The Food Network
Conception and Development
The Food Network (legally the Television Food Network, GP) was launched on Thanksgiving weekend 1993 in New York, NY as a channel that specialized in programs about cooking, hospitality, food, restaurants, and kitchen culture. Its headquarters are stationed in New York City and offices are located in various cities scattered across the country, including Atlanta, Los Angeles, Chicago, Detroit and Knoxville. The Food Network is internationally available in Canada, Australia, Korea, Thailand, Singapore, the Philippines, Monaco, Andorra, Africa, France, and the French-speaking territories in the Caribbean and Polynesia.
In 1997, the E.W. Scripps Company purchased a majority share of the channel from A.H. Belo Corp., and has since bought out every minority shareholder except for Tribune Co., which maintains a 31% share of the estimated $1 billion channel. Scripps Networks Interactive, an offshoot of E.W. Scripps Co., runs the Food Network inside a Lifestyle Media portfolio of channels, which includes HGTV, DIY Network, Cooking Channel, and Travel Channel. Further partnerships include purchasing featured kitchen utensils etc. on websites affiliated with the Scripps ownership, such as BizRate and Shopzilla.
The Food Network currently broadcasts to 99 million television household nationwide. Globally, the Food Network has expanded well beyond this number, as they have begun to distribute to both the United Kingdom and Asia since November 9, 2009 and July 5, 2010, respectively.
Economic Evolution Under Providence and Scripps
Early on, the subject matter now covered under the cable umbrella of Scripps Networks Interactive was aired on PBS. This included cooking shows like The French Chef with Julia Child and The Frugal Gourmet, as well as home, gardening and do-it-yourself programs like The New Yankee Workshop and This Old House. The popularity of these shows caught the attention of the Providence Journal Company, which pitched the initial idea for a cable food channel in conjunction with home and garden themes. Interest was immediate, as producers noted that such shows were inexpensive to produce and ripe for product placement, as 45 of the 100 top U.S. advertisers at the time were food-related.
Providence Co. effectively used synergy within their own corporate network to boost the Food Network in its early days. They gathered investors from among a handful of its own media holdings (including the then-dubbed Scripps-Howard Inc.) endowed enough to wait several years for return on an initial investment, and then used Providence's own cable system, Colony Communication, to distribute. As an early strategy, Colony leveraged the Food Network into American households by offering the channel free of charge to any cable system that agreed to carry it to at least 80% of their subscribers. Scripps used a similar tactic of synergy after it bought the Food Network in 1997, using its own ten TV broadcast stations to reach 10% of the national market, and then bartering offerings of the newly purchased HGTV for Food Network slots on another 54 stations. Since then, 90% of the Food Network's production has been done under the Scripps corporate umbrella, keeping outsourced spending to a minimum, while Scripps has also maintained diverse holdings in retail markets, including BizRate, Shopzilla, and various other "lifestyle" channels and websites (which all advertise for each other) in order to boost profits. Together these tactics demonstrate a successful example of corporate synergy that has returned initial investment and then some, garnering ever-growing profits for the Food Network and Scripps since the early 2000s.
Present Status and Success
Nielsen Media Research in 2005 demonstrated the success of the Food Network as a resource for advertisers, with the audience's median household income at a respectable $60,139, and high demographics indexes for working women and business/finance workers. Shopping trends showed a similarly high index for spending trends, showing that average viewers were not only of middle to upper-middle class, but had excess liquid capital and a willingness to spend it. The Food Network's median audience age is 44.6, and it states that is targets "upscale Adults 25-54."
Initial efforts to expand this older female audience to a wider demographic of young people and males has proven successful for Food Network profits thus far. Without alienating their original base, the Food Network has managed to greatly appeal to the youth market of "grocery decision makers" in particular and subsequently sell that audience potential. Food Network president Brooke Bailey Johnson notoriously won over such youth-oriented advertisers as McDonald's, Michelob, and Monster Worldwide after demographics began to noticeably change in 2006, and Food Network profits overall ended up boosting Scripps stocks by 22% in August of 2007 despite financial failures in every other media sector.
The Food Network takes great pride in the popularity of its hosts, boasting a first place ranking on having “well-liked hosts and on-air personalities” for the seventh consecutive year. The Network was also ranked number one in viewers “Paying More Attention To Commercials On This Network than Most Others.”
Cable Pricing Controversy
Since offering their channel for free in the mid 1990s, The Food Network and connected HGTV have evolved considerable independence and popularity to maintain consistently high Nielsen ratings in cable, while Food Network in particular has grown immensely in viewer base over the past five years. Despite this fact, however, pricing is still being negotiated for the worth of these growing channels, and controversy has arisen as a result. Cablevision famously spotlighted such a controversy last year, when it dropped the Food Network without a renewed contract on December 31, 2009 and pulled it off the air for the entire NY/NJ/CT tri-state area. The dispute was rooted in Cablevision's price for the Food Network, which at the time was 25 cents per subscriber per month, a number Scripps officials found to be grossly below what the Food Network could have feasibly charged, which cable subscribers agreed was closer to $1.03 per month.
After a three-week debate, the Food Network was put back on the Cablevision airwaves (along with HGTV) with little damage to ratings. Though the details of the pricing agreement were never disclosed, it was estimated that the Food Network received a raised rate to 49 cents during the negotiations, which would more than continue the channel's strong financial growth.
Now a flagship show for the Food Network, Good Eat's with Alton Brown shows the instructional side of the Food Network lineup, highlighting both an entertaining and scientific edge to cooking.
Two pilot episodes were shot for Good Eats in 1997 ("Steak Your Claim" and "This Spud's for You"), and after positive press from critics watching Chicago Public Television, the Food Network picked up the show and aired the first episodes on July 7, 1999. Good Eats is a show classified more as a "traditional" take on cooking by the Food Network. Hosted by culinary mastermind Alton Brown, it is described by the Food Network as “Pop culture, comedy, and plain good eating," and mixes a standard cooking show format with informative lessons on the science behind food.
Target audience/ Style and Tone
Good Eats is defined by its host, Alton Brown, who designed the show as a mix between "Julia Child, Mr. Wizard and Monty Python" in order to rethink the traditional cooking show that he openly criticized as being "dull" and "uninformative." Following early success, the Food Network used this new model in its continued effort to attract a growing demographic, moving away from the image of a housewife cooking show in order to cultivate a base among younger male audiences, which has made itself evident in the text of the show.
Specifically, <span style="font-style: italic;" />Good Eats has garnered audience praise for its benefits to children  and the show has aired episodes directly addressing men in the kitchen with the aptly titled "Man Food Show,"  which demands the women leave the room so that men can correctly cook the traditional man cuisine that is corn-dogs and hamburgers. This episode is an aberration, however, from the general image of genders supported in Good Eats and across the Food Network, which places women in the kitchen for preparation of daily meals, and men in the scientific or competitive realms that remain entirely separate, an image of separation that has begun to receive criticism from media scholars.  However, because the kitchen is still seen as a gendered area, Alton Brown can directly address specifics audiences for specific episodes in a way that would be impossible for nearly any other format of episodic show. The DIY's carpentry show Ten Grand in Your Hand similarly airs shows of the inverse influence, aiming specific episodes at women handy-work such as "Single Seeks Country Kitchen/ I Am a Woman, Watch Me Saw."
Good Eats airs everyday at 7 p.m. central with reruns showing multiple times on Mondays.
The Next Food Network Star
Originally filmed as a talent scouting expedition for the Food Network, The Next Food Network Star is now one of the Food Network's signature shows, emphasizing the edgier competition-based side of Food Network material à la Iron Chef and Chopped. The show pits 12 contestants against each other over a summer season, challenging them each week with a new feat of fooding and/or on-screen personality. The finale names a champion, who is then given their own Food Network show, however over the past several seasons, more often than not a runner-up is offered some kind of job elsewhere on the network.
A target audience of The Next Food Network Star is that of a reality-shows. The competition allows for characters to develop as individual people, giving way to emotional connections between them and the audience. Those that enjoy watching the trials and tribulations of participants on reality sort of shows will enjoy this one as well. Also, seeing an ordinary person try and make it as a professional plays on the pathos of the viewer. Struggling up against adversity provides a relatable aspect of the battle towards the American Dream.
This portrayal of aspiring to the American Dream of success is shown by the show to be achievable by both men and women. Both genders serve as contestants and have equal opportunities to show their skills in the competitions. Promoting this uniformity in opportunity gives power to both men and women that one, men can be professional chefs without seeming feminine, and two, that women have the same ability to be a TV star as men do.
Style and Tone
The Next Food Network Star is as focused on drama as it is on food, and emphasizes equal amounts food and reality TV. The show emphasized personal charisma of contestants, and in this way becomes strangely self-aware within the channel. Through rigorous tests of culinary expertise, on-screen personality, and originality of creation, the Food Network uses this show to not only emphasize an immense amount of creative pressure on competitors, but directly bolsters the credibility of its already established stars by the same standards. Competition is heated, serious, and rigorous.
The Next Food Network Star airs on Sunday nights at 9/8 central. This prime time viewing spot on Sundays may overlap with family time, a hopeful plea that families will gather weekly to watch the newest episode. This also connects with the show's contestants being very family oriented as well. One episode entailed all the families coming to visit-- this familiar aspect between the viewers and the participants gives another connecting aspect to the show.
The Food Network put Next Food Network Star as a Sunday night standard because of its consistently high ratings, and over the summer season, the network never fails to play up the success of the show. The most recent season (season 6) culminated in a 6.5 hour finale run on August 15th, 2010, which ran a series of contests up to the final decision, naming Aarti Sequeira as the winner and the soon-to-be host of her show, Aarti Party. Before the final decision was made, the popularity of the show was readily visible by published finale predictions posted by various followers around the web 
The show also has an online website that allows engaged viewers to further research their favorite contestants. Each aspiring star has a biography fronted with an attractive headshot and attached videos. Also online are blogs and posts by season winners with some of their favorite recipes etc. that audience members can conduct in their own home.
Audience and Online Analysis
The Food Network station's collaborative website is cleverly entitled, foodnetwork.com. The goal of the site is to fulfill both the instructional, and entertaining themes that composes the Food Network's image. Through use of the blog, viewers are able to participate by voicing opinions on recent episodes, discussing favorite recipes, and a variety of other discussion board topics. By combining online streaming of recent episodes with a plethora of information helping a modern cook at home, foodnetwork.com enhances the overall Food Network brand in yet another medium beyond their magazine, and straight television.
Foodnetwork.com has enjoyed particular success, with over 198 million monthly hits among 7 million monthly visitors and an established audience base open to advertisers. Indeed their site proudly displays audience demographics for available advertising, as the site has become such an integral and high-profile component to the Food Network's interactive brand. Meanwhile published testimonials (like [this one] in the New York Times) of advertising success have given legitimacy to the site that now attracts more and more revenue.
Food Network Online Presence
The online presence of Food Network viewers is immense, and thus reflects the successes of Scripps Network in drawing its audience through a variety of mediums. After foodnetwork.com launched, it attracted 11.4 million unique viewers for November of 2007 alone, beating out all other food sites for visitor ratings and making a huge impact on the way Americans interact with food on the web. Businesswire reported in late 2007 that between foodnetwork.com and recipezaar.com, Scripps Network was attracting just under a quarter of all online users looking for food-related information.
Scripps also launched the site Food.com, which is built specifically for recipe searches, and in May of 2009 they unveiled Food2, which is a site similar in design to foodnetwork.com, but is geared specifically toward an audience of young adults . In this way, Scripps has managed to isolate and address many aspects of its audience through unique web domains, even though the material on any given site may very often overlap. The success is that each seems to belong in an independent sphere built for an independent audience.
By virtue of this strategy, each of these sites presents a distinctly different tone. Food.com (into which Recipezaar merged) has a very plain and professional appearance. Community input is almost entirely food related and open conversation about kitchen tactics, while the ads are minimal and the links straightforward and functional. Meanwhile, foodnetwork.com presents a decidedly flashier look, showing more ad space, animation, and mutimedia links. The tone here is much more high-energy, devoted to equal parts food recipes and the Food Network brand, which includes its chefs, its shows, and its products. Audience involvement is visibly invited with open comment boards, rating systems, and surveys in the sidebars, and written comments are overwhelmingly positive. Very rarely do ratings drop below 3 stars, and it is unheard of to find any off-topic or hostile user interactions more commonly found, for instance, on the comment threads below popular YouTube videos.
Food2 presents the most distinct tone, as it is very overtly the "edgier" food site built for a younger audience of food enthusiasts. Food2's homepage prominently features a link to a very active blog (a word not featured on foodnetwork.com), and featured recipe collections have titles like "WTFood??! 5 Crazy Thanksgiving Dishes." Clearly directed at the millennial media generation, Food2 shows the Food Network's latest efforts to reach out to an increasing online presence, which takes advantage of the communal aspects of food culture and the Internet, and brings them together on comment threads and blogs in a centralized location. As Scripps attracts more and more of the market (as of now, the only other major competitor in food community sites is Epicurious), this centralization becomes increasingly profitable to advertisers.
Extended Online Advertising
FoodNetwork.com is a resource made not only for television show viewers, but for active consumers as well. With a variety of access points for advertising agencies to promote products and ideas, the website has become an amenity for improving cooking skills, as well as a general hub for food fans everywhere.
The Food Network's website holds a vast majority of the shows broadcasted on live television. Fans are able to catch up on a recent show without regret for missing the actual viewing. Like most online TV shows, commercials are shown every-so-often during the show. Usually these are located at the beginning, sporadically throughout the middle, and at the end of each episode. The ads are of corporate sponsors that support the show financially. For example, many episodes will begin with the phrase, "The following program is brought to you by... [insert company name here]". A commercial detailing of the company ensues shortly after the conclusion of the introduction. This form of advertising is a classic means by which the companies promote their products without the viewer being able to avoid contact. In order for the viewer to continue streaming the episode, the ad must be watched.
This kind of advertising is when ads are present at the top, bottom, or sides of the website. As one of the most common types of product promotion, ads include sponsorship of corporate affiliates along with cooking merchandise. Banner ads also include infomercials pressuring the viewer to buy products with phrases such as "limited-time offer". In specific with the Food Network website, these sort of ads mainly contain promotions of shows that are televised on the Food Network channel. Some pressure ads exist in small boxes at the bottom of the screen, but nothing that detracts away from the main food focus. Any additional ads sometimes pertain to food, but often times are just bought by financial contributors publicizing their products. With each new refresh of the webpage, these ads change, thus allowing the Food Network to sell more ad space than is actually present at any one given time. Most always banner webs are composed of catchy graphics, videos, and slogans that attempt to draw casual websurfers from a recipe or blog.
At the very bottom of the website, there is a link entitled "shops" that provides a direct connection to the Food Network merchandise shop. This includes cookbooks, instructional DVDs, show paraphernalia, and hoer miscellaneous items that are available for consumer purchase. This is a way the Food Network promotes both it's online presence and television station via t-shirts, coffee mugs, etc. being sported around public arenas. In addition to expanding advertising beyond the Internet and television commercials, the Food Network advertises subliminally through cooking utensils with which to complete the recipes present on the site. The online store offers the tools for sale that are seen on the actual television show. This thus implies that if one is serious about cooking like the master chefs, one has to use the exact same tools as master chef.
Due to the recent influx of technological innovation and revolutionary creativity amongst engineers, the Food Network is able to go mobile, following right in suit with the new technology. "Food Mobile" is a special link that associates the Food Network to being easily accessible no matter the location. Playing off the consumerist attitude of modern day, and the need for instant information, Food Network applications are available for purchase through the iTunes Store.
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- Ketchum, Ibid.
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