Kid chefs are serving up a broad audience plate for cable networks offering adolescent- themed cuisine shows.
From Fox’s kids-themed MasterChef Junior to FYI’s Man vs. Child: Chef Showdown to Food Network’s Chopped Junior, the kids cooking genre is providing flavorful content that delivers viewers across several demos, according to network officials.
“Part of the appeal for viewers is the wow factor of seeing young kids with such advanced skills for their age in the kitchen,” Gena McCarthy, executive vice president of programming and development for FYI, said. And sophomore series Man vs. Child: Chef Showdown is one of FYI’s most watched shows and skews younger than the network’s more traditional cooking shows.
Kid versions of popular cooking shows such as Chopped Junior not only reach fans of the original but also bring in younger viewers that may not be familiar with those older-skewing series.
NBCUniversal this fall will look to draw kids 2-11 and their parents to its Universal Kids network — a rebrand of preschool channel Sprout — with the October premiere of Top Chef Junior, a spinoff of Bravo’s long-running series Top Chef.
"We are fortunate to be able to tap into the equity of Bravo's Top Chef and evolve the format to deliver the experience kids expect from their content, and to have Top Chef's own Curtis Stone along with Vanessa Lachey - both parents of young kids - starring on the show makes it that much more authentic," said Deirdre Brennan, general manager of Universal Kids.
Ratings That Really Cook
Food Network is enjoying ratings success from several kids-themed shows, including Chopped Junior which, in its fourth season, posted double-digit ratings increases during its first quarter 2017 run compared to the same period last year, according to the network.
In addition, Food’s Kids Baking Championship — which finished its third season this past March — was the most-watched program with respect to co-viewing in its time slot among cable networks, with nearly 30% of adults 25-54 watching with their kids, said network officials.
“Ultimately, our goal remains growing our core demo [adults 25-54], though when we hook the whole family at 8 p.m. with shows designed for A25-54 viewers that also attract kids, it’s a win-win and we keep the parents watching as the night progresses,” said Allison Page, general manager, U.S. programming and development for Scripps Networks Interactive, which owns Food Network.
Courtney White, senior vice president of programming for Scripps, said kids-targeted food shows retain the same format as their adult counterparts, but have the added appeal of featuring very talented and competitive preteens and teens who take cooking seriously.
“One of the biggest challenges is remembering that these kids are skilled, with a real passion for food, which deserves to be taken as seriously as any of our adult chefs — including not patronizing their exceptional talent with easier challenges and/or softer judging,” she said.
Maintaining Positive Tones
While the kids may rival the adults in the kitchen, the competitions on kids-themed shows such as MasterChef Junior or Chopped Junior are not nearly as dramatic and intense as their adult counterparts, which helps expand the brand’s audience base.
“Families can turn to these shows and feel very comfortable that they are going to get programming that’s not going to have a lot of negativity and the cutthroat competition approach,” said Isaac Holub, co-founder and executive producer for production company Lucky 8 TV, which produces Food's Kids BBQ Championship along with Turn Card Content. “They know its going to be an entertaining, positive experience.”
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