Former Food Network star Paula Deen announced on her website Wednesday that she is launching her own online network in September. She posted to her blog: "Guess who's going digital, y'all!"
The Paula Deen Network will be a subscription-based service. For a fee, fans will be able to access recipes, tips and instructional videos at any time. Early registration will begin in July, and those who pre-register can win a trip to Savannah, Ga. to join her live studio audience. In order to court subscribers, Deen has set off on a 20-city summer food tour across the U.S.
Deen lost most of her endorsements, her book deal and her TV deals in 2013 after she acknowledged having used racial slurs—including the N-word—in the past. The confession, in a legal deposition, was sparked by a legal dispute with a former employee who accused Deen of racial discrimination and sexual harassment. The scandal worsened after it was revealed Deen had planned to host a "Southern plantation-styled" wedding featuring African-American servants.
In February, Deen told People that she was mounting a comeback: she launched her own company, Paula Deen Ventures, backed by private investment firm Najafi Companies. Najafi gave the Queen of Southern Cooking $75 million to $100 million to oversee her restaurants, cookbook publications and product endorsements. This new digital network with "network-quality" programming is Deen's first attempt at a comeback.
Deen told the Wall Street Journal Wednesday that at least one network had offered her a TV show, but she declined. (A Food Network spokesperson told the Journal that she had no knowledge of any Food Network show being offered to the fallen star.) Deen said she decided an online platform was the best way to reach fans. "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," Deen said. "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."