Lifetime, Scripps pitch advertisers

April 21, 2009

How do you sell TV advertising in this environment? If you’re Scripps Networks, you trumpet the product integration available in your make-over and do-it-yourself programs. You also make no bones about how difficult things are for advertisers and consumers.

At Tuesday’s Scripps upfront presentation (held at Cipriani 42nd Street), executives talked about these “very difficult and challenging times” and described viewers as “disillusioned,” “anxious,” and “frustrated.”

“There has never been a more important time than right now to reach out to viewers about their homes” said one Scripps executive.

Of course, Scripps is in a different spot than many other networks. Home to HGTV, The Food Network, DIY Network, Fine Living Network, and Great American Country, many of its shows are highly aspirational and played to an eager audience when money was flowing and houses were flying off the market.

Now the media company is betting that viewers will look to shows like “The Unsellables” or “For Rent” or “Income Property” as they trudge through the recession.

As HGTV President Jim Samples told the crowd of ad executives and press, “audiences look to us as an authority and they look to us for answers to their questions.”

Now, if you’re the Lifetime Networks, you take a completely different approach to this upfront season. As one executive said to me, “You don’t want to be too flashy, and you don’t want to be too depressing.”

In fact, at the Lifetime luncheon, held in a more modest room in the Hearst Tower, there was almost no mention of the current economic situation. Instead, executives chose to concentrate on the programming slate at the female-focused cable network.

The headliner was the arrival of unscripted fashion competition “Project Runway” this season, a show that Lifetime CEO Andrea Wong said she was “absolutely thrilled” to welcome to the network.

Wong has made no secret of her wish to bring big names to Lifetime, and Tuesday’s presentation gave her a chance to run through a list of well-known Hollywood stars who can be seen on Lifetime channels, either in returning shows and movies or new ones: Kim Delaney, Valerie Bertinelli, Cybill Shepherd, Joan Cusack, Michelle Pfeiffer, Ashton Kutcher, Julia Ormond, Gina Gershon, Rob Lowe, Jeremy Irons and Joan Allen, among others, will soon be turning up on Lifetime Network or Lifetime Movie Network.

As it turned out, Allen made one of the only references to the economy, saying it is a “tough time to make movies” and an “even tougher time to make movies about women.”

(Reuters photo of Joan Allen at the UK premiere of the Bourne Ultimatum in Leicester Square in London August 15, 2007)

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