Online Food Fight: Scripps vs. Cablevision

So, BC, or Before Compete, I worked for a large Media company in their Distribution Group. Therefore, I was not overly surprised when I received a News alert on New Year’s Day telling me "Scripps Networks Pulls Channels from Cablevision Systems."

Surely, however, the 3+ million New York, New Jersey and Connecticut Cablevision subscribers were much more surprised when they tried to turn on the popular Scripps Networks “Food Network and HGTV” New Year’s Day to a message telling them the content was no longer available.  What is particularly interesting to me is the way both Cablevision and Scripps took to the web to garner support from their customer base as we’ll see below.  To reference an old saying, "Customers just want their"¦Food Network and HGTV"¦back."

Cablevision sent emails to customers and leveraged prime real estate on its web properties telling consumers, "Scripps wants a $20 Million rate increase from Cablevision and our customers—Tell Them No!  Click here to send an email to Scripps."

Scripps, on the other hand, took the Food Fight to a whole new level: Driving traffic to newly created domains"”Ilovehgtv.com and ilovefoodnetwork.com. Scripps drove traffic to these sites via a tile  on the homepages of both foodnetwork.com and hgtv.com"”sites which average a combined 17M unique visitors per month.  The tiles had a clear call to action and one that drove immediate results for the newly launched Scripps sites"”"HGTV/Food Network has been dropped. Bring (them) back."

  • Scripps’ ilovefoodnetwork.com and ilovehgtv.com sites, launched on December 12, 2009, garnered an 11% W-O-W increase in traffic the week post-launch as Foodies and Home aficionados checked out the new sites
  • Immediately after the December 31st pulling of Food Network and HGTV from Cablevision, viewers flocked to the newly launched Scripps sites driven by the tile on the primary HGTV.com and Food Network.com sites; mass email campaigns; and, of course, by word of mouth referrals from newly created groups addressing the topic on Facebook
  • Cablevision’s web properties witnessed a decline in traffic the week of the announcement.  At first, I was a bit surprised by the decline in traffic to Cablevision’s sites, but then realized it’s analogous to my recent dissatisfaction with a major warehouse club’s discontinuation of a favorite brand of mine. I immediately picked up the phone to call the warehouse and voice my dissatisfaction because they were the distributor I relied upon and frequented to buy this product. I then went to the brand’s website to find any content on how to help me get the brand back.

So, out of the gate, Scripps was successful at getting traffic to the new sites. To keep these additional visitors engaged, Scripps launched new content relevant to the Food Fight:

  • Daily updates including topics like, "What else can you do"
  • Video messages from popular hosts Sandra Lee and Bobby Flay to Cablevision customers
  • A link for Cablevision customers to find other Subscription Television options by entering zip code
  • An invitation to send an e-card to Cablevision

The addition of new content helped increase engagement among the visitors to the Scripps sites.  The number of different pages each visitor interacted with doubled from 4 page views/visitor to 8 page views/visitor the week of the announcement.

This analysis includes data from just a few days post announcement.  Three weeks later and the Food Fight finally ended. While I don’t have the data on hand, my guess is that similar to a house project that goes on too long, customers got increasingly upset and went to the web to express their discontent.  Ah yes, a quick check on the number of fans who joined the Facebook group named, "We want Cablevision to give back HGTV & Food Network" quickly grew to over 35,000 and this was just one of the 7 groups that was created.

Surely, the question at the end of the day is, "Did consumers do more than just vent on the web"? In other words, what was the bottom line impact to Cablevision? I don’t have the answer to this today, but it would be interesting to use Compete data to analyze:

  • Cross-visitation to competitive sites among Cablevision customers
  • Upper funnel conversion and overall online ordering rates for the competitive set among Cablevision customers and among Cablevision customers who visited the Scripps sites
  • Traffic to Cablevision’s online Support features as well as to Contact Us pages

On a qualitative note, if in your spare time, you want a hint"¦.take a peak at the posts on the above mentioned Facebook group pages as well as the blog postings/comments on Scripps’ ilovefoodnetwork.com and ilovehgtv.com for examples of the power of Social Networking"¦.which raises a good topic for future investigation, "Could Cablevision have better leveraged Social Networking in both a Customer care and awareness sense?"