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Upfront and Personal: Food Network adds more family-centric fare

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Upfront and Personal: Food Network adds more family-centric fare

is adding morefamily-centric fare to its programming lineup, with new series featuring kids behinda stove or grill.

Networkexecutives at a press breakfastbefore parent Scripps Networks InteractiveInc.'s March 29 late-afternoon upfront presentation in New York, notedthe channel is growing its audience with shows like "Chopped Junior,""Chopped Teen Tournament" and "Kids Baking Championship."

"Familiesare watching together at 8 p.m. and then mom and dad tend to stay," said DidiO'Hearn, senior vice president of programming and development at Food Network andCooking Channel (US),in an interview after the presentation.

Withthe youngsters performing culinary feats, Food Network just recorded its most "coviewed"quarter — adults 25 to 54, watching with persons 2 to 17 — in over five years. KarenGrinthal, senior vice president of national ad sales at Scripps, said that whereascable on average counts about 10% coviewing, "we have shows that do 20%."

"Kidsare bringing their family to the table, and families are bringing their kids tothe table," she said.

"KidsBaking Championship," "Cake Wars" and "Chopped Jr." contributethe most to Food Network's coviewing with over 60% of persons 2 to 17 watching withan adult 25 to 54, according to network officials.

"FoodNetwork is a big brand name among kids who enjoy cooking. It's viable for them toaspire to be chefs and the ratings have been really strong for shows like 'KidsBaking Championship,'" said O'Hearn. "It's amazing how good these kidsare in the kitchen. I marvel at their skill levels."

Coviewinggains aside, there are additional benefits.

"Thisis great for the brand because these kids are the next generation of home ownersand our viewers," said O'Hearn. "We're also grooming future talent forFood Network and Cooking Channel."

Cook-offsand other challenges are on the menu as well with "Food Network Star Kids,"the youngster's version of the network's top competition show, which bows in August."Kids BBQ Championship," meanwhile, will find eight kids engaging in sixweeks of competition, hosted by Eddie Jackson and Camila Alves. The prince or princessof the pit takes home $20,000 in cash.

SNL Image

"Kids BBQ Championship"
Source: Food Network

 "When we were first pitched this, there wassome hesitation about a show with kids and open flame," joked O'Hearn. "Butit turns out they're really skilled, and it's a lot of fun."

Alsoon Food Network, "Cooks vs. Cons," which O'Hearn said has performed wellduring its first two airings in March, features competitors vying in two roundsof challenges, as the judges make their calls about the best dishes, not knowingwhether they are created by trained professionals or home cooks. "Cake Masters,"meanwhile, follows baker Duff Goldman who makes extreme cakes for the Hollywoodset. "Celebrity Food Fight" centers on a dinner party, hosted by AndyRichter, wherein notable foodies and chefs team in a series of fast-paced games.

Perhapsappealing to a techie crowd, "12 Hungry Yelpers" shows chef and restaurantexpert Monti Carlo andan undercover committee trying to help struggling restaurants execute solutionsin response to online criticisms.

As forCooking Channel, which has doubled its audience since a 2010 debut, the focus remainson instruction and fun, notably in the form of celebrities who know their way aroundthe stove. New entries include a look into the R&B singer's kitchen on "PattiLabelle's Place," premiering in June. The following month actress Haylie Duffseeks the best bites in various cities on "Haylie on the Road."

"What'sCookin' with the Smolletts," which follows siblings Jake, Jazz, Jurnee, JoJo,Jocqui and Jussie of "Empire" fame, as they balance their careers, personallives and food passions will also premiere in July.

All told,Food Network and Cooking Channel's 2016 lineup will feature 30 new series, 40 returningshows and some 20 specials, many themed around the holidays.