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‘Let’s Move’ Theme Resonates With Programmers

3/05/2012 12:01 AM Eastern

In an effort to combat
the startling numbers
around childhood obesity in
the U.S., first lady Michelle
Obama has not just launched
the comprehensive “Let’s
Move” campaign, but she’s
also shown that she’s not
afraid to shine on the small
screen in order to promote
the cause.

Perhaps your child (not
you, of course) saw Mrs.
Obama bust out some spontaneous
dance moves on
Nickelodeon’s iCarly in an
episode called “iMeet the
First Lady.”

Or maybe you big kids saw
her locked in a heated burlap
sack race with NBC funnyman
Jimmy Fallon at the
White House for a segment
on Late Night.

The first lady has shown
she’s not afraid of the cameras (and not above getting goofy
in front of them) when it comes to raising awareness about
healthy living for America’s children. Disney XD also featured
an interview with her in an interstitial segment on its
show Mr. Young.

One group of people in the TV industry that couldn’t be happier
about the campaign, and who are uniquely positioned to
capitalize on it with viewers, are programmers and executives
in the healthy-living space.

“We’ve been in this already, so we’re ahead and aligned
with what first lady Obama has been doing,” Gabriella Messina,
head of programming at Veria Living, a network devoted
to wellness and holistic health, said.

This spring, the network is looking to engage young and
old viewers who want to improve their health with a new
yoga series currently in production. The show, Yoga for
Anybody
(working title), features popular yoga expert Sadie
Nardini and focuses on people as they are, rather than
on trying to attain the perfect body. The new show will be
one of the major anchors across the morning programming
block for Veria.

Another new yoga-based show due out this spring
is My Life Guru (working title),
starring former Versace
model-turned-healer yogi
Cameron Alborzian. The
weekly series follows Alborzian
as he treats individuals
through Ayurvedic and
yoga therapies, diet and herbal
remedies.

While a focus on natural
healing and holistic health
might not be targeted to
children, Messina believes
the programming dovetails
with Michelle Obama’s
message of improving
health for all Americans.

“All of those [shows] are aligned with what we’re seeing
first lady Obama is committed to,” Messina says.

For those who want to get moving off the couch and into
the outdoors, networks like Outside Television are also
working to create compelling health-oriented content.
They too are aware of the “Let’s Move” campaign and are
developing programming around family outdoor fitness.

The network’s morning newsmagazine The Buzz features
segments about
people who want be
active in their busy
lives. “[There’s] an appeal
to everyday people
who just want to go
out and take a ride or a
hike,” Outside Television
senior vice president
of programming
and production Rob
Faris said.

One segment, called
“Fittest Real Athletes,”
tells aspirational stories
like one about an
adventure endurance
racer who is also a mom with three kids under the age of
5. The segment explores how she balances training with
family life.

The network also runs a family gear segment that shows
families how to prepare for outdoors excursions. “Just because
you have a 2-year-old, doesn’t mean you can’t go do
it,” Faris said.

The network is looking to acquire a weekend morning
show with the hopes of showing kids how much fun the
outdoors can be.

“I haven’t found it yet,” Faris said, although he is looking
into a few shows. “It’s on my radar. It’s something we should
be doing; something we have an obligation to do.”

From the great outdoors to the kitchen, programs that
promote healthy lifestyles are top priorities for executives.
“Healthy is not a fad,” Food Network senior vice
president of marketing and creative services and brand
strategy Susie Fogelson said. “It’s an important part of
people’s daily conversations.”

Fogelson also manages marketing at
Scripps Networks Interactive’s Cooking
Channel, which recently launched Not
My Mama’s Meals
, hosted by Paula Deen’s
son, Bobby. In the show, Bobby Deen revamps
family recipes to reduce their fat
and calorie content. The show airs as part
of a weekend healthy-eating block, along
with Drop 5 Lbs With Good Housekeeping
and Hungry Girl.

While the network certainly celebrates
food, Fogelson said that healthy, mindful
eating is also an important part of
Cooking Channel’s programming.

“Michelle Obama’s ‘Let’s Move’ campaign
is just wildly exciting,” Fogelson,
a mother of two, said. “As a mother, just
getting people out there moving is such
a simple idea but so important. We’re not
necessarily about activity [at Food Network
and Cooking Channel], [but] we do nutrition
as a form of wellness.”

On April 14, Food Network will debut the
documentary, Hunger Hits Home, a tough,
personal look at families going hungry in
America and the people who are doing something to combat
that. The documentary is produced in partnership with
Share Our Strength, an organization whose “No Kid Hungry”
initiative aims to end child hunger in America by 2015.

While childhood obesity and childhood hunger are two
separate issues, Fogelson said they are intertwined. Initiatives
that encourage active lifestyles are complementary to
educating families about affordable options for nutritious
foods. “They are two sides of the same coin,” she said.

Over at Discovery Fit
& Health, the focus has
shifted away from exercise
programming that
was popular on Fit TV
and over to more reality-
based shows. Still,
senior VP of content
strateg y Rita Mullin
said the network believes
in family wellness
programming and
is looking into of f-air
event-based family opportunit
ies related to
fitness and exercise. The
network expects to make
an announcement at its upfront presentation this spring.

“I think [“Let’s Move”] is a great campaign and
childhood obesity is not only a critical health issue
today, but it’s a frightening statistic,” Mullin said. “So
I’m delighted to see that it’s getting the type of publicity
it is.”

So too, no doubt, are many other programmers who
have been encouraging people to get off the couch and live
healthier lives since well before “Let’s Move.”

September