Programming

Programmers Resolve to Make 2012 Healthier and Happier

ABC Daytime, Veria Living, Cooking Channel among those bringing everyone from kids to boomers reliable health and wellness content 1/30/2012 12:01:00 AM Eastern

Television has long played the
part of scapegoat for a U.S. obesity
problem currently affecting onethird
of Americans, with plenty of blame
given to the industry for encouraging sedentary
lifestyles and poor eating habits.
But as the average waistline of the adult
American grows, programmers across the
television landscape have responded with
an equally expanding lineup of healthbased
and sometimes life-saving content.

Among the entries: ABC replaced longstanding
soaps All My Children and One
Life to Live
with two lifestyle programs, The
Chew
and The Revolution, which premiered
last September and Jan. 16, respectively.

The Chew, with a format reminiscent
of ABC’s The View, was created “to be the
type of show where people get a lot of
great information and nutrition, but also,
considering what our economy is like…
to make food that is healthy, nutritious
and economical really appealing,” says
Randall Barone, vice president, programming
& development, ABC Daytime.

While The Chew focuses on diet, The
Revolution
stresses overall well-being
through the transformation of viewers’
bodies, minds and environment. The
show features another panel of celebrities
and experts, including the
familiar faces of Project Runway’s
Tim Gunn, who is the show’s “style
guru”; and former Extreme Makeover:
Home Edition
host Ty Pennington. In
addition to its daily content, TheRevolution, in a weekly segment,
showcases one woman’s fivemonth
personal “revolution,”
with the reveal taking place on
the final day of the evolution.

These programs bring together
an ensemble of ideas and
celebrities,
merging instruction and entertainment.
That, says Brad Adgate, Horizon Media research
director, is what will draw viewers
who are hungry for a more informative,
but engaging, take on
diet. “[The hosts] have personalities,”
Adgate says. “It’s a
very personality-driven genre
as well, and if you like the
personality, chances are you’re
more likely to watch the show.”

That is already apparent on the
Cooking Channel, the Food Network
spinoff developed speci! -
cally to address healthy-food
topics that viewers of Food
were not getting enough of,
says Michael Smith, Cooking
Channel general manager.
Cooking’s instructional
series’ hosts are charismatic,
including Bobby Deen,
son of Food Network star
Paula Deen, whose
recipes have long
been notoriously
butter-heavy. Paula Deen recently
revealed she was diagnosed three years
ago with Type 2 diabetes. While Deen
has modified her own diet, her shows—
which she said are for “entertainment”
during a Jan. 18 appearance on The
Chew
—will continue to provide the same
high-fat content. Deen has suggested she
may incorporate some lighter alternatives,
but critics have accused her shows of promoting
unhealthy eating habits.

Her son takes a different tack on Cooking
Channel’s Not My Mama’s Meals, which
takes his mother’s recipes and teaches
viewers how to reduce the fat but keep
the flavor. On Jan. 21, Cooking Channel
also premiered weight loss series Drop 5
Lbs
, a show about “simple and achievable
changes that you can make in your life to
stay fit,” says Smith. Staying fit is especially
popular among baby boomers, who have
become increasingly aware of health issues,
both mentally and physically. The
oldest boomers will turn 66 this year, and
life expectancy ! gures continue to rise.

“You have these 75 million baby boomers
who…are much more active and concerned
about what they’re eating,
and concerned about wellness,”
Adgate says.

Much of this dietrelated
programming
empha sizes pure
weight loss—a prominent issue in this
age of the obesity-obsessed.

One of the more well-known examples
of weight loss programming is
NBC’s The Biggest Loser, now in its 13th
season. While ratings have fluctuated
for the aging series, Paul Telegdy, NBC
Entertainment president of alternative
and late night programming, believes
that “hundreds of thousands of
lives have been saved by [the show].”
Telegdy’s belief has played out in Biggest
Loser
’s evolution, and its transformation
from a more tongue-in-cheek approach
during season one to its current focus
on the more character-driven, dramatic
journey of human achievement.

In syndication, Meredith’s Better offers
content directed toward making the
target audience of women 25-54 feel…
well, in a word, better. Regular segments
address the common stressors in women’s
and—with this year’s addition of a
male cohost—men’s lives. There are at
least two cooking segments per week and
a panel of experts is on hand to discuss
fashion, finance, beauty and health.

“The content is migrating toward the
real health and wellness category. Having
any kind of content directed toward making
women’s lives a little easier, a little more
efficient…it’s where we are, it’s just getting
more refined,” says Kieran Clarke, executive
VP, Meredith Video Studios.

Better, which airs in 150 markets, recently
completed a $4 million studio upgrade.
As Clarke puts it, the show, which
launched in 2007, “was there before the
marketplace.”

And that marketplace is becoming more
crowded. Disney/ABC Television’s digital
channel, the Live Well Network, recently
increased its reach to more than 58% of
U.S. TV households following a partnership
with Citadel Communications.

Live Well’s broad programming includes
the weight loss series Live Big With
Ali Vincent
; fashion and beauty tip show
Mirror/Mirror; and cooking fare Good
Cookin’ With Bruce Aidells
and My Family
Recipe Rocks
, hosted by former ’NSync
member Joey Fatone. Live Well also
reaches beyond the genre’s favored target
of women by airing children’s programming;
Taste Buds, for example, encourages
kids to think about what they eat.

“We started off doing a lot of
shows that showed you how to do
things. Now we’re more into trying
to tell you a really compelling
story,” says Emily Barr, president
and GM of WLS Chicago and creator
of Live Well Network.

Asia TV USA-owned Veria Living
is one of the few 24/7 health-based
channels; the network bills itself as
“a leading media company devoted
to showcasing wellness programming.”
Last month, Veria unveiled
a new on-air and online look to coincide
with the creation of a $250
million content development, production
and acquisition fund. The
channel’s new format features programming
blocks centered on fitness,
natural beauty and wellness
and alternative treatments in the
daytime, with cooking, nutrition
and healthy eating airing in early fringe.

“We’re informational and utilitarian in
the daytime…and we’re engaging and
character-driven in primetime,” says
Gabriella Messina, senior VP of programming
for Veria Living.

Veria has chosen celebrities to host some
of its new shows. Sports Dads, hosted by
NFL Hall of Famer Deion Sanders, seeks to
restore emotional balance within families of
athletes. Songwriter Jewel has signed on as
host for the third season of The Incurables,
a show profiling people who have overcome
the odds after a normally fatal
medical diagnosis. The network, which
also dabbles in alternative medicine, has
also selected Yogi Cameron Alborzian—
former Versace model and Ayurvedic
healer to the stars—to host a primetime
docusoap, tentatively titled The Guru for
You
, which is currently in production.

“We’re not just doing
the little thing in the
daytime like some of the
broadcast nets are doing
now,” says Messina.
“We’re 24/7 with wellness
programming, and there
is a desire for both.”

Discovery Fit &
Health, which launched
in its current form
one year ago, also
features around-theclock
health content,
but it relies more
on character-driven,
reality-based programming
rather than instructional
or competition series.
Rita Mullin, senior
VP of content strategy at
Discovery Fit & Health,
says that network fare such as I Didn’t
Know I Was Pregnant
and I’m Pregnant
and
… have been particularly popular.
While the net is looking into programming
about mental health and familial
relationships, Mullin says its current
pregnancy lineup is exemplary of the
“hipper, edgier” twists on subjects Discovery
Fit & Health hopes will bring in
more viewers, especially women 18-34.

Disney Junior, which launches as a 24-
hour preschool network on March 23, is
an indication programmers are not ignoring
kids in a genre that generally attracts
an older audience. Premiering with the
network’s launch is Doc McStuffins, about
a girl who treats ailing toys and stuffed
animals that translates real-world health
issues into understandable and entertaining
content for preschoolers. Disney Junior
works closely with the Hollywood,
Health & Society program to identify the
most relevant current health topics and
has each episode of Doc McStuffins vetted
by a panel of pediatricians. The channel
also features short-form content such as
Mickey Mousekersize, which uses Mickey
Mouse’s familiar brand to teach children
the importance of exercise.

“Everybody’s talking about healthy
eating and exercise, and that’s clearly a
tremendously important issue for kids
and for families,” says Nancy Kanter,
senior VP of original programming and
GM, Disney Junior Worldwide. “There
are many, many things that kids, moms
and dads need to think about when it
comes to their health.”

E-mail comments to
lindsay.rubino@gmail.com and follow
her on Twitter: @LindsayRubino

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