Scripps to Shutter Fine Living Network

Scripps Networks Interactive late Thursday announced it is shuttering the seven-year-old Fine Living Network, with an eye toward relaunching the property as the Cooking Channel.

The Knoxville-based FLN will pull up stakes in the third quarter of 2010, moving to the Chelsea Market in Manhattan, home of Scripps powerhouse brand Food Network.

According to SNI, the Cooking Channel will focus on instructional programming, the sort of kitchen-based chop-n-chat fare that characterizes Food Nets’ daytime and weekend lineup. As part of the overall mix, there will also be an emphasis on wine and spirits, healthy and vegetarian cooking and kids’ foods.

The Cooking Channel is expected to incorporate some current food-related FLN programs, some of which (Emeril Live, Iron Chef) are hand-me-downs from Food Network.

Given the scope of the switcheroo––FLN  reaches 55 million U.S. households––the company will be looking to court the favor of its affiliate partners. In a statement released Thursday evening, SNI said it is already “in discussions with its distribution partners about the rebranding of FLN as the new Cooking Channel.”

“We’ve seen an explosion of interest in food and cooking in America,” said Kenneth Lowe, chairman, president and CEO of SNI, by way of announcing the initiative. “Food, as a television programming category, has grown significantly, creating a highly promising business opportunity for new programming and related ventures that will, in effect, super-serve the vast number of media consumers who are passionate about food and cooking.”

SNI expects to identify a programming head for the new venture by the end of the year. The company did not offer guidance on the number of jobs that would be lost in the process of developing the new network.

FLN was the lone SNI network to show a loss in the second quarter of 2009, its second financial earnings period since becoming rated by Nielsen. FLN revenue fell 23 percent in Q2, to $11 million. All told, the network contributed just 6.4 percent of the lifestyle media unit’s overall revenue haul of $172 million.

Much the same held true in the first quarter, when FLN revenue dropped 6.7 percent versus its year-ago mark, to $11.7 million.

As the Cooking Channel warms up, Food Network will be expected to “continue its march toward growing the next generation of ‘foodies’ with energetic, entertainment-oriented content,” said John Lansing, executive vp of SNI. Food Network enjoyed a stellar third quarter, upping its prime time deliveries 35 percent versus the year-ago period, with an average nightly draw of 1.22 milllion viewers.

Lansing said the new network would help viewers make more informed choices about what they eat. “The idea is to raise your food IQ, making our viewers better cooks and a little smarter about food,” he said. “This isn’t new territory for us. We’ve done this in the home category with HGTV.”