The Scripps vs. Cablevision Communications Throwdown

Television Cable Male EndAre you currently in a state of withdrawal due to a lack of Paula Deen’s y’alls? Guy Fieri’s awful backward sunglasses?  Ina Garten’s use of the phrase “Good Vanilla”?  Even Rachael Ray completing a spin of EVOO around the pan?  Then you must be a fellow member of the unfortunate club of people who depend on Cablevision for all their television needs. Even if you weren’t one of the unfortunate souls who turned their TV on the morning of January 1st and realized they couldn’t watch Food Network or HGTV, it’s likely you’ve heard of the current controversy.

Rundown: Scripps Networks believes that their channels are valuable enough to consumers to deserve some extra money per subscriber- and Cablevision doesn’t agree. As a result, Scripps has pulled their channels from Cablevision’s service. Although I am more than a little biased (I would demand that my parents switch cable companies if my father didn’t work for Cablevision), I’ve been noticing that there is a clear winner in this whole situation from a Communications perspective. No matter who you believe is in the right or the wrong, it’s indisputable that Scripps is doing a fantastic job of reaching out to their viewers to show that they care.

While Cablevision utilizes the blank television channels where FN and HGTV used to be in order to scroll overly defensive messages about the situation, Scripps has been taking advantage of multiple mediums to interact with their customers. This not only involves broadcasting messages their way, but careful listening as well. Here are the things that impressed me as a Communications professional:

The Use of ILoveFoodNetwork.com and ILoveHGTV.com: These sites were originally established as a relatively simple (and slightly undeveloped way) for fans to show their support and admiration for the channels, offering custom avatars and e-cards as well as acting as a hub for all their social media channels . Scripps smartly re-purposed these sites to serve as the online “headquarters” for the duration of this crisis. I’ve personally been using ILoveFoodNetwork.com to track the progress of a potential settlement and get the latest updates. For someone who is less computer-savvy and doesn’t feel like digging through the news, using these sites as a one-stop-shop is a great idea.

Continuing to Reach Their Customers Through the Television: This point goes two ways. For one, Scripps has commissioned the creation of commercials featuring prominent Food Network stars addressing the situation. The part of this that surprised me the most was that the first time I saw one of these commercials was when I was watching the Food Network at my friend’s house, who uses Verizon FiOS. Maybe they knew that fans would be taking advantage of their friends in order to get their FN fix in?  Additionally, Scripps went out of their way to make sure their viewers didn’t miss out on an event that many people were looking forward to – The Iron Chef episode featuring Michelle Obama and the White House chef. The episode has been broadcast on local channels in areas that depends on Cablevision as a courtesy to their loyal customers.

Using Stars As Consumer Advocates: All the familiar faces that avid Food Network fans have come to know and love (and make fun of) are speaking out on behalf of the channel and letting people know that they care. Bobby Flay stars in the commercials that I previously mentioned. Sandra Lee has recorded a special message which was posted on ILoveFoodNetwork.com. Various personalities have reached out via their Twitter accounts. If Scripps’s goal in this whole thing is to get the consumers on their side in order to show Cablevision what they’re missing, then they’re doing a fantastic job. By using these stars, they’re creating a warm, community-driven feeling around the entire situation while Cablevision uses more aggressive, rallying tactics.

Encouraging Social Media: I actually thought this was really In the latest post on ILoveFoodNetwork.com and ILoveHGTV.com, Scripps encourages viewers to use their Facebook and  Twitter accounts to spread their support for the networks. They even list a number of Facebook groups that were created specifically around the controversy. Overall, this effort by Scripps has been incredibly social media friendly, which is always a positive move.

Keeping People Informed of Their Options: Instead of calling for an all out boycott of Cablevision, Scripps has been sure to let their viewers know that they’re on their side no matter what action they decide to take. On their ILove sites, they present you with the opportunity to send an e-card to Cablevision, thereby giving you the chance to show your support for Scripps while also remaining a customer of Cablevision. However, there’s also a subtle widget which declares that Cablevision customers “have choices”. This widget allows you to type in your zip code and find out what other cable providers are in your area. Pretty sly if you ask me.

Before I let you share your thoughts in the comments, I wanted to apologize for the heavy skewing of this post towards the Food Network. I honestly don’t know much about HGTV, except for the fact that I occasionally enter their HGTV Dream Home Giveaway!

Anyways….share away!

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  • jeffespo

    Great post Jess. I was reading about this today at the gym and see it as an overall bad marketing move on both ends. The real losers are the consumers, this is similar to the fight that the NFL had (has?) with the NFL over the NFL Network, hopefully it gets resolved soon.

    I do love the advocacy from the channel's stars as well.

  • britt624

    Jess

    Like your last post, this one touch home. I'm really missing my Food Network. HGTV really isn't my thing so I'm not as concerned about it being gone. I was at my friends house last week and her boyfriend actually teased me because they have Fios and could watch it. Let's hope the effort Scripps is putting into their campaign helps move the return of Food Network faster.

  • Pat James

    We cannot switch to FIOS as it is not available in our
    area, so we are STUCK. The fact that Cablevision did
    not warn customers that the contract was about to expire and was in dispute shows the sneakiness and underhandedness of Jimmy Dolan and the Cablevision
    organization. In the end we are going to pay for FN & HGTV so lets get on with it Cablevision and stop playing games.