Cooking Channel Resets Menu


One year after its initial launch,
the Cooking Channel is looking to serve up a
menu of new original programming to help
build its burgeoning brand.

The 58 million-subscriber Scripps Networks
Interactive-owned channel, which
took over the channel berth of Fine Living
Network last May 31, said it has increased
viewership on the channel by 82% compared
to FLN’s audience, although the network
would not reveal specific figures. Neither
FLN nor Cooking Channel are Nielsen-rated.

“We were hoping that the ratings would
stay relatively flat, but we really surprised
ourselves because we almost doubled the
viewership right away without launching
some of the signature programming that
we have planned for 2011-12,” said Cooking
Channel general manager Michael Smith.

Smith also said the network was able to differentiate itself
from Food Network, its more-established sister service
by emphasizing the food on
the plate rather than the drama
surrounding how that food gets
to the plate. While Food Network
is more about the entertainment,
drama, competition and reality
shows like Cupcake Wars and Iron
Chef America
, Smith said Cooking
Channel shows like Bitchin’ Kitchen,
based on an Italian-themed Internet
show, and Everyday Exotic
— which takes everyday meals and
gives them an exotic twist — focuses
on the subtleties of fine cuisine.

“On the Food Network, the story
is the star … it’s more for a generalentertainment
viewer that happens
to also have an interest in food,”
Smith said. “On the Cooking Channel,
the food is the star — is really
for a hyper-passionate food lover
and provides another point of view
on food.”

Also, the network’s emphasis on
cultural foods has helped it draw
more multicultural viewers to the
network, Smith said. The network
is drawing about 33% more African-
American and Hispanic viewers
combined than its predecessor
Fine Living, according to network officials.

 “The audience is more diverse because we’ve made a
conscious decision to go after ethnic cuisines that maybe
aren’t known on Food Network — shows featuring Indian
food, Chinese food, Vietnamese and Spanish dishes
— have helped us attract more diverse audiences to the
channel because they’re excited to see their cuisine represented.”

Along with being diverse, Cooking Channel’s audience
is very upscale — the network is No. 2 in median household
income among its core audience of women 25 to 54.
“We are really going for the sophisticated, passionate food
lover, and that person tends to travel a lot, is well educated
and tends to be a very upscale person,” he said.

Smith said the next phase is to create brand-defining
programming for the network. The network has eight
shows in development for 2011 and a potential 12 series in
2012 that Smith believes will not only appeal to foodies but
also attract casual culinary fans. Among the new titles are
Hook, Line & Dinner — another web-influenced show in
which expert fisherman Ben Sargent
travels the country in search
of the best seafood dishes — and
Easy Chinese: San Francisco, a series
that walks viewers through
cooking great Chinese delicacies.

The network will also remain
aggressive in the social media
space in the next year. The network
launched a blog and a Cooking
Channel Facebook page three
months prior to the network’s debut
to gauge the temperature of
viewers for the channel.

“We knew we were targeting the
hyper-passionate food lover, and
we thought that a great way to do
that is through social media,” said
Smith, adding that the network
currently has 120,000 friends on
its Facebook page.

“By the time we launched the
network we already had this huge
group of people that were already
in conversation with us about
what the channel could be,” he

The network will also tap the
Web as an interactive tool for a
new series it’s premiering later
this summer dubbed The Perfect Three. Each week the
series will feature three “perfect recipes” from Cooking
Channel personalities for a particular dish, while
asking viewers to submit online their own recipes for
that dish.

“During the show we’ll drive viewers online, where we’ll
feature a video showing one of our viewers doing their version
of a perfect recipe,” he said.