Food Network has a robust inventory of recognizable titles that it effectively rotates through the schedule. The network doesn’t strip across the week, but has created stacks for most nights. Mondays and Fridays are driven by Guy Fieri’s DINERS, DRIVE-INS AND DIVES, Tuesday is competition programs for women -- CHOPPED and/or CUPCAKE WARS, Wednesday is balanced male/female reality RESTAURANT IMPOSSIBLE, Thursdays feature CHOPPED again, and on Sundays big-stakes studio based cooking competitions reign. Saturdays are filled with a different program each week.
AUGUST 2012 PRIMETIME RATINGS ANALYSIS:
Live + SD Primetime Ratings Comparison: August 2012 vs. August 2011 (% Change)
Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample
August 2012: This Olympic-ruled month was a tough one for Food, as demo ratings moved in the wrong direction vs. last month, and especially last year. Demo ratings vs. July were down in the 5% to 10% range, and vs. last year numbers dropped by 15%. Again, it was the Sunday night competition shows that brought the biggest ratings and also the biggest declines. Apparently viewers preferred the Summer Games to the culinary competition.
The week starts out with a solid block of DINERS, DRIVE INS & DIVES, the only food anthology show left standing on Food Network’s primetime line-up. The program is a stand-out in audience delivery as well. Monday night audiences are the oldest of the week, and it is the only night to attain an even male/female share. This month it was also the only night to gain audience vs. last year’s performance.
Tuesday’s combo of CHOPPED and CUPCAKE WARS brought the biggest year over year percentage declines. The night holds the heaviest female skew of the week, but lost 28% of its core women 25-54 audience vs. last year. Both programs hold a heavy rotation on the schedule…CHOPPED aired 18 times this month while CUPCAKE WARS ran 8 times. Their Tuesday night runs took the biggest hits; declines on other nights were not as severe.
Wednesday’s RESTAURANT IMPOSSIBLE brought the night down, with more men than women deserting the show this month. The hit of the month was a spin-off, WEDDING IMPOSSIBLE, a departure for Food Network. The special gives an intimate look into the personal life of host Robert Irvine as he gets ready to marry wrestling star and entertainer Gail Kim. Much of RESTAURANT IMPOSSIBLE’s success is due to the strong male following, and while men did not follow, WEDDING IMPOSSIBLE brought in enough women to make the special a success. It aired twice this month, pulling the top ratings in all of cable on the night of its premiere.
The cross-over program indicates a trend. WEDDING IMPOSSIBLE brings a bridal show to the Food Network. Lifetime just picked up a culinary competition show, SUPERMARKET SUPERSTARS. And Food Network is going for a presence with NFL fans by establishing place-based concessions at big-market football stadiums. "For many Food Network fans, football and food go hand in hand,” claims Sergei Kuharsky, general manager of Food Network's new business enterprises. Undoubtedly, Food is a category with increasing appeal. Look for more cross-overs in the near future.
Encore-heavy Thursday and Friday nights brought the lowest ratings of the week. Each of these nights also featured a program with new episodes this summer… EXTREME CHEF on Thursdays and 3 DAYS TO OPEN on Fridays, both airing in the 10PM hour. 3 DAYS TO OPEN did not fare well, sinking to the very bottom of all the ratings rankers and losing more than 20% of its debut audience from last month. While EXTREME CHEF did not top the primetime average on households, it did well on demos, and was able to build on its CHOPPED lead-in. Compared to last year’s run, it has gained considerably higher ratings (over one-third improvement on households and over 50% improvement on demos).
Usually reserved for rotating stacks of repeat programming, Saturday brought two new programs this month. As discussed earlier, WEDDING IMPOSSIBLE was a new, bright stand-out. RESTAURANT STAKEOUT ran as a three-hour block one Saturday night and pulled excellent ratings across the board, particularly for a Saturday night.
Sunday’s high-profile programming continues to drive the network. While it remains the best-rated night of the week, its slipping ratings have a big impact on the bottom line. THE GREAT FOOD TRUCK RACE held female audience vs. last year, but lost 18% of men 25-54. IRON CHEF AMERICA, CHOPPED and CUPCAKE WARS could not hold the line, and Sunday nights took a tumble. Perhaps when the Olympic cloud clears, Food will come back on viewers’ radars.