Disgraced celebrity cook Paula Deen is working on reclaiming her name and her food empire. According to reports, the sassy southern chef has plans of cooking up a comeback and launching her very own food network–to be distributed via the internet.
The network, simply titled The Paula Deen Network, is said to be the answer the southern chef needs to reestablish her tarnished brand and cater to her die-hard fan base. The Paula Deen Network, set to launch in the fall, will be subscription-based, will have an interactive element and will feature Deen cooking up new and classic recipes.
It was just a year ago that Paula Deen found herself mired in an intense controversy, with allegations of her alleged racist character ultimately brought to light. As a result of the discovery, the Paula Deen brand and empire fell like a bad soufflé. Gone were endorsement deals, and her cookware products which were sold in department stores were immediately pulled from shelves. What really cooked Deen’s goose was losing her highly rated television program on the Food Network and in a flash, Paula Deen’s image was burned.
According to reports, Deen had been offered a very generous sum of $75 million to $100 million from a private equity firm to help the fallen chef rebuild her brand. Steve Nadula, CEO of Paula Deen Ventures, said that since Deen’s absence from the public spotlight, the cook had been courted by several broadcast companies to return to television. Deen, however, believes that taking her brand to the world-wide web will allow for greater connection to her fan base and give her more control and ownership over her image and her intellectual property. It is reported that Paula Deen has 4.5 million fans on Facebook and 1.24 million followers on Twitter. The web network will allow her fans to watch her at their convenience. Production on programming for The Paula Deen Network began in May in Savannah, Georgia and is reportedly being produced by Gordon Elliott, television executive and friend to Deen and creator of ABC’s The Chew.
Paula Deen’s image had come under scrutiny even before the southern chef’s racist views became known. Deen had also come to the center of a controversy after years of promoting high calorie, high fat, unhealthy meals. The cook had been keeping the secret that she had developed type-two diabetes. Deen did not come public with her condition until a drug company offered her millions to promote and act as spokesperson for the diabetic drug. The scandal questioned Paula Deen’s ethics and the hypocrisy of capitalizing on her poor health while promoting an unhealthy eating routine to her legions of fans.
Paula Deen’s move to the web is just one of many other well-known public figures who are jumping on the internet as the new frontier of creating content against the broadcast media machines that have been so customary. Deen is cooking up her comeback and hoping to join stars like Jerry Seinfeld and Katie Couric, who are building their brands with bandwidth.
By Hal Banfield