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Food Channel Delivers 'Round the Clock

ROBIN LEACH has decided to focus on the meatier details of the lives of the rich and famous: their food.

``Robin Leach Talking Food'' is one of the programs airing on the Television Food Network (TVFN), a new cable start-up developed by Reese Schonfeld, the same man who brought us Cable News Network (CNN). Why food? ``Because everyone loves to eat,'' Mr. Schonfeld says.

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TVFN defines itself as a 24-hour advertiser-supported channel dedicated to food and food-related topics. Targeted at women 18 and over, its programs focus on cooking, food news, nutrition and health, and dining out.

The network, backed by a partnership of cable operators and broadcast companies, started airing the week of Thanksgiving and is offered to some 7 million households. So far, a six-hour program wheel runs 24 hours.

The idea has drawn some skepticism (``Who needs 24 hours of food?'') and also a few chuckles. Entertainment magazine's Jim Mullen writes, ``For every hour you watch it, you have to spend two watching exercise videos.''

But such specialized programming is not unusual; in fact, it's becoming commonplace because of huge channel capacity, observes Michael Salinger, associate professor of economics at Boston University's School of Management and a cable-industry observer. TVFN ``will succeed if there are advertisers who want to reach their target market.''

In addition to Mr. Leach's call-in show, TFVN offers ``Food News & Views,'' ``Getting Healthy,'' and ``Cooking Classics,'' hosted by Jane Curtin. In ``How to Boil Water'' New Orleans chef Emeril Lagasse teaches the cooking illiterate, and ``Food in a Flash'' lends a hand to people who don't have time to make creme bre every day.

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