TV Shows Spring From E-Newsletters

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Funny home remodeling stories and holiday cookie recipes, featured in two of Scripps Networks' e-newsletters, led to television programs on its Food Network and HGTV (Home and Garden TV) channels.


HGTV's "Bad, Bad Bath" series, which starts April 4, originated from an "HGTV Ideas" e-newsletter article in December 2004 in which HGTV.com writer Kathy McCleary playfully described the bathroom she was renovating as the "world's ugliest bathroom."


The room's plaid wallpaper, she wrote, was the "kind of plaid that actually makes you dizzy if you stare at it too long." The tile, she added, "is exactly the color of what you do in the bathroom."


The HGTV e-newsletter, sent to 3.5 million subscribers weekly, included a teaser on McCleary's article and a link to the HGTV Web site, which posted the bathroom story and photos. Under the photos, readers were invited to send in their own "bad bathroom stories" and photos.


HGTV executives were surprised that the bathroom horror story struck a chord with e-newsletter subscribers. Though the HGTV Web site did not promote the article and photos, e-newsletter subscribers and viewers submitted hundreds of "passionate responses" and photos of their own garish bathrooms, said Jerilyn Bliss, vice president, corporate communications, Scripps Networks.


"When the online group presented a preview of this package in an HGTV meeting, the on-air group immediately recognized that there was something there ... especially when they saw the great visuals and the depth of emotion," Bliss said.


As a result, HGTV aired a "Bad Bath" special in October, highlighting viewers' stories and photos. The popularity of that program led to the "Bad, Bad Bath" series.


The Web-to-TV special changed the way HGTV executives view programming, Bliss said. The "Bad Bath" series simply pokes fun at "bad" bathrooms, rather than educate viewers on improving their homes, the typical, educational format for HGTV.


"By listening to our highly engaged subscribers, we learned we could take the HGTV brand a place it hadn't been before," she said. "They gave us permission to create content that didn't necessarily give solutions, it just let us laugh together."


In another e-mail-to-TV marketing play, Food Network's "12 Days of Cookies" e-newsletter, which features recipes from the Food Network Kitchen chefs and celebrity chefs, was transformed into a TV special for the first time in December.


The seasonal Cookie e-newsletter, sent for 12 consecutive days after Thanksgiving, has grown from 250,000 to 1.2 million subscribers since starting in 2001. Because of this popularity, Food Network executives thought it would translate well into a program.


The network held a contest, asking viewers to submit videos about themselves and their favorite holiday cookie recipes. The winner's videos and cookies were featured in a one-time Food Network special, "Winning Holiday Cookies," which aired in mid-December.


Again, TV executives realized that online events and discussions can lead to interesting TV programming, said Tammy Esser, vice president, customer services, Scripps Networks Interactive.


"The fact that an online event transpired into an on-air program [is] a huge milestone for our online group," she said. "Typically, Web site content migrates from on air to online."


Christine Blank covers online marketing and advertising, including e-mail marketing and paid search, for DM News and DMNews.com. To keep up with the latest developments in these areas, subscribe to our daily and weekly e-mail newsletters by visiting www.dmnews.com/newsletters


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