Though the Paula Deen brand is synonymous with high-calorie recipes and an old-school sensibility, the celebrity chef, who hid her diabetes diagnosis from the public and admitted to having once used a racial slur, is taking a decidedly new-school approach as she seeks to rebuild her decimated empire.
Having long been a television staple, Wednesday will see the launch of PaulaDeen.com -- an online-TV network where subscribers must pay between $7.99 and $9.99 a month to watch Deen and guests whip up her famed Southern fare in front of studio audiences.
But new video content created exclusively for the web is just a part of the puzzle. Additionally, Deen and her investor, Najafi Companies, have bought back the rights to all of her shows that ever aired on the Food Network during her 13-year tenure, according to The Wall Street Journal.
This comprises roughly 440 episodes and includes an entire season of Paula’s Home Cooking that the Food Network never aired due to fallout over Deen’s racial scandal. A purchase price was not disclosed.
And the Paula Deen Network -- as the new digital platform will be called -- has other projects up its sleeve as well. Next year, the network will produce a documentary about Deen’s fall from grace from her own perspective. “I’m bound by the courts, so I can only say so much,” she told the Journal. “But there’s nothing to stop others from talking about it.”
As online video continues to destabilize the television industry, Deen said taking her show online not only marks a strategic business opportunity but also a move towards creative freedom.
"That's the beauty of what we're doing now. We have total and complete control. If we disagree on something, we can discuss it right then and there. We don't have to put it before a group in a tall building somewhere."
Deen began cooking up a comeback earlier this year, when Najafi tendered a $100 million investment in her new company, Paula Deen Ventures. After announcing the construction of a new family-friendly restaurant in Pigeon Forge, Tenn., next to Dollywood, Deen then abruptly shuttered another one of her restaurant properties, Uncle Bubba’s Seafood and Oyster House, without so much as even notifying employees.
It remains to be seen, however, whether Deen’s rallying fans on social media -- including a Facebook group called ‘Bring Back Paula Deen’ with over 250,000 members -- will follow her as she braves a brand new digital frontier.