The channel was announced by Scripps in 2001 and launched the following year as Fine Living (later Fine Living Network, FLN). The brand was positioned towards high-income viewers "who want guidance in helping spend their free time", and featured a mix of lifestyle- and leisure-themed programming dealing with topics such as travel and adventure, finance, real estate, "everyday pursuits", and technology. Scripps positioned Fine Living as a multi-platform brand, having launched a companion website, and purchasing a 49% stake in a free-circulation magazine that would be co-branded with the channel. Scripps planned to invest $100 million in original programming for Fine Living.
In 2007, Fine Living acquired primetime encores of the syndicated series The Martha Stewart Show. The network later added Whatever, Martha!, a series featuring her daughter Alexis Stewart and Jennifer Hutt comedically riffing over footage from Martha Stewart Living.
In October 2009, Scripps Networks Interactive announced that Fine Living would be relaunched as Cooking Channel in 2010. The network would be a spin-off of Food Network oriented towards instructional and personality-based programming, which had been largely displaced by the growth of Food Network's reality and competition programming. The network airs both new series, and archived programming from Food Network. Cooking Channel launched on May 31, 2010 (coinciding with the Memorial Day holiday), pushed ahead from a planned launch later in the year.