Food Network is taking Emeril Live off the menu, ceasing production of the marquee cooking program Dec. 11.
The network will continue producing Emeril Lagasse's afternoon program, Essence of Emeril, "for the foreseeable future," and will look to incorporate the star chef in specials, according to a network representative.
Live's future on Food has been uncertain for some time. After running the show for 10 years, Food bumped it from its primetime perch at 8 p.m. to early fringe at 7 p.m. in July and replaced it with Good Eats, the Alton Brown-hosted infotainment show.
Emeril, however, regularly draws 13% fewer viewers than Good Eats -- 683,000 for Emeril's Monday-Friday, hour-long episodes through this summer vs. 770,000 for Good Eats' half-hour, according to Nielsen Media Research.
At the time, the network said the move from primetime wasn't a lack of confidence in Emeril. Food runs instructional fare during the day and entertainment-based shows at night, and the network said it moved Emeril to 7 p.m. because it mixed the two genres and would be a good bridge between day and night.
“We're consolidating a lot of the strength we've got in daytime with Paula Deen, Giada De Laurentiis, Rachael Ray -- and putting the crown jewel Emeril Live! at 7 p.m.,” Food president Brooke Johnson said at the time. “It's a bit of a hybrid [of instructional and entertainment programming] and the perfect transition to primetime.”
Live, in which Lagasse cooks in front of a studio audience with his trademark high energy, will continue in reruns, while the more staid Essence of Emeril, a quieter Lagasse-hosted show without the audience, will continue new episodes at 2 p.m. weekdays and 8 a.m. Saturdays.
Losing new Live episodes comes as Food transitions from being able to rely upon its veteran talents like Lagasse and Mario Batali -- who appears on Food's Iron Chef Americabut whose Molto Mario has been in reruns for three years—and tries to build up new ones, like Guy Fieri, one winner of its The Next Food Network Starcompetition. The spiky blond-haired and tattooed Fieri just got a second and third-season pickup from the network for his show Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.
But building talent up to the star status that Lagasse reached takes years. While it has legitimate celebrities in hosts like Ray and De Laurentiis, both have thriving businesses of their own that the network doesn't profit much from -- a syndicated show and magazine, in Ray's case, and a spot on NBC's Today and burgeoning consumer products lines for De Laurentiis.
And Food will have to pump thousands of marketing dollars behind Fieri and little-known new talent like Ingrid Hoffman, who hosts new show Simply Delicioso, before they can ever hope to approach the level of celebrity that Lagasse and Batali reached.
Still, the Scripps Networks-owned channel is chugging ahead with new entertainment shows in primetime. Over the past few months, it introduced several new titles including Glutton for Punishment, Two Dudes Catering and Zane's World. And it saw big ratings for its Next Iron Chef series, which finished earlier this month.
"Emeril Live has been an incredible journey and a great collaboration between Emeril Lagasse and Food Network for over 10 years," the network said in a statement released Monday. "Emeril has been the cornerstone of Food Network's success and helped to pave the way for chefs on TV. Food Network and Emeril look forward to continuing our long partnership, and Emeril remains an integral part of the Food Network family."
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