The names of the best chefs used to be reserved for food critics and connoisseurs. As little as five years ago, Julia Child was America's only celebrity chef. Today, thanks to cable TV, names like Emeril Lagasse, Bobby Flay, Wolfgang Puck, and even Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto are household names. Making celebrities out of chefs, THE FOOD NETWORK has cashed in on cuisine.
Last year, THE FOOD NETWORK posted a profit of eight hundred thousand dollars, up from a nearly eleven million dollar loss the year before. Although small, the network's profit shows that there is tremendous public appetite for appetizing programming. It isn't only food that has gotten them this far. As John Higgins of BROADCASTING & CABLE MAGAZINE says, "Television needs stars."
Launched in 1993, with a mere 3 hours of programming a day, THE FOOD NETWORK found a niche of food advertisers, who are some of the biggest spenders in the ad industry. Following the first law of cable TV, distribution, they put content on the backburner and pushed their name into the homes of cable subscribers across the country, giving sponsors a focused channel for advertising. That was a good start, but to keep ratings up and advertisers interested, THE FOOD NETWORK needed stars. Since there were no celebrity chefs, the network created their own stars. Taking the Julia Child concept a step further, shows were spun off featuring naked food from England, exotic journeys in search of food, and shows for already well known -- at least in the culinary world -- and diverse chefs.
One example is Emeril Lagasse, host of EMERIL LIVE, an unpretentious cooking show with a dash of attitude. Fans wait for hours to see tapings, attend book signings, and have Emeril cooking clubs with all-Emeril dinner parties. And that's just for one chef!
Put all of these chefs in one pot, and voila! THE FOOD NETWORK is now available in 54 million homes across America. But they won't stop there. The key to the future is to, as Emeril says, "kick it up a notch." THE FOOD NETWORK will be offering more fare, including a Web site, cookbooks, and cooking gadgets, and they will undoubtedly invest lots more in their celebrity chefs. If the appetizer has been any indicator, THE FOOD NETWORK's mix of stardom and our obsession with food are sure to be a recipe for success.