King World, Ray In Talks For ’06 Strip

Sep 19, 2005  •  Post A Comment

Martha Stewart may not be the only domestic diva in syndication for very long.

King World Productions is putting the final touches on a deal that will put the company in business with one of Food Network’s most successful hosts, Rachael Ray.

The deal in the works would have Ms. Ray starring in a syndicated strip scheduled for a fall 2006 premiere, sources said. Both King World and Ms. Ray declined to comment.

For more than a year King World has been developing at least one project involving former “Trading Spaces” host Paige Davis and Chicago interior designer Nate Berkus, both regular guests on King World-distributed “The Oprah Winfrey Show.” For the current season, King World is launching no new syndicated shows, but has indicated a desire to launch a new strip in 2006. Like Ms. Davis and Mr. Berkus, Ms. Ray has appeared on “Oprah” and also has contributed recipes to host Oprah Winfrey’s O Magazine.

Ms. Ray, who began her career in food at the candy counter at Macy’s Marketplace in New York, worked at a number of restaurants and gourmet food stores before becoming a buyer for a market in Albany, N.Y. What started out as a series of classes called “30-Minute Meals” for an in-store promotion soon became an Emmy-winning local news feature and a cookbook. In 2001, Food Network picked up Ms. Ray’s “30-Minute Meals” as a stand-alone series.

Aside from “30-Minute Meals,” Ms. Ray hosts shows and specials for Food Network, including “$40 a Day,” “Inside Dish” and “Rachael Ray’s Tasty Travels.” And her reach does not stop at television. The author of more than 10 books, her new magazine, Every Day With Rachael Ray, is scheduled to hit newsstands in October.

Unlike the fastidious Ms. Stewart, whose new daytime strip premiered last week [see related story, Page 6], Ms. Ray is known for her informal, exuberant style and pragmatic approach to cooking. King World distributed Ms. Stewart’s previous daytime syndicated strip, “Martha Stewart Living.”

Ms. Ray’s “30-Minute” brand could serve her well if she makes the transition to daytime television, said John Rash, senior VP and director of broadcast operations for Campbell Mithun.

“Like nearly all the food channel hosts, she’s telegenic and entertaining,” he said.

Unlike Food Network, which has a very specific programming focus, syndication requires shows to encompass more than one subject, Mr. Rash said.

“She will need to broaden her topics beyond just cooking,” he said. “While her ratings are at a good Food Network level, they will need to be significantly larger to be a syndication success story.”