Cook, chomp, hog - food channels on small screen menu

"Food shows are like pornography for viewers," says popular chef Ritu Dalmia. No wonder there's a sudden flurry of food-based shows and channels on the Indian small screen!

"Whenever viewers see beautiful food on TV, they experience a chemical reaction within. It's the same feeling when they watch porn," Dalmia, host of NDTV Good Times' "Italian Khana", told IANS in a jocular mood.

Seems like it does hold true for most people, judging by the number of channels and production houses making a beeline to capture the genre on TV these days.

"Maybe five percent people can sing and 10 percent people can dance in India, but almost everybody can cook. So food makes for very interesting content on TV," explained Sanjay Gupta, COO, STAR India Pvt. Ltd.

Over the years, the small screen has already been abuzz with food-based shows like "Khana Khazana" and "Cook it Up with Tarla Dalal". But the genre has got more prominence recently thanks to STAR Plus' "Masterchef India", two seasons of Colors' "Kitchen Champion", a few shows on NDTV Good Times and a bunch of 17 cookery shows on Discovery's TLC.

Now, Zee Network has launched a 24X7 food channel Zee Khana Khazana, while celebrity chef Sanjeev Kapoor will introduce his food channel, FoodFood, very soon.

Alva Brothers Entertainment too has announced plans to launch a bouquet of lifestyle channels, the first of which will be a dedicated food channel, FOOD First.

Viewers are glued to whatever is dished up - from kadhi-chawal, aloo paranthas and pakodas from roadside dhabas and eateries to regional delicacies cooked the authentic way during festivals, and exotic cuisine.

"Indians have deep affinity to food irrespective of the gender. Today, almost every channel has a food or cookery show in its entertainment bouquet. The segment has broadened to wider demographics with youngsters and even men taking a keen interest in food. Considering the quantitative and qualitative analysis, a 24-hour food channel is need of the hour," Anurag Bedi, business head, Zee Khana Khazana, told IANS.

According to Bedi, the content too has grown from "how to cook" shows to "food as lifestyle" shows.

From being half-hour long, the trend has developed to having 24X7 food channels as well as shows with either reality format like "MasterChef India" or a travel-based one like "Highway On My Plate".

Manisha Tripathi of FOOD First agreed. She said: "Affluence is rising in the country leading to aspirations for better lifestyles, which is evident in the growth of food as a category - across restaurants and FMCG. We have some of the world's finest hotels and restaurants in the country today and even the shopping experience for food has changed.

"People today like to experiment with cuisines, premium food products and they have the purchasing power. An overall analysis of television content also reflects that food shows on lifestyle channels attract higher share of viewership and on the web, food-related searches are among the highest. This is the ideal time to launch a 24-hour food channel."

"The formats are changing. The earlier formats were aimed more at the housewife who would switch on the cookery shows in the afternoon. But no more! Today's cookery and food shows are aimed at entertainment value for the urban and younger people," opined Dalmia, who will soon be seen on NDTV Good Times' food reality show "Pressure Cooker".

"There should be food with the background of a competition or food mixed with travel and other such concepts that draw the viewers," she added.

Gupta is confident of a steady growth for the genre, and feels "as quality content will grow, its consumption will also increase."

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