How’s Paula Deen Doing Today … And How’s the Food Network?
Paula Deen has been spending more time with her family, including her grandchildren, and has gotten back to the day-to-day operations of her business, according to her son Jamie Deen in a recent interview with HLN.
The former Food Network star with a veritable empire of product licensing deals was booted off her longtime network last summer and lost millions in endorsements after a lawsuit filed by an employee alleged racial and sexual discrimination in the workplace and Deen admitted to using racial slurs. The suit was settled at the end of August, but the damage to Deen’s career had already been done.
The experience has brought the Deen family closer, according to Jamie, though the wounds appear to remain fresh: “Being in the service business, I realized that you’re not going to make everyone happy,” Jamie tells HLN. “You take criticism for what it is. If it’s constructive, you use it to better your business. But this summer, it was a personal attack on my mom that was so unwarranted. My mother is just the sweetest woman, and no one has ever given her a thing — she’s worked so hard, [whether with] nonprofits, helping feed millions of people or to inspire people in business and their everyday life. This summer was tough for us, and it hurt her feelings, which got me the most.”
Jamie goes on to say that Paula is “in good spirits,” adding later: “When you find yourself in a tough spot, that’s when you find out who your friends are.”
Of course, few parties could be on more unfriendly terms than Deen and the Food Network. In response to the channel’s summary dismissal of Deen, many loyal fans of the Southern cook vowed to boycott the network, essentially putting a hex on the house that, in many ways, Deen herself had built.
So has that hex worked?
As Bloomberg Businessweek reports, ratings at the Food Network have indeed slumped since Deen was canned. Network execs decided to cut Deen loose on June 21; according to Nielsen data covering the period from June 24 though October 6, the Food Network’s audience shrunk six percent during prime time and three percent during the day.
But is that attributable to the absence of Deen? Some industry watchers are doubtful, pointing out that the Food Network’s ratings were already sliding before Deen left — and in particular, the audience for Deen’s shows had been in serious decline before the brouhaha over the lawsuit, seeing a 25 percent drop between 2012 and 2013.
It’s interesting that in the comments section for the Businessweek report, most TV watchers appear to attribute any troubles at the Food Network less to the loss of Deen than to what they see as the channels over-reliance on “reality” competition shows. As one commenter writes: “Food Network’s problem is that it has veered away from the basic concept: teaching people how to cook. The majority of shows now are reality shows. Boring.”
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