series Big Country, in which Andrew Zimmern took U.S. Cellular customers to destinations around the country, highlighting travel opportunities in areas covered by the wireless carrier).

Scripps said its upcoming Halloween cross-network event will spur additional opportunities for brands. "It's a one-hour special that we're going to shoot in Las Vegas, incorporating talent from all the different nets, and it's building haunted tiny houses that are made out of gingerbread," Finch said. "So it's going to start the holiday early. It gives a lot of opportunities for our advertising partners to be involved in a way that lets them touch all six brands if they choose to."

Steinlauf  plans to use the event to kick off multiplatform and multichannel buys throughout the fourth quarter. "We look at the whole fourth quarter—Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas—as a big opportunity," he said. "Something new that we're going to be talking about in this upfront market is ways to buy across our channels and our websites and social and our HGTV and Food magazines to have an all-in, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, on three separate platforms for different advertisers. It's a great quarter for that."

Scrips also highlighted the major upcoming programming initiatives on each of its networks:

  • HGTV is bringing back 24 shows and introducing 17 new series, including a pair of celeb-themed projects: one in which Parenthood actress Monica Potter and her sisters buy and restore their childhood home in Cleveland (set for August) and another in which actress Gabrielle Union and NBA superstar husband Dwyane Wade flip a house in Florida. After the success of Fixer Upper and Property Brothers, the network is adding to its stable of shows featuring family members and significant others who renovate, restore and/or flip houses: Listed Sisters (Nashville twin sisters), Good Bones (a mother and daughter in Indianapolis), Home Town (a Laurel, Miss., couple), Masters of Flip (a Nashville couple) and Vintage Flip (an Orange County, Calif., couple).
  • Food Network has 16 new shows, including Cooks vs. Cons (a competition between home cooks and professionals), Cake Masters (baker Duff Goldman creates extreme cakes for Hollywood A-listers), Celebrity Food Fight (hosted by Andy Richter and featuring celeb foodies and chefs who compete in food games), 12 Hungry Yelpers (online reviewers help restaurants improve their reputations) and Food Network Star Kids.
  • Travel Channel, which has five straight months of ratings gains, has two celebrity projects on tap: The Best Place to Be, a new series from Queen Latifah in which stars show off hot spots in their favorite cities around the world; and Celebrity Adventure Club, in which stars like Jon Cryer, Terry Crews and Eric Stonestreet travel the world and explore topics that fascinate them.
  • DIY Network will add eight new series to its slate of 22 returning shows, including Sight Unseen (Limp Bizkit singer and guitarist Wes Borland renovates a historic Detroit home), Raise the Roof (a Denver builder overhauls homes and adds additional stories to them) and Holmes Buy Homes (contractor Mike Holmes goes house hunting with buyers).
  • Cooking Channel, which has doubled its audience since launching in 2010, is continuing its cooking-with-celebs theme with several new shows, including Patti LaBelle's Place, Haylie [Duff] on the Road, Beach Bites with Katie Lee, and What's Cookin' with the Smolletts (which includes Empire stars Jussie, actress sister Jurnee and their siblings).
  • Great American Country, which explores the outdoors, is focusing on its returning shows, like Flea Market Flip (hosted by Lara Spencer) and Going RV (families who set out on the open road).