New Food Execs Change the Menu4/04/1999 8:00 PM Eastern
Getting out of the studio to shoot on location, Food
Network has nine new series planned for the coming fall season, and it will create 1,000
hours of new programming in total, officials said.
In addition to new shows, Food is also revamping some of
its veteran series and redoing its primetime lineup. Marquee show Emeril Live is
moving to 8 p.m. weeknights from its current 9 p.m. time slot.
Food's programming budget has doubled from what it was
last year, but officials wouldn't specify what it is.
The network is looking to broaden its audience with the new
program slate, which will start rolling out June 28.
The new lineup is the work of Eric Ober, who joined Food as
president in November, and Judy Girard, senior vice president of content development for
Scripps Networks, the E.W. Scripps Co. unit that includes Food.
The emphasis of the new programs is to go beyond what has
been Food's mainstay: cooking-demonstration shows with well-known chefs shot in
studios. The new slate has shows shot on location across the country that try to entertain
the average person, and not just trendy "foodies," by capturing the excitement
and fun of food.
Food is also working on biographies and documentaries,
including one on ballpark cuisine.
"This is the beginning of the broadening out of the
category and the type of production that we are doing," Girard said. "We're
bringing a lot more variety and a lot more life."
Food's new schedule will include two hours of live
television each night, with Sara Moulton doing Cooking Live at 7 p.m. and another
show, which may be called Second Helping,at 10 p.m.
Moulton's shows will lead into Emeril Live, which
will be followed by a so-called checkerboard slate at 9 p.m. That slate will include
existing shows such as Two Fat Ladies and Hot Off the Grill with Bobby Flay.
A prime example of Food's new programming tack is Calling
All Cooks,where the channel will show ordinary people demonstrating their
favorite recipes in their own homes.
In another new entrée, Food personality David Rosengarten
will be the Alex Trebek for game show Taste Test, a revamped version of the former Pressure
Another addition to Food's lineup will be magazine
show Best of,which will travel across the country to cover a different
theme each week, from best deli to best seafood. Other new additions include Extreme
Cuisine, which showcases outrageous food, and Good Eats,in which
filmmaker and food expert Alton Brown takes an offbeat and humorous look at food.
"Before, [Food officials] were focusing on celebrity
chefs," said Ellen Oppenheim, senior vice president and media director at Foote, Cone
& Belding. "Now, it sounds like they're trying a different angle, with a
magazine cover-line feel."
In addition to creating new shows, Food is also trying to
inject more life into many of its old series, officials said.
For example, Flay's show now has a new producer and a
new production team, Ober said. The show will also be shot indoors sometimes, and not just
outdoors with Flay at the grill. Food had ordered 90 new episodes of Flay's show.
In another change, Curtis Aikens' Pick of the Day series
will now emphasize vegetarian and health-conscious cooking.
Starting in July, Food also plans to air a special every
Sunday night at 9 p.m., Ober said. It has a deal with CBS News Productions for six
specials so far.
Food enjoyed a strong showing in primetime in the first
quarter, racking up a 0.4 rating -- a 33 percent increase over last year -- according to
Nielsen Media Research.
Food gained 8 million subscribers last year, and it now
reaches 38.6 million homes. It did suffer one significant drop late last year, when Time
Warner Cable in Houston switched it out, citing low ratings. That drop involved nearly
In the fourth quarter of last year, Food posted revenue of
$13.1 million and operating cash flow of $1 million, according to E.W. Scripps. In its
fourth-quarter filing in January, E.W. Scripps said, "Food's trends are
positive, and the network is moving toward profitability, but the company does not expect
the network to be profitable over the next 12 months."
Food's only source of revenue is advertising, since it
struck initial 10-year carriage deals that didn't include license fees.
Susan Packard, executive vice president of affiliate sales,
international and new-business development for Scripps Networks, couldn't be reached
for comment as to whether Food will seek to reopen and renegotiate those contracts.