Since its inception in 1987, the Travel Channel has been on a mission to provide compelling programming that takes viewers beyond their everyday destinations, making the unfamiliar familiar — whether it’s around the world or around the block. Owned and operated by Scripps Networks Interactive — whose stable includes HGTV, the DIY Network, the Food Network, the Cooking Channel and Great American Country — the Travel Channel is available in more than 94 million U.S. cable homes. Recently, WAG caught up with Ross Babbit, senior vice president for programming and development, and learned that while he may be taking a vacation this summer, the Travel Channel won’t:
What do you look for when you are programming a season’s worth of Travel Channel series and shows?
“We want to entertain and engage you in the world from the comfort of your couch by celebrating passion, adventure and unique points of view.”
Is putting together the summer schedule much different from the other seasons?
“Viewers like to lean back and have a great time in the summer, so they tend to want light and fun shows, with things like ‘Xtreme Waterparks’ and ‘Big Crazy Family Adventure.’”
The new series “Big Crazy Family Adventure” sounds like a wild ride, with the Kirby family journeying from the Pacific Northwest to the Far East by any means but an airplane. How did they come to the Travel Channel’s attention?
“A production company that we work with found them and brought them to us. We instantly fell in love. They were about to head out on this incredible three-month journey, so we decided to tag along.”
Did you have any reservations about airing the series, given its proximity to Nepal and the recent disaster there?
“We certainly discussed it, but the series celebrates the people and culture of Nepal and surrounding areas, showing the country in a great light, so we’ve decided to continue as planned.”
Much of the programming sounds like the quintessential summer of fun — barbecue, boardwalks and beaches.
“Our viewers love ‘summer fun.’ In fact, our tagline for the summer is ‘We Are Summer.’”
And yet, series like the popular “Trip Flip,” “Epic Attractions” and “America’s Secret Swimming Holes” take us to places we might not otherwise be able to visit. Is the unusual vacation the hot trend?
“Our viewers look for the off-the-beaten path destinations, not just the trendy tourist spots. They like to hear about those places that nobody else has heard about.”
How has travel and thus the Travel Channel’s programming, changed over the years?
“We’re as hyper-focused as ever on showing you everything that is entertaining and engaging about the world… with lots of great personalities and stories.”
Is there one place the Travel Channel has yet to visit that you can’t wait to take viewers to?
“I can honestly say that we’ve been to just about everywhere. But there are still a few places left in the world, though, that haven’t been seen by any humans, and we’re working on bringing you there.”
What’s down the line for fall?
“We have a lot of exciting shows coming this fall, including ‘Watt’s World,’ ‘36 Hours,’ ‘Planet Primetime,’ and ‘Rev Run’s Around the World.’”
Finally, where will you be off to for your summer vacation?
“Heading to a lakeside cabin near Asheville, N.C.”