Fans of Southern Living magazine have since 1966 accessed its many recipes and home ideas through print pages, and, more recently, a website. Next year, they’ll be able to do so with their televisions.
Meredith Corp., which acquired the magazine as part of its $2.8 billion purchase of the former Time Inc. in 2017, is gearing up to turn the print property into a TV show that will air in all 12 markets the company reaches. The idea, says Patrick McCreery, president of Meredith’s local-media operations, is to replace syndicated TV programming with a show over which the company has much more say. The stations will air a few Southern Living holiday specials in 2019 before launching a half-hour program in 2020, he said.
“I have absolutely zero doubt this will work,” McCreery said in an interview. Besides, he added, “I’ve long held the belief that us being in control of our own time is better for our bottom line.”
In decades past, even the best-known magazines found making a go of it on TV difficult. Maybe Rolling Stone could score a one-time special about top albums, or Spy could arrange for a quick single-night broadcast. But taking print to TV can be hard to do. Witness the failures of cable channels devoted to Esquire at NBCUniversal or Sports Illustrated at the former Time Warner (The new advent of streaming-video venues has changed the recent dynamic, with shows from The New York Times and Axios now available). Periodicals based on TV properties, however, have proven quite durable, as anyone who reads Hearst’s Food Network magazine might tell you.
Yet in 2019, extending print brands into new venues stands as one of the main ways to augment the business. This is a time, after all, when advertisers are largely pulling dollars away from print and investing them instead in digital, social and video. Authentic Brands Group purchased Sports Illustrated from Meredith in May for $110 million, with the hope of opening everything from sports clinics to games of chance using the storied periodical’s name. The news operation was eventually placed under the aegis of TheMaven, a company that has been buying news brands and reworking them for digital consumption.
Meredith has developed a short history out of making magazine series out of magazine assets. The company launched “Better,” a syndicated daytime show based on its Better Homes & Gardens title. The show lasted eight years. Meredith took a streaming-video program produced by staffers at People magazine and made “People Now” a weekend option for its TV stations.
The new “Southern Living” TV program will launch in April of 2020 and be hosted by Ivy Odom (above, pictured), the host of the namesake magazine’s “Hey Y’all” video series. The new series will feature 17 original episodes as well as four special holiday episodes in 2020. Some of the new show’s content will come from videos Odom has hosted for the magazine’s site, and some other parts will be new segments.
Executives believe the show could be received well not only at southeastern Meredith stations like WGCL in Atlanta and WALA in Mobile, AL, but also at KMOV in St. Louis and KVVU near Las Vegas. Approximately 25% of the magazine’s readership lives outside the southeastern United States. Southern Living’s rate base – the circulation it guarantees advertisers – stands at about 2.8 million.
“I think there is a growing interest in southern foods, southern music, and southern culture,” says Sid Evans, editor in chief of Southern Living. “The southern content we are creating is really resonating far beyond the South.”