Food Network Analysis

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SCHEDULING STRATEGIES:

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 high-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 (MYSTERY DINERS, RESTAURANT STAKEOUT), while others have not fared as well (3 DAYS TO OPEN, $24 IN 24).

For its twentieth anniversary, execs want to reinforce to viewers how much Food Network has expanded the boundaries of foodie TV beyond how-to cooking shows. "We are upping the ante on new series development and exploration of the food world," said Susie Fogelson, SVP 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."

FEBRUARY 2013 PRIMETIME RATINGS ANALYSIS:

Live + SD Primetime Ratings Comparison: February 2013 vs. February 2012  (% Change)

HH

M25-54

F25-54

Monday 8-11pm

   4%

      5%

    2%

Tuesday 8-11pm

  -3%

    -14%

     -16%

Wednesday 8-11pm

    -16%

    -27%

    -22%

Thursday 8-11pm

   -10%

    -4%

    -25%

Friday 8-11pm

    -21%

    -22%

     -25%

Saturday 8-11pm

   -19%

   -21%

    -22%

Sunday 8-11pm

   0%

     -21%

    -8%

MTWTFSS 8-11pm

   -9%

     -15%

   -16%

Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample

FEBRUARY 2013: Food Network posted another down month this February with across the board double-digit declines vs. both last year and last month. After a stellar start to 2012, Food seems to have lost its groove. The network’s success, and recent stall, can be traced back to Sunday night’s line-up.  The high-stakes, high-profile competition shows of Sunday nights typically tower above the rest of the week, with ratings that can double the other nights. And so, when Sunday stumbles, so does the bottom line.

The highly competitive environment has a lot to do with Sunday’s slipping numbers. This month Food Network faced The Super Bowl, NBA games, the return of AMC’s WALKING DEAD, The Grammys, NBA All Star Games, PBS’ DOWNTON ABBEY, NGC’s KILLING LINCOLN, Oprah’s interview with Beyonce… and the list goes on.  While some of these programs are break-out hits, many are annual specials, and Sunday has always been the most competitive night on TV. Unfortunately, Food’s mix of series isn’t rich enough to keep up. While the marquee programming, RACHAEL VS GUY and WORST COOKS IN AMERICA were competitive, the supporting line-up was not. The two episodes of IRON CHEF AMERICA barely reached the network average. New elimination competition CHEF WANTED was not ready for Sunday night. Audiences quickly turn away from encore programming. Another factor in Sunday’s decline is a disproportionate loss of male viewers. Men are becoming increasingly important to Food, and Sunday’s audience was comprised of just 35% men, the lowest composition of men for the week.

Mondays and Fridays, featuring Guy Fieri’s DINERS, DRIVE-INS & DIVES, on the other hand, hold an even male/female skew. With a few new episodes of the 16th season sprinkled into Monday nights, ratings improved on Mondays vs. last year and last month (but slipped on Fridays, the other DD&D night). While the adult 25-54 Monday night rating was slightly below the primetime average, the men 25-54 rating for the night was the best of the week. Monday was the only night of the week to show year over year gains.

Tuesday’s stacks of CHOPPED lost audience vs. last year, particularly on its core demo, women 25-54. While household ratings remained constant, women 25-54 dropped 14% and median age went up by 13%.

Wednesday’s line-up also has a more balanced male/female skew with exactly even male and female shares for the night. RESTAURANT IMPOSSIBLE played a big part in Food’s success last year, but the program lost traction this month. Among adults 25-54 it was off by 23% vs. last month and by 24% vs. last year. BOBBY’S DINNER BATTLE finished out the night, losing more women vs. January’s debut performance. The program showed some gains with men, but it remains one of the lowest rated programs on the line-up.

Food couldn’t make anything happen through the rest of the week either. Thursdays had CHOPPED encores, CHEF WANTED, and RESTAURANT STAKEOUT rotating through the month, and the night remains the lowest rated of the week. Saturdays were still a rotating stack each week, and also lost double digits vs. last year.

On the horizon, a new season of RESTAURANT STAKEOUT is ready to roll, and UNDERCOVER CRITICS is slated to debut in 2013. The net has been public about looking for programs with competition and formatted reality with a dual appeal.

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