SNL Kagan
31 March 2016

Food Network (US) is adding more family-centric fare to its programming lineup, with new series featuring kids behind a stove or grill.

Network executives at a press breakfast before parent Scripps Networks Interactive Inc.'s March 29 late-afternoon upfront presentation in New York, noted the channel is growing its audience with shows like "Chopped Junior," "Chopped Teen Tournament" and "Kids Baking Championship."

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

With the 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. Karen Grinthal, senior vice president of national ad sales at Scripps, said that whereas cable on average counts about 10% coviewing, "we have shows that do 20%."

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

"Kids Baking Championship," "Cake Wars" and "Chopped Jr." contribute the most to Food Network's coviewing with over 60% of persons 2 to 17 watching with an adult 25 to 54, according to network officials.

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

Coviewing gains aside, there are additional benefits.

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

Cook-offs and 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 six weeks of competition, hosted by Eddie Jackson and Camila Alves. The prince or princess of the pit takes home $20,000 in cash.

"Kids BBQ Championship" Source: Food Network

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

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

Perhaps appealing to a techie crowd, "12 Hungry Yelpers" shows chef and restaurant expert Monti Carlo and an undercover committee trying to help struggling restaurants execute solutions in response to online criticisms.

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

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

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

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