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Cooking Up Entertainment

4/07/2006 8:00 PM Eastern

New York— Food Network, which often pulls bigger ratings numbers for its “In the Kitchen” daytime fare than in the evening, plans to introduce at least a trio of primetime shows as part of its continued effort to bring more entertainment-driven content to the daypart.

The Scripps Networks-owned service, which unveiled its “way more than cooking” primetime tagline last fall and is currently in flight, with spots across a number of cable TV networks, will roll out two shows in the daypart come June, while a third will debut in September.

In the process, Food — which averages a 1.0 household rating from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on weekends, versus a 0.7 in primetime — will rely on two of its established stars to provide more evening heat.

Bobby Flay — who has spiced things up in primetime before, with Food Nation— in June will compete against specialty chefs in Throwdown With Bobby Flay. The conceit: the chefs, some of whom create pizza or barbecue to die for, are led to believe that Food is filming a profile about them until Flay arrives and the throwdown ensues.

“Bobby’s a fish out of water going against chefs that are really expert at what they do. Bobby doesn’t like to lose, but it’s fun when he does,” said vice president of programming and production Bob Tuschman, during a network press presentation here April 3.

The progeny of another of the network’s stars, Paula Deen, also will be on full display that month, with Two for the Road. Jamie and Bobby Deen will engage in a cross-country trek, on the lookout for some of the best delectables in from specialty stores and family-run businesses around the country.

The Deen boys’ mom — who, in addition to her popular daytime show, Paula’s Home Cooking, has starred in several Food primetime specials — will get even more saucy than usual in September, with Paula’s Cooking Party. The program will be shot before a studio audience and from select field locations around her hometown of Savannah, Ga.

Elsewhere, the network continues to bolster its weekend roster. It debuted Healthy Appetite With Ellie Krieger, the nutritionist and author, April 8 at 1 p.m. (ET/PT), and will bring in Nigella Lawson, the London domestic goddess who made a name for herself on U.S. TV at E! Entertainment Television, for Nigella Feasts in September.

As for Rachael Ray, the star of 30-Minute Meals and other programming, Food officials believe that her King World syndicated show, which at press time had gained clearances for 95% of the country when it launches this fall, will attract more viewers to Food.

Senior vice president of marketing and creative services Michael Smith told Multichannel News that negotiations are under way with King World to provide “reciprocal” exposure in syndication and on the cable network. Those details, he said, would likely be revealed in late summer.

September