Scripps Envisions Stronger Year For HGTV, Food Net Cooking

House-HuntersScripps Networks’ top executive suggested the HGTV network may have been hurt by changing psychographics -- but if that was responsible for lower ratings, it shouldn’t be any more. If the slowed housing market lessened viewer excitement about HGTV programming, the network needs to adapt to a new normal.

“I don’t want to keep leaning on the story line of the housing industry, but that definitely took a little wind out of our sails,” CEO Ken Lowe said at an investor event. “People just weren’t feeling quite as positive about their home, about home improvements and in some cases, it was a wallet issue."

Lowe added that he feels the network is well-positioned for a stronger 2012 under the leadership of Kathleen Finch and with the “House Hunters” franchise and “My Yard Goes Disney.”

Among adults 18 to 49, prime-time ratings are down 6% this season by one measure and a lesser 3% among women 25 to 54.

The declines are stark compared to Scripps’ Food Network, where ratings among adults 18 to 49 are up 15%. Also, its younger-sibling Cooking Channel is landing ad pricing CPMs at levels only 20% to 25% less than at Food, Lowe said.

But another company bumpy spot is the Travel Channel, which Scripps took control of in 2009. It has seen considerable ratings drops. Lowe called it “still a work in progress” and said the company is viewing it as a start-up with Andy Singer, formerly of DIY network, as the new head of programming.

On the current state of the ad market, Lowe used the “cautiously optimistic” description. The company, which targets upscale females, is in the middle of a calendar upfront market that it says is strong, although likely not record-setting.

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