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 and RESTAURANT STAKEOUT. Thursdays generally feature CHOPPED again, with some new programs making the rounds as well. Saturdays are filled with a different program stack each week.On Sundays big-stakes cooking competitions reign.
While the schedule is relatively steady, the network has been tinkering with the 10PM slot, choosing the end of the night for new program introductions. Some have been successful (SWEET GENIUS, RESTAURANT STAKEOUT), while others have not fared as well (3 DAYS TO OPEN, $24 IN 24).
DECEMBER 2012 PRIMETIME RATINGS ANALYSIS:
Live + SD Primetime Ratings Comparison: December 2012 vs. December 2011 (% Change)
Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample
2012: Food Network had a strong ratings year, claiming it was the most watched year ever. A mix of specials and limited run series, staple programming and homegrown celebrity chefs rotated through the programming have kept the network fresh.
DECEMER 2012: Despite the strong year, Food Network ended 2012 on the downswing as audience fell in November and then again in December. January started out the year with Food Network’s highest monthly primetime rating, but ended with the lowest ratings in December. Compared to last year, December’s average primetime ratings are down by nearly 20% across the board. Compared to last month, men held on but core women dropped by 10%.
The biggest contributor to the decline is the Sunday night line-up. The high-profile competition shows lead the night to the best ratings of the week. In December Sunday night was the highest-rated, but it also took the biggest absolute ratings declines, dropping one-fourth of women 25-54 ratings from last year. But most of the schedule had problems. Monday and Thursday nights had similar percentage declines, and every night except Wednesday dropped audience.
Sunday’s NEXT IRON CHEF competition was billed around redemption. Chefs who were previously unable to secure the Iron Chef title were back for another chance. However, viewers were not interested in second chances – compared to December 2011’s NEXT IRON CHEF FOUR, ratings were significantly lower. Interesting to note, PR releases called the Decemer 23rd finale “epic,” delving into the bio and qualifications of the winning chef, but did not discuss viewership or ratings. Supporting programming did not help. SUGAR DOME, one of the lower rated programs of the month, started out the night. Various programs (IRON CHEF AMERICA, RESTAURANT IMPOSSIBLE, SWEET GENIUS, CHOPPED and a special ALL STAR FAMILY COOK OFF) were rotated through the usually stable 10PM time-slot.
Monday and Friday are driven by DINERS, DRIVE-INS & DIVES. The show has been used to launch several new programs this year, some successful, some not so much. This month, DD&D itself took a hit, down 21% among adults 25-54. Fortunately, its lead-out Friday night show MYSTERY DINERS did not follow. It grew audience by 10% vs. November, consistently growing audience from its lead-in and surpassing the DD&D average.
Tuesday was the second-best rated night of the week with iconic CHOPPED pulling its weight. Still, the night was down by 20% vs. last year, and the core women 25-54 average program ratings were down by 16%. With 39 runs this month, it is safe to say that audiences are burning out on CHOPPED.
Wednesdays feature balanced male/female with RESTAURANT IMPOSSIBLE and RESTAURANT STAKEOUT at the helm. The two programs deliver virtually identical average ratings and were able to push Wednesdays up by 20% over last year. Both programs show improvement over previous airings.
Thursdays deliver the lowest adult 25-54 ratings of the week, down 30% from last year. The focus is on dessert programs (SUGAR DOME, SWEET GENIUS, CUPCAKE WARS), and the theme does not seem to be resonating with audiences. (TOP CHEF JUST DESSERTS was a short-lived series on Bravo).
Saturdays remain a night of rotating stacks. Regular Saturday night shows DINERS DRIVE INS & DIVES, CHOPPED, RESTAURANT IMPOSSIBLE were joined by UNWRAPPED, the low-rated program that hasn’t seen much primetime air this year. Absence did not make the heart grow fonder, and ratings were still low for the show. DD&D once again pulled the best ratings of the night.
2013: For its twentieth anniversary, execs want to reinforce to viewers how much Food Network has expanded the boundaries of foodie TV far beyond how-to cooking shows. "We are upping the ante on new series development and exploration of the food world," said Susie Fogelson, senior VP of marketing and brand strategy for Food Network and its sibling Cooking Channel. "We're not going to do a show where you'd say 'Why is that on Food Network?' But we want to keep exploring the food world in unexpected ways. The idea is to push envelope on what is food programming -- making it unexpected yet relevant."