Gardner to lead Scripps interactive media group
Mon, March 20, 2000 by Tim Stautberg
CINCINNATI – The E. W. Scripps Company today launched an interactive media development group that will be led by Frank Gardner, one of the lead architects of the company’s successful and fast-growing cable network business.Gardner will serve in the newly created position of senior vice president/interactive media. He and his group will oversee and bring focus to the company’s research and development of interactive media, including the Internet, wireless applications, interactive television and broadcast television’s digital spectrum. Gardner’s appointment reflects the strategic commitment by Scripps to expand by leveraging its content expertise across new media platforms.“Scripps has demonstrated an ability to build value for shareholders by seizing opportunities in the ever-changing media landscape,” said William R. Burleigh, Scripps chairman and chief executive officer. “Frank Gardner’s role will be to lead an interactive media swat team that zeroes in on the ideas and technologies that hold the most promise for Scripps.”Gardner, 57, has been senior vice president/television for Scripps since 1993. During that time he oversaw the launch and rapid growth of Home & Garden Television, the acquisition of the Food Network and the launch last year of Do It Yourself, an interactive television and Internet network.He also was responsible for oversight of the company’s 10 broadcast television stations. James M. Hart, senior vice president of the company’s broadcast subsidiary, who has been responsible for day-to-day operations of the Scripps television stations, will now have total responsibility for the group.Gardner’s affiliation with Scripps began in 1976 when he joined the company following several years as news director at CBS-owned television stations in Chicago and New York. For Scripps, he served as general manager of WCPO-TV and corporate vice president in charge of broadcasting, before leaving for two years beginning in 1991 to become senior vice president/news programming for Fox Broadcasting Company.“Honing in on the right interactive media strategies is critical for Scripps,” Gardner said. “We’re fortunate to have a breadth of talent engineering the company’s new media efforts, and harnessing their collective strength will make Scripps a very formidable player.”Gardner will work with each of the company’s core business segments, focusing on interactive media content, marketing and business development. The Scripps interactive media strategy cuts across all of the company’s businesses. It includes development of universally branded Web sites that focus on the same consumer categories as the company’s popular cable television networks. Home & Garden Television (hgtv.com), the Food Network (foodtv.com) and DIY (diynet.com) operate Web sites that, combined, average more than 2 million unique visitors and 31 million page views per month.United Media, the company’s licensing and syndication subsidiary, operates comics.com, which has benefited from the universal popularity of PEANUTS and DILBERT. Comics.com, hgtv.com and foodtv.com, which offers online recipes from top Food Network chefs, are among the Internet’s more popular destinations.Scripps also operates 27 local destination portals that extend to the Internet the respected brands and rich content of the company’s daily newspapers and broadcast television stations. Averaging 21 million page views per month, the local destination portals are designed to be the premier sources of news, information and commerce in the communities served by Scripps newspapers and television stations.In Knoxville, Tenn., Scripps has invested $12 million in its new Scripps Technology Center to accommodate its growing cable television network and interactive media businesses. The technology center houses hosting facilities for all of the Scripps Web sites.Strategic partnerships are an integral component of the company’s new media strategy. Scripps has invested in leading interactive technology companies, including Pentawave and Zatso (formerly ReacTV), that are in the forefront of developing publishing and broadcast Internet applications. The company owns 12 percent of AdOne, which operates the national, online classified advertising site ClassifiedWarehouse.com. Scripps also is one of 12 founding broadcasters that have established iBlast, a company that has developed a promising business solution to unlock the value of the digital television spectrum. Using a dedicated portion of the digital spectrum assigned to television stations, iBlast will deliver a wide array of high-speed, over-the-air broadband digital content and services direct to consumers. This digital content will include music, video, games, software, and other applications.At Scripps Networks, Home & Garden Television has teamed with Microsoft’s (NASDAQ: MSFT) WebTV to provide enhanced, interactive television services during HGTV’s popular, 52-week series, Restore America with Bob Vila. WebTV subscribers can get detailed information on featured home restoration projects and other program related information during each episode.HGTV, Food and DIY have a similar partnership with Wink Communications Inc. (NASDAQ: WINK) to create interactive program enhancements and e-commerce opportunities on a variety of programs across all three networks. The partnership with Wink will allow viewers to interact with Scripps Networks programs as they happen, providing access to home improvement information, recipes, on-air promotions and retail information.Gardner’s interactive media group also will work closely with managers of the company’s venture capital fund – Scripps Ventures – to identify strategic opportunities that would be a good fit with core Scripps businesses. Scripps Ventures invests in early-stage Internet businesses. Investments to date include garden.com (NASDAQ: GDEN), an online gardening product and supply retailer, and homeportfolio.com, an online source for premium home design products. HGTV also has invested separately in the two companies.The E.W. Scripps Company operates 19 daily newspapers; 10 broadcast television stations; three TV networks, Home & Garden Television, the Food Network and Do It Yourself; and a TV programmer, Scripps Productions. The company also operates United Media, a worldwide syndicator and licensor of news features and comics; the Scripps Howard News Service; and publishes independent Yellow Pages directories. Scripps operates 31 revenue-producing Web sites, including hgtv.com, foodtv.com, diynet.com and comics.com.