03/26/15: Travel Channel



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CYNOPSISBACKSTAGE
BEHIND THE SCENES at the Upfronts
The People! The Parties! The Buzz!a

It’s been just over a year since Shannon O’Neill took the reins as President of Travel Channel, tasked with continuing the network’s transformation into a lifestyle brand. It’s a challenge he’s embraced, and the efforts of the Travel team has resulted in the highest-rated new series since 2008, as well as a steady rise in median viewer income. “At Travel Channel, we take great pride in our brand promise,” O’Neill tells Cynopsis. “We ensure that everything we do – on-air, in digital and at events – reflects our passion for travel, our curiosity for exploring the world, and our desire for human connection.” 


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What’s the pitch?
“Our whole company has been built on trusted, consistent brands,” says Jon Steinlauf, President, National Ad Sales and Marketing for Scripps Networks Interactive. “We’re developing what we consider to be a true travel category. In ad sales, we believe that we’re headed in a great direction, with a brand that appeals to the travel enthusiast.”

“Other networks might dabble in travel, but no one does 24/7 travel programming like Travel Channel,” adds O’Neill. “Just like our sister networks HGTV and Food, we lead our category and we are fully committed to delivering a branded environment where upscale viewers find entertaining programming every night of the week.”

Taking a New Road 
“We’re finding success with programming that is true to the category, just as home and food have been true to their categories,” says Steinlauf. “The reason we bought controlling interest in Travel in 2009 was because it was a lifestyle channel we felt could follow along the path of HGTV and Food, a service that could appeal to the enthusiastic traveller just as the home and food enthusiasts have enjoyed our services over the years.”

Booze Traveler and Expedition Unknown are examples of the new breed of content, and “more are coming,” promises Steinlauf. “It’s improving the brand, it’s improving the demographics, its improving overall ratings delivery.”

O’Neill concurs, saying the net has “big plans” for 2015, with over 20 new series launches ranging from Breaking Borders,showing the human side of well-known conflict areas around the globe, to lighter, fun series like Time Traveling with Brian Unger, which uses a witty tour guide and “eye-popping” CGI graphics to reveal little-known historical details.

Following Their Own Path
“We don’t worry too much about trends,” says O’Neill, relying instead on “engaging talent and great storytelling. Unique and scalable formats are always important, but great talent is the main ingredient. We’re always looking for diverse, unique and entertaining new hosts – individuals who are adventurous, insightful, fun and curious. But the key attribute is authenticity, which is critical to our viewers.”

Mapping the Future
“We continue to build on our game plan, which is to create compelling travel programming every night of the week,” says O’Neill. “We’re already seeing traction with Booze Travelerand Expedition Unknown. After only a few months on air, Expedition Unknown is our highest-rated new series since 2008. The programming additions we’ve made so far have resulted in the network’s highest prime time median viewer income in five years. And the audience median income rose every quarter in 2014.”


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Just Asking…
From Cleveland to Kazakhstan, Andrew Zimmern travels the globe as host of his Bizarre Foods series – but it’s relationships, even more than recipes, that get him excited to go to work every day.

What’s the most rewarding part of your job?
Connecting with people and changing lives around the world. Sounds saccharine but it’s really true. You can’t help but be moved by kids who have become sustainable citizens because of the work, or young entrepreneurs who are building community economic systems after seeing something I showed them from a village in Central Asia.

Why should people watch your show?
Because Americans inhale other cultures off a fork or spoon. We accept other people’s food before we accept their music or art or language or even the people themselves…so if you see yourselves in other people, if you accept someone else’s food you can learn to accept the rest of the culture, and ultimately the people. Life is about relationships with people. In a world where we always define ourselves by our differences, let’s define ourselves instead on our commonality, and food is a great starter, a great equalizer.

What’s the most common reaction you get from fans?
“I don’t know how you eat some of that stuff but I never miss a show, you’ve changed our family’s life. God bless you.”

Did you ever think you’d be a TV star?
Never in a million years. I never thought anyone other than my wife would be interested and now she’s the only person who doesn’t watch the show.

Quote of The Day
“We like to say ‘travel moves you,’ and it certainly moves us and our partners – to create smart, inspiring programming that takes our audience around the world.” – Shannon O’Neill

Coming up in Backstage at the Upfronts, hitting your mailbox at 6pm!

Who said it: “Our audience is loyal. They watch us live. They not only watch the ads, they purchase the products.” Find out in tomorrow’s Backstage at the Upfronts!




Keep Watching & Reading,
Lynn Leahey, Editor
Roberta Caploe: Associate Publisher @robertacaploe
Diane K Schwartz: Senior Vice President, Media Communications Group 

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