Ray to Continue Cooking on Cable

Dec 16, 2007  •  Post A Comment

Rachael Ray will stay on Food Network’s menu for another two years.
After breaking out on the cable channel, Ms. Ray launched her own popular syndicated show, leading to some speculation that she might leave the Food Network. The cable channel last month terminated production of its long-running prime-time show “Emeril Live” featuring the network’s best-known toque, Emeril Lagasse.
But Brooke Johnson, president of Food Network, said extending the seven-year relationship with Ms. Ray was never in doubt.
“I think some people might be a little bit surprised,” Ms. Johnson said. “We’re not, because we understand and live with our relationship with [our stars].”
Food Network, ranked 24th among all ad-supported networks in prime-time viewership during the third quarter, has been trying to deepen its relationship with some of its celebrity cooks.
Last month it announced a deal with Bobby Flay and Kohl’s to produce kitchenware and products for entertaining.
The network also has been using its competition show “The Next Food Star” to develop its own stars to do deals for cookbooks, pots and pans and other merchandise.
Ms. Ray and Mr. Lagasse, perhaps the network’s biggest stars, were already well-known enough to make their own merchandising deals before Food Network began its expansion push.
With Mr. Lagasse’s future at the network in flux, losing Ms. Ray could have been a blow to the network.
“I don’t think she’s the face of Food Network. I think we’ve got a lot of faces, and she’s one of our most important faces,” Ms. Johnson said.
Ms. Johnson said the timing of Ms. Ray’s deal, just weeks after the cancellation of “Emeril Live” (reruns will continue to air on Food Network) after 10 years, was coincidental.
“We’re very confident that we and Emeril will develop a new prime-time series for Emeril,” she said.
Under terms of her new deal, Ms. Ray will host a new prime-time series called “Rachael’s Vacation,” which launches in January. In the show, Ms. Ray will travel to show viewers food and lifestyles that excite her.
Ms. Ray’s previous prime-time series, “Rachael Ray’s Tasty Travel,” was among the top 10 highest-rated shows on the network.
“We have a real successful track record of viewers being interested when Rachael takes them to a new place,” Ms. Johnson said. The new series will travel further afield, with Ms. Ray going to Europe in the first batch of shows and to the Far East and South America later on.
Ms. Ray also will make 60 new episodes a year of her daytime series “30 Minute Meals.”
During the third quarter, Food Network’s prime-time ratings were up 9% among its target demographic of adults 25 to 54, while daytime ratings were flat.
New shows, such as “Ace of Cakes,” “Good Eats,” Diners, Drive-ins and Dives,” “Throwdown With Bobby Flay” and “Dinner Impossible” have been attracting younger viewers, with median ages in the low 40s.
Ad sales have been strong at parent Scripps Networks. According to Scripps’ most recent earnings report, Food Network revenues rose 16% to $113 million. It said that for its entire network group, which includes HGTV, DIY Network, Fine Living and Great American Country, ad revenues were up 17% to $223 million.
“Business is fantastic. We can’t get out of the way of the money,” Ms. Johnson said. “It’s partly a product of it being a fantastic market and partly a credit to our brands. I really do believe that advertisers see the value to our brands and that being associated with our brand makes their products sell more.”
In addition to Ms. Ray’s new show, Food Network will be launching the new series “Ultimate Recipe Showdown” in January.


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