Michael Smith

Food Network

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When michael smith was growing up in Jamaica, there was only one TV station to watch. And the idea that he was going to become an executive at something called the Food Network would have been a mind-boggling concept.

But Mr. Smith fell in love with American TV around age 9, when the family moved to the States. He had a fascination with why programs were scheduled in certain time slots, and waxes nostalgic about ABC's "Still the One" promotional campaign in '75. "I just thought that was the coolest thing."

Now, as senior VP-marketing and creative services at the Scripps Networks-owned food channel, Mr. Smith, 42, is working in lockstep with the programming department to make Food more than just a dole-out-the-recipes kind of channel. The results have come in the form of improved ratings; daytime and weekend ratings are up 10% so far this year.

"He has great management skills-managing creatives at the same time he keeps an eye on the strategic business focus," Brooke Bailey Johnson, president of Food Network, says of Mr. Smith.

In a move to expand Food Network's audience beyond "foodies," Mr. Smith and his team are trying to appeal to a certain passion, that "enjoying food is part of how you enjoy your life." It's launched several campaigns, including "Way More Than Cooking." And while Mr. Smith says the Olympics and "American Idol" made the first quarter challenging, the "the good news is daytime and weekend continue to grow. They're up 10% this year so far."

Before landing at Food in 1998, Mr. Smith had already spent several years at Disney/ABC Cable Networks, and before that at CBS. But there are plenty of new challenges ahead for him. "There are a lot of different opportunities beyond just TV," says Ms. Johnson. "Figuring out how we exploit that and stay true to the brand is key."

Reaching beyond 'foodies':
* The "Food Lovers Made Fresh Daily" tagline tried to woo weeknight viewers.
* In 2005, the "Way More Than Cooking" push focused on p.m. entertainment.
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