Food is one of life’s necessities, and the Food Network’s task is to make scintillating television out of it. With the Scripps Networks Interactive net cooking up its best ratings in months, Allison Page, VP of programming, tells realscreen why the subject of food is so popular right now and how to pitch to them.
What is the balance between commissioned and acquired programming at the Food Network?
We are primarily focused on commissioned shows. I would say over 90% of [what is on] air is commissioned. There have been shows in the past, like the original Iron Chef Japan, that have done well as an acquisition and led to other ideas, but again the central focus is on commissioned programming.
What sort of advice would you give to producers wanting to pitch to you?
My advice is to be familiar with our programming and look at what’s working. I think having that information when you come in or when you call is helpful as the starting point for a conversation. The other thing that I often tell people is that it’s often difficult to pitch us a format we haven’t seen before. I often advise that producers look for talent. Because we’re a talent-based network, there’s nothing more important than that and that’s something unique you can bring to the table.
What trends are you seeing right now?
The biggest trend is the amount of pitches. I think the subject matter of food is just on fire right now, which is reflected in our ratings and I think the popularity of the topic is [reflected] on other networks as well.
Why is the topic of food so popular?
I think it’s subject matter that works in so many different environments. It’s something that’s involved in celebration, it’s something [that works] when you want to stay home and nest and it’s something for when you want to go out and experience adventure like with Jeff Corwin [in the upcoming Extreme Cuisine with Jeff Corwin]; it provides so much to so many people in whatever environment they’re in. We’ve had these hit shows on and they’ve drawn people in, such as The Next Food Network Star; [people] stick around and see other engaging programs, like Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, and start to really commit, not just to a show but to a network and a brand.