When we talk about food television, we’re probably talking about The Food Network. It has become the main source of entertaining cooking shows. Indeed, this channel has become one of the most powerful icons of cooking, and has captivated generations of viewers with their quirky, funny, and highly-entertaining shows.
What many predicted would be a great network, has lost touch with its core audience. There’s a noticeable shift in the programming of shows that puts more emphasis on the reality-based programs instead of those hosted by cooking personalities. While this approach makes financial sense (the network wants to capture a sizable chunk of the reality show watching audience), it causes some undesired results. Viewership and talk around the water cooler is that most diehard foodies are more than a bit dissatisfied with FN programing. Throwdown: an on-the-road professional chef challenges “ordinary” people in to cooking contest. Iron Chef America: a rehash of the Japanese original (we know from un-named sources that ICA contestants get months in advance to practice with their ingredients – something that would have caused controversy in Japan). Rachael Ray: a host cooking prepackaged food (and claims its healthy because she’s adding vegetables.)
I think what the network lacks are executives who have brilliant ideas. From the shows that they have right now, one might be under the impression that the executive boardroom is just full of idiots (in the weakest sense). There should be a variety, a little zing and maybe…I don’t know…some cooking? A little education? Yes, reality shows rock the financials at this point (Two words: Snookie and Situation). But the fact remains that the Food Network caters primarily to a food and cooking audience. Because of the network’s desire to hit two birds in with one stone (keeping their original audience and gain more of the regular market), it appears that they ended up alienating their core audience.
The Food Network was the first network that truly showed the entertainment value of cooking. What pains me is that most of the shows have recently become too derivative. Either they’re doing a food version of another networks winning show (like Chef vs. City), or they’re doing an outright imitation of another (see Kitchen Impossible). These shows not only look boring, but they also fail to add that sparkle that smart shows have.
“More than just cooking,” that’s the slogan of the Food Network. Reminds me of MTV…and how now they barely showcase music. They want to get more viewers to watch their shows. These viewers may be the types that don’t really cook much at home, or watch shows like Comedy Central or HBO. In the desire to gain more viewership, without sacrificing their loyal viewers who watch “personality-driven” cooking shows, the network ended up losing both. With the departure of cooking celebrities like Anthony Bourdain and others, Food Network now lacks the star power (except for maybe Alton Brown) to keep their original viewers tuned in to them.
Is that bad news? Maybe, maybe not. If the network keeps up with this ridiculous performance, then the end is quite within sight. I just hope that this article is a wake-up call for executives to put together their act. It’s a simple request from people who want to see their favorite shows from their favorite TV network.