JULY 2011 PRIMETIME SCHEDULE:
* Bold denotes programming change
Food network has a ton of recognizable titles and rotates them through their schedule from month to month effectively. They use quite a lot of half hours. This network, more than most nonfiction channels these days, has a predictable Sunday night. On Sundays, high production value studio based cooking competitions reign. Food Network doesn't strip and seldom runs more than two episodes of a title, but will often match those two with a couple of similarly-spirited programs, creating a sort of affinity stack.
JULY 2011 PRIMETIME RATINGS ANALYSIS:
Live Primetime Ratings Comparison / July 2011 vs. July 2010 (% Change)
Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample
JULY 2011: It has been a competitive summer for cable, and Food Network is feeling the squeeze, While the network posted modest gains over last month, once again it lost nearly one-fifth of its core women viewers vs. last year. Every night but Wednesdays lost audience over July 2010, with Sundays and Mondays taking the most serious hits.
TLC was running CAKE BOSS stacks on Monday nights this June, and Food Network couldn't keep up. TOUGH COOKIES, which centers on a multi-generational family running a bakery in New Jersey (sound familiar?) was added to the Monday night line-up, but it couldn't compete. Last year's lead program, DINERS, DRIVE INS AND DIVES was still running this year, but with significantly lower audiences.
DINERS is one of the key players on Food Network - it aired a total of 43 times this month, and it runs as a short stack on Fridays from 8 to 10. The average program rating is 20% lower on women this year vs. last.
The final big blow came on Sunday nights, when the seventh time around was not a charm for THE NEXT FOOD NETWORK STAR. The program was the top performer of the month, but it pulled in audiences well below last year's levels.
So what was working this July? IRON CHEF AMERICA was back near the top with huge improvements (+36% on women 25-54). Wednesday was the only night that was up vs. last year, with RESTAURANT IMPOSSIBLE leading the way, and no TOP CHEF on Bravo to pull away the foodies. CHOPPED was a top performer as well, even with a 20% loss vs. last year.
CABLEU NEED TO KNOW:
This network, one of the most clever in the cable universe for many years, needs you. Both competition and food-focused roadshows are fading. The slickly produced competition coming from TLC and Bravo are redefining the food genre, and Food Network is getting left behind. It's time for Food Network to jump out of its mold, or at least give new life to old formats.
Here, as much as at any network, personality rules. Guy Fieri (a competition winner himself) is what makes DINERS, DRIVE INS & DIVES work. Imagining that show without him is like thinking DIRTY JOBS on Discovery would work without Mike Rowe. So... look for a new twist for these folks, whether in the field or back in the studio. They're surely looking for both. But don't even think about it if you don't have some good, promotable on-camera talent in mind.