Long reads

The Euro50 Q&A – Bob Baskerville, Scripps Networks International

Earlier this year, Scripps Networks announced that it had acquired UK cable operator Virgin Media’s 50% stake in UKTV, the joint venture channels business partly owned by BBC Worldwide. It sent out a clear message that the US-based channel operator, with Scripps Network International general manager Bob Baskerville overseeing international deals, means business in the UK, and further afield. The Food Network has firmly established in the UK, with the channel airing its first localised content this year.

Age  49

Education  Indiana State University; Radio, TV & Film Communications (1980-1984)

Previous positions Director of production, E! Entertainment Network (1988-94); VP, Production Operations, Scripps Productions (1994-2000); SVP, Scripps Productions (2000-03); President, DIY Network (2003-05); President, Emerging Networks (DIY Network and Fine Living Network)(2005-10).

Last year’s highlights It was really a year of gaining a better understanding of the international media landscape for me, but along the way there were tremendous accomplishments by our international team at Scripps.  The two biggest that come to mind were the unprecedented rise of Food Network UK, where we’ve seen it spread its wings and become a proverbial “power brand” in the UK in just two years time, and then the acquisition of the 50% stake in UKTV, a move that elevated our international profile and commitment level to global growth in the blink of an eye.

Most significant industry development The resurgence of digital and how that manifests itself through IPTV and web-based solutions that allows for ways to consume media beyond a TV screen.   I read all sorts of headlines about how OTT or “cord-cutting” really won’t pose that much of a threat to traditional TV viewing.  I can tell you that’s the exact opposite of what my friends and colleagues believe, and are experiencing, really, to a degree, myself included!

Goals for next year Continued momentum for food network in the UK, grow distribution for Food Network (and for that matter, Fine Living) in the rest of EMEA and Asia, invest in building our digital offerings so Food Network becomes a truly multi-platform global entertainment resource, build the foundation for our lifestyle categories to have a significant presence in Latin America, and cultivate opportunities around the world to capitalise on our growing expertise in the travel category.

Industry challenges and opportunities I believe that we need to embrace the battle ahead of us in terms of customer retention and acquisition.  That only happens by being open-minded to the new alternatives out there.  At every level, there’s a new platform, a new methodology for media consumption out there.  What were once considered garden variety “added value” plays, are now opportunities that have to be vetted thoroughly, as many of these plays could represent game-changing outcomes in the next two to three years.

Alternative career choice Well, I came from a long family tree of firefighters, but that would not have been the career of choice for me.  If it hadn’t been the media industry, I probably would’ve pursued being a teacher and coach.  I truly admire those who are so committed to helping shape people’s lives at their most formative years, and I too sometimes wish I could have that kind of impact on our youth.

TV character most identified with That’s a tough one, since there are so many great TV characters out there.  Lately, I’d say I can associate with Sherriff Rick Grimes of AMC’s The Walking Dead.  Not that there’s anything apocalyptic in our business mind you, but there is something new challenging our efforts every day, which is what’s so unique about the international business.  So I can relate to Rick’s role when I’m trying to lead a team through what I would call permanent whitewater, and feeling accountable to lead them to a positive outcome in every thing we do.

Most admired individual This is a posthumous tribute, but it’s still timely and in terms of how to innovate, timeless!  For me without question, it was Steve Jobs. The fact that this person innovated up until the very end and that type of bold thinking represents for us today what are simply termed as everyday utilities to make life easier. That’s a gross understatement; his innovations changed lives! I really believe we won’t see someone that impactful across such a wide cultural millieu come along again anytime soon.

Life outside work  Read, watch TV (total TV junkie!), play pick-up basketball, spend time with my family, which may inlcude a little quality time gaming with my pre-teen son (Call of Duty-MW3, Forza Motorsport, et al).

Tags: Scripps

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