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Celebrity chef Paula Deen to launch digital cooking network

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Celebrity chef Paula Deen will launch a subscription-based, online network in September featuring her Southern home cooking, a year after she lost her Food Network show and millions of dollars in product endorsements amid a racial controversy.

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The culinary star announced plans on Wednesday for the Paula Deen Network, which she said would offer broadcast-quality shows on demand via computer, smartphone or tablet.

"Guess who's going digital, y'all!" Deen said on her website.

Deen said the Internet network would give her greater creative control and freedom than television programming. In a video interview with the Wall Street Journal, she expressed confidence her fans would be willing to pay for the content.

"I think they're going to be more than happy to join this network," she said, noting that users will be offered a 14-day free trial.

Deen's multimillion-dollar enterprise, built on cookbooks, restaurants, television shows and housewares, suffered a major hit last year after she said she had used a racial slur.

The admission came during a deposition in a racial discrimination and sexual harassment lawsuit brought against Deen and her brother, Bubba Hiers, by a former employee of a restaurant the siblings owned in Savannah, Georgia.

The employee, who is white, claimed she had been the victim of sexual harassment and alleged a pattern of racial discrimination against black employees at Uncle Bubba's Seafood and Oyster House.

Scripps Networks Interactive Inc dropped Deen's cooking show from its cable television channel, the Food Network, in the fallout from the case, and companies including Wal-Mart Stores Inc, Target Corp and Home Depot Inc stopped selling Deen products.

A federal judge dismissed the lawsuit last summer. The restaurant closed in April after a decade in business.

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