Why the future of food TV is online

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There’s no surprise in the prediction that Canadian food TV is headed online in the digital age.

But a Devour! The Food Film Fest panel Friday on food TV trends reminded filmmakers looking to pitch content to networks and production companies that the question of who’s really leading the charge online is worth asking.

And the answer is broadcasters, who remain in the driving seat.

“At the moment, my job is to program hit TV,” Kathy Cross, production executive of original lifestyle content at Shaw Media, including for Food Network Canada, told the festival panel in Wolfville, Nova Scotia.

To be sure, digital extensions of TV shows is required content for what Cross calls “360 degree” programming.

But it’s role is to build buzz online for the Food Network TV schedule.

“We’re hoping that we can generate a conversation online. People want to engage with that conversation,” Cross added.

Rachel Low, an executive producer and partner at MadHIVE Media, said food producers are experimenting with bite-size content for online and other emerging digital media.

But, while viewer habits are changing, TV remains king.

“Be open to finding talent and finding good ideas for formats and figure out how to translate an idea into something that works on TV,” Low advised.

Food TV has also moved far beyond Julia and Jacques, instructional cooking, wine/drink-themed fare and even food competition series now filling specialty and conventional TV schedules on both side of the borders has programmers looking for the Next Big Thing.

That new frontier includes celebrity chefs telling compelling stories.

A case in point is the Lynn Crawford-starring Food Network series Pitchin’ In.

Here the former Four Seasons executive chef who could have ever exotic food ingredient delivered to her dining room heads out on the road to get down and dirty to find those ingredients herself.

“This is a fun show. Food is involved, and we describe it as I Love Lucy meets Green Acres,” Cross said.

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