Programming Wine

So, it's late last night. I'm in bed. Ready to soak up some TV. Tivo: nothing. Nothing recorded by me or the little man inside the box that interests me. And then it struck me: Why the heck isn't there "The Wine Channel"?

Now, there is no doubt that across the wine related video is proliferating. We have independents creating Internet-based wine content, wine stores delivering video, wineries producing video and video recordings of wine-related events. But wine simply has not made the prime time leap to Channel Status on Basic Cable. Yes, we have a few wine related show. But there is no "The Wine Channel".

Now, from my perspective I think this is ridiculous. After all, we have the "Speed" channel for Christ's sake. The "Speed" channel? Please! Now I think I get why there is no "The Wine Channel". The Dorks, semi-dorks and wanna-be dorks who would watch it don't begin to gather in the same number as the "speed dorks". And so there's the problem.

The other problem a "The Wine Channel" would have is that there happens to be 24 hours in a day. How are you going to fill up 24 hours with unique, wine-related content. It's not easy. We are talking about fermented grape juice driving a cable channel 24 hours a day. But as any self respecting marketer knows, we really aren't talking about a "Fermented Wine Juice Channel". We are talking about the "Fermented Wine Juice LIFESTYLE Channel.

So, in a bid to be considered as the Programming VP for the (You listening Comcast?) "Winery Channel", allow me to suggest the programming for this new venture.

1. Celebrity Wine
A celebrity that makes or likes wine takes the viewer into their world, discusses their lives, their wines, their wine experienced.

2. The Wine Tasting Party
Five guests and a celebrity host talk and rank brown bagged wines, revealing the top wines at the end of the show.

3. In The Cellar
On location visit to a single winery

4. Wine 101
Teaching the basics of all things a self respecting wine consumer needs to know from decanting, uncorking and glassware to choosing wines, learning about varieties and different countries' wines

5. Wine Travel
Travel adventures to wine regions across the globe.

6. The Wine Store
A reality show that follows 20 people chosen to run two different wine stores in downtown San Francisco. Very interesting and beautiful people compete to be the owners of each store

7. The Wine Movie
It need only have a passing connection to wine. But it's a movie.

8. A Movie & A Bottle
Two very engaging hosts talk about wine between breaks in a movie of any sort. They speculate on how wine could have been incorporated into the film

9. Film Quaffers
Four people, sitting silhouetted in the first row of a movie theater with a film showing above them spend two hours watching the film with the viewer, making terribly witty and dismissive comments about the writing and acting, all while drinking way too much wine throughout the film

10. Wine Shopping
Each day a new winemaker spends an hour standing with a host, promoting his wines, while the viewer can call in and buy the wine: WineShoppingTV, essentially.

11. Wine Gossip
A staff of crack wine bloggers gather on a cool set and spend a half hour noting silly and not so silly news from the world of wine.

12. Wine Spectator TV
They must have their own show. It's a news/variety format where the editors and writers of the Wine Spectator introduce viewers to new wines, to the news of the week, give vintage reports on various wine regions, interview wine people and run a scroll along the bottom with just the names of wines and their ratings.

12. Wine Enthusiast TV
(See Above)

13. Wine & Spirits TV
(See Above)

14. Wine Biz Radio (Live)
Randy Hall and Kaz of Wine Biz Radio video tape and broadcast live their radio show a la Howard Stern

15. The Auction
Wine Auctions are broadcast in part with interviews with buyers as well as sellers and advise on wine investing is offered.

There are of course many other ideas for shows on The Wine Channel. But I think I'll wait until the executives at Comcast call and offer me the job of VP of programming.

30 Responses

  1. Bob Dwyer - February 11, 2009

    Yeah- you’d think with wine demographics being what they are, such a channel would already exist. Or at least a significant portion of the Fine Living channel would be devoted to wine, but that doesn’t seem to be the case.
    I’ve found some interesting things by creating a TiVo WishList search for “wine”. I like that it catches any portion of the show description that contains the word wine- so when Gary V. is on a late night show (for example) TiVo usually picks it up. I mention it because it makes it clear how *little* wine programming is currently on TV.

  2. el jefe - February 11, 2009

    Where do I audition for #9? You’ll definitely need rubber chickens for that.

  3. Dombeya Wines - February 11, 2009

    The biggest issue would be to find someone who was interesting enough to carry the show as a host. Maybe thats the reason why wine doesn’t have a presence on TV, and why Gary V has become the phenom that he is- wine and its key commentators have bored people to death in the past.
    There used to be a bit of wine stuff on the lifestyle shows on mainstream Aust TV- all gone now.

  4. Dirty - February 11, 2009

    For this to be successful in mainstream tv-land, wine has to play 2nd fiddle to the story and personalities.
    I do like the MST3K approach though!
    I can see this fighting for ratings with
    “Groomer Has It”

  5. Chicago Pinot - February 11, 2009

    How about The Wine Pyramid?
    Two teams, each containing one novice and one experienced wine expert (sommelier, wine writer, blogger, indicted politico, etc.) compete in a game of wine trivia and blind tasting.
    The winning team will receive trips or 2020 Bordeaux futures and have all taxes paid by Tom Daschelle.

  6. Eric - February 11, 2009

    And you said you hate LA. With your programming prowess, you’ll be living here before you know it!

  7. Thomas Pellechia - February 11, 2009

    “The biggest issue would be to find someone who was interesting enough to carry the show as a host.”
    That’s easy: Mark Squires.
    I think you may have too much time on your hands, or the wine you are smoking is potent.

  8. Ned - February 11, 2009

    First you don’t need 24 hour a day programming. Many channels
    have “paid programming” (infomercials) overnight for that reason.
    Second cable channels repeat programs during the day. The Daily Show and Colbert report are on at least twice a day.
    I think it’s actually a viable idea for lots of reasons.

  9. Jill - February 11, 2009

    Forget about a wine channel. It would be nice if HGTV, the Food Network or Fine Living could manage to develop a decent 1/2 hour of wine programming…

  10. bob asher - February 11, 2009

    This is kind of what I have been working on for the last year. Having been a TV producer in Hollywood for a long long time, I’ve now been working with wine brands and retailers to bring programming to the Web. Not just “content” but real programs that are entertaining, informative and fun. (and can generate some revenue!)
    check out the rough cut of the show I’ve been working on lately:

    Obviously there are many other segments that we have in the works but you get a sense of the vibe and tone I’m going for….
    Any thoughts much appreciated.

  11. Dylan - February 11, 2009

    I agree with Ned’s commentary. There is not only a market, but an obvious NEED on television, as suggested by the lack of wine-based programming. This may be hard to believe, but when the idea for “The Weather Channel” came up, many thought it was absurd. “You’re going to make a channel about weather? No one is going to care about that. I watch the morning news for that!” Another case is MTV, the idea of “Music Television” was absolutely preposterous at the time. “You will play music videos of artists all day?” Obviously programming has changed since the origin, but, in all cases, people questioned the ability to fill time in the day with worth while programming. There’s an audience here and it only seems impossible because it hasn’t been done yet–I deem it a worthwhile undertaking.

  12. Christy - February 11, 2009

    I would love to watch #6…if it was set in NY (I’m a little biased towards NY). I can already imagine a number of tasks involving crazy customer requests, counting out cash registers, chasing distributor trucks down the street…it could work!

  13. Benito - February 11, 2009

    I grew up watching a lot of auto racing, so I have to say one thing in support of the Speed channel: they show a lot of Formula One races, and F1 fans tend to be wine drinkers as opposed to the beer drinkers of NASCAR.
    Don’t neglect the cross-promotional opportunities!

  14. Mike Duffy - February 11, 2009

    Sometimes the non-existence of a business doesn’t mean that there is huge opportunity. ๐Ÿ™‚
    Seriously, nothing is preventing someone from doing a pilot of any of these ideas and shopping it to the Food Network, etc.
    Whatever happened to “So you want to be a Winemaker” (PBS’s “The Winemakers”)? It was filmed in 2006, and is rumored to be coming out this spring. The demand for wine-related programming wasn’t so great that it hasn’t languished somewhere in the vaults for nearly 3 years.
    Not to rain on any parades, but for given investment in programming of $X, the return (in terms of advertising sold by the network) is probably higher for other niches. That’s the thing that anyone attempting to get a Wine Channel on TV has to demonstrate. It’s all about the Benjamins.
    Of course, you could pull a GaryV and just broadcast on the Web. Why hasn’t GaryV signed with the Food Network? Now that’s an interesting question.

  15. Benito - February 11, 2009

    Re: Mike Duffy
    I can’t find the relevant articles, but Food Network has slowly been pushing wine and real chefs off the main network and onto channels like Fine Living. Apparently gourmet cooking and wine are considered too elitist for the target demographic of Food Network. Bring on more recipes involving canned green beans and Ritz crackers! Or let’s just talk about dessert for most of prime time!
    This keeps happening over and over again… Science got pushed off the Discovery Channel to make room for Bigfoot specials and motorcycles, “Arts & Entertainment” completely dropped the arts in favor of legal dramas, and MTV stopped playing music videos.

  16. Thomas Pellechia - February 12, 2009

    Even cable television is 95% hucksterism, 3% news, and 2% information.
    Before the Internet, TV promised to be the best vehicle for disseminating information ever invented–why it almost makes one cynical about that newer best form of information ever invented on which we all place our bets and which has already shown its predilection for hucksterism, not to mention spam…

  17. Emily - February 12, 2009

    I’ve always had my favorite (geeky, I admit) twist to #8 – Wine & Film Pairings.
    And yes. I have posted said list:
    Tonight I’m watching Withnail & I, paired with the appropriate wine.
    Here’s to your new venture, Tom!

  18. Katie - February 12, 2009

    I wrote about this a couple of years ago…I think an “Iron Chef” type set up would be cool, with sommeliers that get 5 different dishes that they have to pair wines with and the winner is whomever’s “vino reigns supremo”!

  19. Morton Leslie - February 12, 2009

    Sommelier Please! This would be on KQED Bay Area public television also with Leslie Sbrocco. Three wine enthusiasts suggest their favorite winery tasting rooms. Each visit all three and then sip and compare notes with Leslie.
    A better version would be they play drinking games and all get totally s%$#-faced with Leslie… and then we get to watch what mischief transpires.

  20. Ron Rusnak - February 12, 2009

    you da man! However, I don’t think comcast will come a callin….
    A few other meaningful shows that would attract viewers:
    * Wine babble: various sommeliers pontificating on a predetermined wine. Sort of a Myth Buster motif that you can try at home.
    * Drink the wine and watch the movie: Bolly (or martinis) with James Bond, Valpo with La Dolce Vita; even sub in suggested ones where needed; like in Vicky Christina Barcelona.
    * Wine in the news: when mega marketers acquire artisnal brands….try the wine now, and then repeat a vintage or two later to see how they ‘evolve.’
    Obviously, no shortage of intriguing programming ideas.
    Cheers, mate.

  21. Mike Duffy - February 12, 2009

    @Benito: So what we really need is The Elitist Channel. ๐Ÿ™‚
    See also
    “The Wine Tasting Association (WTA) has created this show to change the approach to wine in America. See, every wine show that has been on TV has failed. It’s true. We think that’s because it’s been boring….showing vineyards, barrels and talking about how wine is made. ”
    Winemaker Cage Match!
    Tom: you just don’t get 500 channels:

  22. Mike Duffy - February 12, 2009

    @Benito: So what we need is The Elitist Channel. ๐Ÿ™‚
    “The Wine Tasting Association (WTA) has created this show to change the approach to wine in America. See, every wine show that has been on TV has failed. It’s true. We think that’s because it’s been boring….showing vineyards, barrels and talking about how wine is made.”
    Maybe if Tom had a satellite dish he could have watched this:

  23. Rich - February 12, 2009

    Our blog is a “wine & food blog” so we set foot in both the wine and the foodie worlds. Food & wine are inextricably linked. Wine is a food. I’ve talked to a number of “celebrity” chefs and asked why wine isn’t more prevalent in their shows on Food Network, PBS, etc. A common theme is that “wine isn’t as visual as food”. They can’t conceive of giving much air time to wine because they simply view it as someone standing there with a glass of wine saying something like “This one has a herbacious aroma and a wonderful grassy flavor that doesn’t overpower you” or some such nonsense.
    They forget that Julia Child made “fancy French food” accessible to the masses. Wine needs to be made “accessible to the masses” as well and this will take a more educational approach to wine, not a snobby sounding description of a particular wine (i.e., not a wine review). Your suggested topics are a good start. Wine bloggers (even those who don’t focus on food at all) create a wealth of educational material that could be interesting in video format. I keep hoping someone at Food Network will wake up and realize that many wine topics are just as interesting as how to cook a good chicken piccata in 30 minutes. It will happen eventually. I take some solace in the fact that Julia very often had a glass of wine in her hand while on camera! Now, that gives me hope for change.

  24. tish - February 12, 2009

    I tend to agree with Jill’s comment above. I’d be happy enought if someone could come up with a half an hour of good wine programming on TV period.
    Unfortunately, I am not nearly as hip on this notion as many other commenters. Just a gut feeling that somethings do not translate well to the small screen. Food works, because it is more universal, and there are actually natural things to DO with food. Wine in a glass, even in a conducive setting, is very hard to make interesting to all but a small fraction of Americans.

  25. Ron McFarland - February 13, 2009

    You mentioned you want to be VP of programming – here is a link to company that has been trying to do this since 2003 and does have a wine channel in some overseas markets.
    Go for it!

  26. Robbin Gheesling - February 13, 2009

    I am working on #5! Stay tuned…

  27. Mitch Tar - February 14, 2009

    This is an unbelievable over the top great idea! I’d even get a TV again to watch.

  28. Gary "Iron" Chevsky - February 15, 2009

    I want to thank the commenters for pointing out some of the existing wine TV/video efforts. Some nice videos being produced out there, under the radar.
    I am sure that wine could be a successful vertical in mainstream programming, if properly produced. Obviously, Gary Vaynerchuk is doing quite well. And look at what’s happened in Asia — they are currently running an incredibly popular wine drama called Kami no Shizuku – that is kinda like a Japanese version of Sideways, but much more interesting, actually. Accessible yet classy, this show is presented in a typical for Asia over-dramatized style, and yet somehow one gets glued to the screen. I posted the first two episodes on my blog here: This show is generating huge sales in Asia, and is undoubtedly a huge advertising vehicle with tremendous viewer appeal.
    Agree with all those that said that stuffy wino programs with boring hosts are not the way. But great personalities and dramatic content will bring the audiences. That said, I do hope that whatever shows end up succeeding are a bit more sophisticated than “let’s go to BevMo and try 3 cheapo chardonnays” – no offense, but no more cheesy stuff PLEASE!!!
    Best regards,
    Gary “Iron” Chevsky (from the Iron Chevsky wine blog at

  29. Roger Mills - February 19, 2009

    OK Tom, check’s in the mail. Whew, you’re tough, but I respect that. It’s just putting up a website like ours, http://WWW.THEWINERYCHANNEL.TV,that‘s mostly video and all about wine is EXPENSIVE. The way to do it right is get “angel investor” who’s crazy, loves wine and can stand to take a financial loss until it finds it’s audience (or ever does the numbers needed.) To do it as a “labor of love” takes cojones, a streak of madness , a lack of financial sense and a love of wine. That’s us. Back to the money part. Few outside the biz, understand what it takes to create a TV program, even a five minute one. When we’ve approached winemakers and wineries with the actual cost, they gag, then politely show you the door. For us, we look for partnerships where the wine producer share a small portion of the actual cost and this just pays for transportation and a bare minimum of equipment. I think most of your show ideas are fabulous. We’ve thought of everyone way back. The small smattering of other wine shows are, well…terrible. BORING and amateurish. Why? Remember the money part? As we continue to develop we hope to create shows that serve the overall demographic of wine drinkers and to some extent, certainly feel we are doing that. Our shows on our FINE WINERIES and THE SOURCE series I put up against any others being produced out there presently, and we do these on a fricking shoestring. Umph. Got my fur up! Not to mention KYLE MEYER who is great! Yes he works for Winex but we all have to make a living.
    SO SUPPORT US. Give us your feedback. Toss piles of horse manure our way with suggestions attached. We don’t care. We just want to make great shows about wine!
    By the way, the programming you suggested would cost at the lowest end at least 5 million dollars a year just to produce. Know a rich wine nut with money to spare?
    best regards,
    Roger Mills

  30. newport driving school - February 20, 2009

    Informative blog.I am talking about fermented grape juice driving a cable channel 24 hours a day.Thanks for sharing.

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