05 March 2012

Multichannel News

Let’s Move’ Theme Resonates With Programmers
First Lady’s Fitness Initiative Dovetails With Health-Oriented Networks’ Plans
By David Tanklefsky -- Multichannel News, 3/5/2012

In an effort to combat the startling numbers around childhood obesity in the U.S., first lady Michelle Obama has not just launched the comprehensive “Let’s Move” campaign, but she’s also shown that she’s not afraid to shine on the small screen in order to promote the cause.

Perhaps your child (not you, of course) saw Mrs. Obama bust out some spontaneous dance moves on Nickelodeon’s iCarly in an episode called “iMeet the First Lady.”

Or maybe you big kids saw her locked in a heated burlap sack race with NBC funnyman Jimmy Fallon at the White House for a segment on Late Night.

The first lady has shown she’s not afraid of the cameras (and not above getting goofy in front of them) when it comes to raising awareness about healthy living for America’s children. Disney XD also featured an interview with her in an interstitial segment on its show Mr. Young.

One group of people in the TV industry that couldn’t be happier about the campaign, and who are uniquely positioned to capitalize on it with viewers, are programmers and executives in the healthy-living space.

“We’ve been in this already, so we’re ahead and aligned with what first lady Obama has been doing,” Gabriella Messina, head of programming at Veria Living, a network devoted to wellness and holistic health, said.

This spring, the network is looking to engage young and old viewers who want to improve their health with a new yoga series currently in production. The show, Yoga for Anybody (working title), features popular yoga expert Sadie Nardini and focuses on people as they are, rather than on trying to attain the perfect body. The new show will be one of the major anchors across the morning programming block for Veria.

Another new yoga-based show due out this spring is My Life Guru (working title), starring former Versace model-turned-healer yogi Cameron Alborzian. The weekly series follows Alborzian as he treats individuals through Ayurvedic and yoga therapies, diet and herbal remedies.

While a focus on natural healing and holistic health might not be targeted to children, Messina believes the programming dovetails with Michelle Obama’s message of improving health for all Americans.

“All of those [shows] are aligned with what we’re seeing first lady Obama is committed to,” Messina says.

For those who want to get moving off the couch and into the outdoors, networks like Outside Television are also working to create compelling health-oriented content. They too are aware of the “Let’s Move” campaign and are developing programming around family outdoor fitness.

The network’s morning newsmagazine The Buzz features segments about people who want be active in their busy lives. “[There’s] an appeal to everyday people who just want to go out and take a ride or a hike,” Outside Television senior vice president of programming and production Rob Faris said.

One segment, called “Fittest Real Athletes,” tells aspirational stories like one about an adventure endurance racer who is also a mom with three kids under the age of 5. The segment explores how she balances training with family life.

The network also runs a family gear segment that shows families how to prepare for outdoors excursions. “Just because you have a 2-year-old, doesn’t mean you can’t go do it,” Faris said.

The network is looking to acquire a weekend morning show with the hopes of showing kids how much fun the outdoors can be.

“I haven’t found it yet,” Faris said, although he is looking into a few shows. “It’s on my radar. It’s something we should be doing; something we have an obligation to do.”

From the great outdoors to the kitchen, programs that promote healthy lifestyles are top priorities for executives. “Healthy is not a fad,” Food Network senior vice president of marketing and creative services and brand strategy Susie Fogelson said. “It’s an important part of people’s daily conversations.”

Fogelson also manages marketing at Scripps Networks Interactive’s Cooking Channel, which recently launched Not My Mama’s Meals, hosted by Paula Deen’s son, Bobby. In the show, Bobby Deen revamps family recipes to reduce their fat and calorie content. The show airs as part of a weekend healthy-eating block, along with Drop 5 Lbs With Good Housekeeping and Hungry Girl.

While the network certainly celebrates food, Fogelson said that healthy, mindful eating is also an important part of Cooking Channel’s programming.

“Michelle Obama’s ‘Let’s Move’ campaign is just wildly exciting,” Fogelson, a mother of two, said. “As a mother, just getting people out there moving is such a simple idea but so important. We’re not necessarily about activity [at Food Network and Cooking Channel], [but] we do nutrition as a form of wellness.”

On April 14, Food Network will debut the documentary, Hunger Hits Home, a tough, personal look at families going hungry in America and the people who are doing something to combat that. The documentary is produced in partnership with Share Our Strength, an organization whose “No Kid Hungry” initiative aims to end child hunger in America by 2015.

While childhood obesity and childhood hunger are two separate issues, Fogelson said they are intertwined. Initiatives that encourage active lifestyles are complementary to educating families about affordable options for nutritious foods. “They are two sides of the same coin,” she said.

Over at Discovery Fit & Health, the focus has shifted away from exercise programming that was popular on Fit TV and over to more reality- based shows. Still, senior VP of content strateg y Rita Mullin said the network believes in family wellness programming and is looking into of f-air event-based family opportunit ies related to fitness and exercise. The network expects to make an announcement at its upfront presentation this spring.

“I think [“Let’s Move”] is a great campaign and childhood obesity is not only a critical health issue today, but it’s a frightening statistic,” Mullin said. “So I’m delighted to see that it’s getting the type of publicity it is.”

So too, no doubt, are many other programmers who have been encouraging people to get off the couch and live healthier lives since well before “Let’s Move.”

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