Food Network has a robust inventory of recognizable titles that it 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."
APRIL 2013 PRIMETIME RATINGS ANALYSIS:
Live + SD Primetime Ratings Comparison: April 2013 vs. April 2012 (% Change)
Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample
APRIL 2013: After facing serious ratings losses nearly every month this year, Food Network made minimal changes to its primetime line-up this month, and audiences continued to slip away. Compared to last year, household ratings were off by 12%, but 18-49 ratings were off by 22% and 25-54 ratings were off by 16%. Median audience age jumped 7%, and losses were slightly bigger among women than men.
Most Food Network programs have been on the air for a long time, and they are beginning to show their age. Dual audience DINERS, DRIVE-INS & DIVES lost 24% of its adult 25-54 audience vs. last year while CHOPPED lost 22% of its core women 25-54 ratings. There was some good news too. Improvements came on most nights of the week vs. last month (although not one night showed real improvement vs. last year). CUPCAKE WARS hasn’t been strong, but it did hold vs. last year. RESTAURANT IMPOSSIBLE, and (relatively) newer program RESTAURANT STAKEOUT also held vs. last year.
The hardest hits came with the highest rated programming. Sunday nights continue to lead Food Network on its downward path. The marquee cooking competition this month was CHOPPED ALL-STARS, and it couldn’t reverse the trend. It dropped 20% of its adult 25-54 ratings vs. last year’s performance. It did, however, improve ratings by 17% vs. last month’s WORST COOKS, leading the night to a 13% gain vs. March, even as it took a 15% hit vs. last year.
A couple of new programs showed up this month, but they were relegated to the poor performing and inconsistently scheduled Saturday nights. Whether they were placed there to minimize losses or to nurture them before they were given a more favorable time-slot isn’t clear. However their weak performances were apparent – GIVING YOU THE BUSINESS (a reality/competition show) and ROADTRIP WITH G. GARVIN (A Cooking Channel show) sunk right to the bottom of the ratings ranker for the month.
Looking ahead, Food Network announced a robust slate of programs in development at this year’s upfront presentation. They lean heavily to competition programming, upping the stakes and the personalities and broadening the scope of “food” programming.