April 21, 2024

Warner Bros. Discovery cable warrior Kathleen Finch is heading into her Super Bowl: the holiday season at Food Network.

“Fans come and we supersize them and super serve them with all this holiday content, daytime content, and primetime stuff,” Finch told Variety. “We have four big returning series this year, and that’s just talking about Christmas. We start with Halloween, and we started early and had a lot of really great stuff that worked really well and kicked off our strong ratings early in September.”

More than 63 million total viewers watched Food Network in the fourth quarter of 2022, and Finch is anticipating year-over-year growth for this season’s slate, which includes new series “Selena + Chef: Home for the Holidays” and “The Elf on the Shelf: Sweet Showdown.”

This year, Food Network celebrated its 30th anniversary in a humble fashion, by continuing on with its regularly scheduled programming and making little fuss about the occasion, though that doesn’t mean Finch hasn’t personally acknowledged the impact.

“We know that we have taught a generation how to cook,” Finch said. “So many people who are in their 30s or even 40s will say, I learned how to cook from the Food Network because growing up both my parents worked, we ate a lot of takeout, but I learned how to love food by watching Ina Garten. And so much of our mandate at Food Network was not only entertaining people, but was providing a service, was providing something that was useful. It’s the same with HGTV, the same with a lot of our networks, where utility-focused content has been one of our secrets.”

With the amount of time David Zaslav and Warner Bros. Discovery brass have spent talking about Max and HBO (and before that HBO Max), the revitalization of franchises including Harry Potter, “The Lord of the Rings” and DC, and the success of Greta Gerwig’s “Barbie” lately, it’s easy to forget the company’s biggest business segment is still its cable networks.

But that fact never escapes Finch’s mind, because it’s the US Networks chairman and CEO’s job not only to oversee legacy Discovery brands like HGTV, Food Network, TLC and Turner acquisitions including TNT, TBS and Cartoon Network/Adult Swim at a time when ad dollars are scarce and linear viewership continues to decline, but also to use those some 20 channels to promote all of the above priorities for WBD.

“She is the kind of collaborator we all dream of and her partnership on the Barbie movie with HGTV’s ‘Barbie Dreamhouse Challenge,’ to Food Network’s promotion of ‘Wonka,’ to the cross promotion of ‘Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom’ with Jason Momoa as host on Discovery’s Shark Week, it has been nothing short of game changing for us in terms of the support and reach we were able to garner for each movie across a wide array of audiences,” says Warner Bros. Motion Picture Group co-chair and CEO Pam Abdy, who also runs programming at TCM (Finch oversees business ops at the movie network) along with Michael De Luca.

When Finch isn’t using her programming slate to back Warner Bros. Discovery’s shot at box office success, or to feed streamers Max and Discovery+ some of their most successful library titles, like TLC’s “90 Day Fiance” franchise, to help reduce churn between new streaming originals.

“Max’s success is dependent upon collaboration across the entire company and Kathleen is a fantastic partner,” JB Perrette, CEO and president of WBD’s global streaming and games, said. “She has fully embraced our streaming mission and the networks’ content has greatly enhanced the service’s breadth and appeal.”

To make that content that helps serve Max, Finch is largely focused on capitalizing on the unscripted star power that fuels viewership on linear TV. Finch prizes the fandoms of staples like Bobby Flay, Duff Goldman, Drew and Jonathan Scott, Egypt Sherrod and Mike Jackson, and now Selena Gomez, whose “Selena + Chef” is heading from Max to Food Network for a holiday event series.

“I’ve had the pleasure of working with Kathleen Finch at Food Network for decades,” said Flay, who most recently renegotiated his deal with the network in 2021. “Through all of the evolutions of both the media and the food industry, Kathleen has been at its core driving creative content and breaking new talent into household names. Although her responsibilities in recent years have expanded to running all US networks for WBD, we constantly meet one on one (over delicious meals of course) to discuss ‘what’s next’ in food and how to keep the Food Network as fresh as possible.”

“Talent development is such a lost art, but her ability to identify and nurture careers across the playing field is magnificent,” Sherrod says. “Kathleen has masterfully inspired the entire culture of creatives at HGTV to bring forth shows that are authentically relatable, diverse, and entertaining.”

Most recently, she locked down Guy Fieri for another three years at Food Network in a deal valued at more than $100 million. That’s money well spent for the ROI to be found in Flavortown.

“So much of the talent at all our networks are the backbone of what makes our brands so successful,” Finch said. “But Guy is one of those talent that has a very rare gift. He’s one of our very few stars who can bring an audience for his shows over and over and over – meaning his repeats air as successfully as his premieres do. We can stack a night of ‘Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives’ and fans will flock to the whole night, and they’ll watch the same episodes over and over and over again.”

Finch came over to Discovery in 2018 as part of the acquisition of Scripps Networks (the original home of the now 30-year-old Food network), where she was top programming exec, to become one of Zaslav’s key lieutenants in the pre-WarnerMedia merger days, tasked with leading Discovery’s 12 lifestyle brands.

Following the birth of Warner Bros. Discovery, Finch was given oversight of almost all US networks, including the so-called “T-Nets,” TBS, TNT and truTV, and Cartoon Network/Adult Swim.

Those added channels that traditionally deal in largely scripted fare have seen several cancellations and slate shuffles in the post-merger era, and a new focus on sports, acquisitions and airing existing Warner Bros. films and series, but Finch says “we are definitely still in the scripted business” — revealing a “really exciting scripted project” in the works at TNT that will be announced “very shortly” — “but we’re being very selective about it.”

“The T-Nets were a little bit different, it was a little bit more of a broadcast model,” Finch says. “We have scripted, we have some sports, we have some reality, we have some shiny floor. So we’ve reined that in a little bit and we’re doubling down on what really works. We’re doing a lot in the movie space, we’re licensing a lot of movies and then packaging them up. Ad sales loves that, it gives ad sales a good opportunity, but also the fans will come and it gives us a good opportunity to promote some of our other priorities coming out of the theatrical team.” She cited TBS and TNT planning to drum up interest in the “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” franchise by airing 2005’s “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” and 1971’s “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory” in support of Warner Bros. upcoming release of “Wonka” starring Timothée Chalamet.

And her choices are backed by the man in charge, who luckily had Finch’s stacked supply of unscripted hits to rely on during the recent Hollywood strikes.

“Kathleen has an amazing ability to understand what really resonates with viewers – what they want to watch, what they identify with, what touches their hearts and minds – which is why she is such a powerhouse creative and business leader,” Zaslav says.

free coin
free coin
free coin
free coin
free coin
free coin
free coin
free coin
free coin
free coin
free coin
free coin
free coin
free coin
free coin
free coin
free coin
free coin
free coin
free coin
free coin
free coin
free coin
free coin
free coin
free coin
free coin
free coin
free coin
free coin

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *