Television executives are getting into the kitchen in search of some heat, with Bloomberg reporting record ratings for cable's new, food-themed programming.
(CBS/The Early Show)
The Food Network's prime-time numbers have more than doubled since 2004, and the recent season finale of "The Next Food Network Star" was the channel's most-watched show ever. The second season start of "Man v. Food," a Travel Channel show that involves watching host Adam Richman eat (and eat…), was watched by 1.25 million households.
These programs, and many others, don't look anything like typical cooking shows. They've successfully borrowed ingredients from reality TV, like exotic locations and judged competitions. In fact, as the real estate market continues to fumble, food shows are happily replacing home makeovers as the newest spectator sport. Within the last year, TLC has dropped "Trading Spaces" and "Flip that House" and added another cooking show, "Ultimate Cake Off."
Legislation currently moving through Congress aims to create thousands of new jobs and stimulate the U.S. economy by attracting international tourists, at no cost to taxpayers. Called the Travel Promotion Act (TPA), the proposed bill would collect a $10 fee from travelers coming to the United States. Coupled with private contributions, these fees would fund a promotion campaign abroad to help attract international visitors.
Last month, the bill cleared a Senate sub-committee and it enjoys broad, bipartisan support. The House unanimously passed a similar bill last September, but due to the financial crisis the Senate never got around to voting on it (among the supporters were then-senators Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden).
Thursday morning, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, one of the bill's 22 co-sponsors, said it is one of the bills he plans to get through before the summer recess. If successful, the TPA could serve as an eleventh-hour stimulus for the U.S. travel industry where business is down and layoffs are up.
From cars to clothes, prices have been lowered on virtually everything as the recession has deepened — making the current retail climate a bargain hunter's dream, but a retailer's nightmare.
"Many stores can't protect their brand right now because they have to worry about cash flow," said Gilbert Harrison, the chairman of Financo, an investment bank that specializes in merchandising.
In order to keep this cash flowing — or just trickling in — even high-end stores like Bloomingdale's and Saks Fifth Avenue have offered serious discounts, especially during the holiday season. Shoppers once had to wait months until full-priced items went on sale, but not anymore. And big-ticket items are no exception.
Beth Kobliner, author of "Get A Financial Life," agrees.
Last week, First Lady Michelle Obama presided at a groundbreaking for a garden on the White House lawn.
(AP Photo/Ron Edmonds)
Her plan is to educate children about healthy food options. Her hope is that "they will begin to educate their families and that will, in turn, begin to educate our communities."
This message is timely. With less money to spend, consumers are more likely to turn to cheaper food options that lack high nutritional value.
The recession has forced consumers to cut back on spending in almost every area of life. Now death, it seems, is no exception. The funeral industry is changing to accommodate budget-conscious families and the number of cremations is on the rise.
"These are tough economic times," said National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA) spokesperson Jessica Koth, "and what we are hearing from our members is that more and more families are opting for cremation" as a low-cost alternative to a traditional burial.
It's not the service or the casket that breaks the bank, Koth said. According to NFDA's data, the average funeral package (with a casketed service and a burial) costs $4,277. A casketed service and cremation costs slightly less, about $4,054.
The issue is that these packages don't include the grave, which can practically double the cost of a funeral.
At Ocean County Memorial Park in New Jersey, for example, plots start around $925. But in cemeteries as in real estate, location is everything.