FLN Still Going Despite Scripps’ Plan to Cook New Net

Stamped with a nullifying expiration date, the shelf life of Fine Living Network may be measured in mere months, as parent Scripps Networks Interactive begins the process of eliminating the brand. Yet as far as the channel’s ad sales team is concerned, until Scripps changes the name on the door, it’s business as usual at FLN.

A week after Scripps Nets said it would shutter the seven-year-old brand, FLN has launched a new series and brought on a first-time client. As part of an out-of-market deal put together this summer, the National Peanut Board will sponsor the back end of FLN’s 13-episode competition strip Bartender Wars. Shot in New York, the boozehound capital of the world, Bartender Wars challenges three mixologists to build cocktails off a single spirit base.

Per terms of the deal, the noble legume will receive an integration throughout the Nov. 27 installment of Wars. In this particular episode, the contestants will be charged with crafting a libation from liquor and peanut butter.

In addition to the integration, FLN developed a co-branded 60-second interstitial singing the praises of the Nutcracker Sweet, a drink made with alcohol-infused peanuts. The deal also includes traditional 30-second NPB spots, which will run in Wars starting Nov. 6.

The peanut deal marks the first time FLN has planted a sponsor integration, said Jonathan LaConti, vp, ad sales, FLN. “It just so happened to be the first time a campaign and our production window aligned, so it was a good fit,” LaConti said. The NPB is hoping to reach a younger, hipper audience with the buy. “Consumers are congregating around food, beverage and lifestyle, and we want to be there,” said Bob Coyle, managing director of NPB’s media agency Lawler Ballard Van Durand.

While FLN is living on borrowed time––Scripps will relaunch the property as the Cooking Channel in Q3 2010––executives are still working to define its replacement. The network’s affiliate partners have been receptive to the switch, as FLN never really found its footing.

After its first three quarters of making ratings guarantees, FLN in 2009 saw its net ad sales revenue fall 42 percent to $13.6 million, per SNL Kagan. Given the economy and the net’s niche appeal, it became apparent that FLN’s deliveries wouldn’t catch up with its rate base.

As FLN trudges into the sunset, media buyers seem intrigued by the prospect of Food Net v. 2.0. “It’s a subject that seems inexhaustible,” said one national TV buyer. “It’s a chance to make a fresh start with a viable brand.”

If Cooking Channel can serve up even a fraction of Food Net’s ratings, clients are unlikely to quibble. Nor should operators, given FLN’s 5¢ subscriber fee.