Oct. 3, 2006
By Jessica Cuffman
When first approached about becoming the successor to the Food Network’s former president, Brooke Johnson’s reaction was “The Food Network? What are you nuts?”
Johnson, now president of the Food Network, began her workshop for the Scripps College of Communication Dedication in Baker Center Sept. 12 with an analysis of the success of the network, which is managed and owned by the E.W. Scripps Company. She said the key to the network’s popularity was its appeal to multiple generations.
The Food Network launched when Johnson was executive vice president and general manager of A&E Network. While she was skeptical at first about switching to the Food Network, she sees now what Scripps Company saw then.
A&E was just chasing the mass audience, like ABC and NBC. Scripps picked a specific interest category instead of chasing the mass audience, she said. The company did the same with their Home & Garden Television Network (HGTV).
“Food is like an art, like music or math. You’re just born with this interest,” Johnson said. She attributes the drastic growth in the interest in food to changes in transportation, from the shipping of fresh produce cross-country to daily consumer trips to the market.
“It allows for a much broader palette of food,” she said.
And how does the network attract viewers? The most important thing -- because after all, it is cable television -- is the personalities of the chefs, Johnson said.
“It’s a highly inexact science,” she added. Sometimes the expertise of the chefs comes second to their passion for food.
“The network is an expert on food. The Discovery Channel knows nothing about animals. The History Channel knows nothing about history,” she said. The Food Network has a staff of 30 culinary experts who assist the chefs in preparing new recipes and converting 40-serving restaurant dishes to four-person portions for the home.
Future plans for the network include the production of cookbooks for the chefs, a magazine for the channel and kitchenware merchandising. There are also tentative plans for a Las Vegas Food Network venue with a studio, restaurant and store. As of now, the Food Network is the number one food site on the Web. Johnson sees the Web as the main platform for new business through the expansion of broadband technology.
Jessica Cuffman is a student writer with University Communications and Marketing.