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."
MARCH 2013 PRIMETIME RATINGS ANALYSIS:
Live + SD Primetime Ratings Comparison: March 2013 vs. March 2012 (% Change)
Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample
MARCH 2013: Food Network’s troubles continued into March as the network took steep year over year losses for another month. While household ratings dropped by 10%, adults and women dropped by 20%, a disturbing trend. Compared to last month there were almost no changes to the schedule, as Food tried giving its line-up some time to settle in. Results were lackluster, with very slight growth vs. February: +6% for adults 18-49 and +2% for women 25-54.
It was hard to find good news for this month’s report. The only night to see growth vs. last year was Mondays, where DINERS, DRIVE-INS & DIVES runs in a three hour stack, but the Friday night DD&D block was down again, and the program average fell below last year’s delivery. CUPCAKE WARS was the only returning program from last year to see growth, with just 3% better women 25-54 ratings this year.
RESTAURANT IMPOSSIBLE and RESTAURANT STAKEOUT had a big part in Food’s 2012 success, as they drew a sizable audience with a balanced male/female skew to Wednesday nights. With new seasons this March they pulled impressive month over month gains, but both were down in demo delivery vs. last year (-22% for IMPOSSIBLE and -32% for STAKEOUT against adult 25-54 ratings).
CHOPPED remains a network staple on Tuesdays and Thursdays, but the iconic competition series is showing its age, and ratings have been slipping. Themed episodes (moms, firefighters, military) are planned, and will hopefully give the program new life.
Newer programs MYSTERY DINERS and Anne Burrell’s CHEF WANTED remain at the bottom of the ratings ladder. REBEL EATS debuted on Saturday, March 30 to decent numbers for a Saturday night premiere. The program features the season 8 Food Network Star winner Justin Warner as he hits the road searching for culinary rebels of America. The show drew a good male skew for Food Network, attracting the dual audience the net is going for. Developing home grown talent and programming with an adult audience are two of Food Network’s goals for future programming.
Sunday night has the biggest impact on Food Network’s bottom line, and that is where the network is falling down. While the CUPCAKE WARS / WORST COOKED / RESTUARUANT IMPOSSIBLE line-up this month improved adult 25-54 ratings by 17% over last month, it is pacing 24% behind last year’s numbers. Sunday nights are key to Food Network’s ratings success, and the competitive Sunday night environment plus aging programming seems to be taking its toll.
CHOPPED ALL STARS is up next on the Sunday night line-up, check in here to see if it is able to put the night back on a positive path.