Food Network, which will spend 30 percent more on
programming this year, unveiled a slate last week that includes eight new original series,
with most of them set to debut in June.
This year, Food will add more than 1,000 hours of new
programming to its schedule, including new series, new episodes of returning shows and
more than 50 specials, according to Judy Girard, who was promoted to senior vice president
and general manager in January.
Girard said Food will build on and follow through on the
programming strategy she oversaw last year as senior vice president of programming and
content development for Scripps Networks, the channel's parent. The goal was to take
Food out of the studio and into the field for its shows.
In fact, Girard said, most of Food's
"how-to" cooking shows have been moved out of primetime, as the network does
more lifestyle-type programming related to food. "We are finding more and more
formats to expand the category out," she said.
Food will start rolling out its new programming in April,
with Food 911 debuting April 13 at 9 p.m.
Food 911 -- which features chef Tyler Florence helping
people to overcome food disasters -- will launch as part of Food's new 9 p.m.
checkerboard, which will include Door Knock Dinners on Mondays, Extreme Cuisine on
Tuesdays, Good Eats on Wednesdays, Food 911 on Thursdays and Calling All
Cooks on Fridays.
A revamped version of Molto Mario will also premiere
with new episodes starting April 10 in the nightly 5:30 p.m. time slot.
Food will have two nightly strips, with its signature
Emeril Live remaining at 8 p.m. nightly. The second strip, at 9:30 p.m., kicks off
April 10, and it will feature The Best of.
The emphasis on primetime checkerboarding -- or airing
different shows each weeknight at a time period such as 9 p.m., for example -- is a new
strategy for Food.
The move is in contrast to the network's past approach
to primetime, which has been to strip one particular series by airing it each night at the
same time slot, so viewers know that when they tune in each night at 8 p.m., for example,
they'll see Emeril Lagasse.
Girard believes viewers will continue tuning to Food, even
without the predictability of stripped programming. "Normally, I wouldn't
program a network this way, with checkerboarding," she said. "But this network
is different. It's a destination, like ESPN."
The lion's share of Food's new series will
premiere the week of June 26, as part of two new half-hour checkerboards at 10 p.m. and
Those shows include: Food Nation with Bobby Flay,in which the renowned chief covers regional cooking with visits across the country; Food
Fantasy,in which viewers get their food dreams fulfilled; Food Finds,
where old-timeculinary fare is featured; Inside Scoop,which takes
the audience behind the scenes to see how the Navy feeds a submarine of sailors, for
example; It's a Surprise, in which a viewer's surprise-party dream comes
true; and Melting Pot,in which chefs prepare ethnic dishes from their
Finally, Food will premiere Sweet Dreams, a weekday
show on desserts, in either the third or fourth quarter.The network also has a
handful of new series coming in the fourth quarter, according to Girard.
Food's main programming concept now is to find chefs
who can go out on location and mix with real people, and not just stay in the kitchen,
according to Girard. "It's a really good format for us," she said.
Food also has dozens of specials in the works. For example,
Martha Stewart is doing an Easter special April 16. And a special two-part Iron Chef special
will air during the network's premiere week in June, based on chef Takeski
Kaga's trip to New York this week.
The network has aired its specials at 9 p.m. Sundays, but
it will add a weeknight when it will run them between 10 p.m. and 11 p.m., according to
Girard added that the half-dozen new series Food launched
last summer did well, helping to increase the service's viewership. "We had a
spectacular ratings year in 1999," she said.
Last year in primetime, Food's ratings were up 33
percent, to a 0.4 from a 0.3 in 1998, according to Nielsen Media Research. For total day,
Food was flat last year, with a 2.0 rating.