AFTER ALMOST a decade of serving food from the all over the region via cable TV, the Asian Food Channel has now shifted to a “digital-first approach” in order to support its three million-strong online community, hence the need to change its name to Asian Food Network (AFN), according to a channel executive.
“With the change of name, we wanted to showcase the change in nature of the channel: in the past years, Asian Food Channel had already evolved into more than a linear experience,” Anna Pak Budin, vice-president and general manager in Southeast Asia for Discovery Networks Asia-Pacific, told BusinessWorld in an e-mail interview in December.
“We decided to go for a digital-first approach based on research, data, and feedback from our current online community. We saw that they liked the short and snappy type of format, that’s why we decided to give them more,” she added.
The Asian Food Channel was Asia’s first pay-TV food channel. It was created by Hian Goh, an investment banker, and Maria Brown, a BBC journalist, in 2005. In 2013, the channel was bought by Scripps Networks Interactive, which was then brought under the wing of Discovery Inc. when it bought Scripps Networks in 2018.
The channel has featured shows from international chefs like Gordon Ramsay, Nigella Lawson, and Martin Yan, alongside regional chefs like Debbie Wong and Judy Joo.
With the rebranding, Ms. Burdin said that the channel has partnered with “food trend hunters” or food content creators for the website and YouTube channel, who create Asian recipes to complement the TV talents. Among these “creators” are Sarah Huang Benjamin, Sherson Lian, and Illi Soulaiman. Filipino chef and winner of the 2016 AFN’s Food Hero contest Anton Amoncio, also joined the online ranks while having two shows on AFN.
The network will continue to have “a strong lineup of Asian-based cuisine” and as such will have shows such as Luke Nguyen’s Railway Vietnam where Vietnamese chef Luke Nguyen takes viewers on a “culinary railway journey” in his home country for the first quarter of 2020.
“Luke is a talent we are building for our AFN channel and someone that resonates well with our audiences,” Ms. Burdin said.
Also in the show lineup for the year are Diana Chan’s Asia’s Unplated featuring 2017 Master Chef Australia Winner Diana Chan, Comfort Food Recipes Season 2 which will feature “local home-cooked and delicious classics recipes like how grandma used to cook and that kind of content resonates well with our audiences,” according to Ms. Burdin.
Ms. Burdin said the rebranding was also a way to target a younger market despite the continuous growth in ratings for the channel.
“While AFN continues to see healthy viewership growth, the audience has shifted towards the older age group (45 and above), hence the announcement of asianfoodnetwork.com, which audience is relatively younger,” she said.
She added that AFN has had a 6% increase in ratings in Southeast Asia year-on-year and the Philippines has shown “the biggest growth with ratings increasing by 116% since 2016.”
Asian Food Network is available on SkyCable channel 22 (SD) and 248 (HD) and Cignal channel 62. — Zsarlene B. Chua