Scripps ponies up for Fine Living net

Goal is to focus on original p'gramming, prez sez

The Scripps Networks are planning to lay out more than $100 million over the next few years to turn its fourth cable network, the proposed Fine Living, into a profitable asset like Home & Garden TV and Food Network.

HGTV, the jewel in the Scripps cable empire, which reaches more than 70 million households, has proven to be a lucrative business: Its combined revenues from advertising dollars and cable-operator license fees have shot up from $95.9 million in 1998 to a projected $225.7 million in 2001, according to Kagan Media.

Not playing it safe

With Fine Living, which will begin operations early next year from its headquarters in Los Angeles, Ken Solomon, president of the network, said, “Scripps has not entered the cable-network business to play it safe.” Solomon’s goal is to focus on original programming, not library product. “If we buy the reruns of ‘Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous,’ ” he said, “we’d turn it into ‘Mystery Science Theater’ and have fun with it.”

Solomon has begun filling out the executive ranks of Fine Living, signing Charles Segars as senior VP of programming, production and network strategy; John MacDonald as senior VP of business operations and acquisitions; Robyn Miller, as senior VP of marketing; Carol Hicks as VP of communications; and Greg Neal, director of creative services.