Paula Deen Launching New Cooking Network

Paula Deen, the celebrity chef whose homespun Southern charm delighted countless viewers and foodies until her racist fall from grace, announced on The Wall Street Journal that she will launch “The Paula Deen Network” in September. This is a subscriber-based Internet network that will feature exclusive videos of Deen and guests cooking in front of an audience. At launch, shows will be shot from a production studio near her home in Savannah, Ga.

Food Network, which originally aired Deen’s shows and currently airs programs featuring her son Bobby, is not involved; indeed, the network reportedly had no knowledge of the new venture.

Deen told WSJ that she has received offers to launch a new show on TV, but chose a web-model as a way to reach fans directly and have greater ownership. Not only does this give her more creative control, but a much bigger cut of any profits.

After much research and talking to our fans, this is what they wanted. They wanted to be able to watch me anytime, anywhere, any place. IPads are so much lighter to tote around than a TV. In a network program, you only have 22 minutes. The fans are going to see things they have never seen before. They are going to see all of me.

This statement, of course, raises the question: Wasn’t seeing all of Deen what caused her career to come crashing down?

The digital network will use www.PaulaDeen.com as a portal, and it is backed by a $100 million private-equity investment from Phoenix-based Najafi Cos. Leading this company is Jahm Najafi, who also owns BMG Music Service and the Book-of-the-Month Club. Pricing for the subscription web-network haven’t been finalized yet, but Najafi says the company isn’t pressuring Deen or her company to make a profit right away. He also believes the previous backlash against Deen won’t hurt the venture.

For her part, Deen has embarked on a 20-city summer tour across the south to attract network subscribers. Get the full business breakdown on The Wall Street Journal website.

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