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Food Network Chief Brooke Johnson to Retire

Brooke Johnson, who added a bevy of new formats to the Food Network recipe as president of the Scripps Networks cable outlet, is stepping down.

During a tenure of more than 12 years, Johnson supervised the birth of programs such as “Chopped,” “Cutthroat Kitchen,” “Food Network Star” and “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives,” expanding the Food Network aegis from celebrity chefs to reality programming. In recent months, the network has experimented with more, including bringing in celebrities like Trisha Yearwood and Valerie Bertinelli to host cooking-demonstration series.

Johnson will continue to serve as a consultant to Scripps Networks Interactive through the end of 2016, the company said. Scripps said an announcement detailing new leadership for Food Network would be made “in the coming days.” Johnson was also president of Scripps’ Cooking Channel.

Johnson is capping off a storied career that put her in the planning room for such durable TV concepts as History Channel and “Live! With Regis and Kathie Lee.” She  joined Food Network in 2003 after working at A+E Networks, where she launched the Biography Channel and proposed the original concept for History Channel. Prior to joining A&E, Johnson was program director for WABC-TV in New York, where she launched “Live! With Regis and Kathie Lee,” first at the local level and then in national syndication. Under her aegis, Food Network expanded into branded products, launched a magazine based on the network with Hearst Corp. and expanded food category’s digital footprint through a series of apps and web offerings.

Food Network faces some challenges. Its operating revenue fell 4.2% to a little more than $228 million in the second quarter and dipped 2.5% to approximately $457,000 for the first half of the year, according to Scripps’ most recent earnings report.

One follower of the network feels it is in need of a makeover, and executives who want to put one in place. “Everyone has a food show now. The question for Food Network is how do you stay ahead of every other channel?” said Allen Salkin, author of “From Scratch: The Uncensored History of The Food Network.” The answer, he said, “goes back to what they were doing at the start, which was revolutionizing the format.”

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