Kicked Earlier A Notch

Food Network is moving one of its most recognizable stars out of his primetime slot.

Emeril Lagasse's Emeril Live! is moving from 8 p.m. ET in prime to 7 p.m. in early fringe starting July 9. It will be replaced at 8 p.m. with Good Eats, the Alton Brown-hosted infotainment show that, last week, won a Peabody Award.

The Scripps-owned network, which also plans to introduce three entertainment shows in prime over the next three months, says it is moving Emeril because the show is a mix of the instructional fare that it programs during the day, and the entertainment-based fare on the schedule at night.

Emeril, however, regularly draws 13% fewer viewers than Good Eats—683,000 for Emeril's Monday-Friday, hour-long episodes this year vs. 770,000 for Good Eats' half-hour, according to Nielsen.

The network says Emeril at 7 p.m. will more smoothly guide viewers from daytime into primetime than the shows now in that slot: Good Eats, a romp through culinary customs and origins of foods, and long-running Unwrapped, a kitschy, behind-the-scenes look at how food is made.

The move, says Food Network President Brooke Johnson, will bolster primetime and daytime ratings, both of which, this quarter, are at their lowest since third quarter 2005. The network averaged 731,000 viewers in prime this quarter, 522,000 viewers in daytime.

The network says the move from primetime isn't a lack of confidence in Emeril. “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.,” says Johnson. “It's a bit of a hybrid [of instructional and entertainment programming] and the perfect transition to primetime.”

Emeril is posting a smaller audience this quarter vs. the same quarter for at least the past three years. For instance, so far, 642,000 viewers tuned in for 8 p.m. episodes in second quarter 2007 vs. 689,000 in second quarter 2004.

The show may do better with key demos, such as women 18-49 in early fringe since the network does better with the demo in that time slot. So far, Food has averaged 197,000 women 18-49 in prime and 222,000 in early fringe.

Putting the workhorse at 7 p.m. could boost Good Eats' rising star even higher at a time when broadcast and other cable networks, like Fox and Bravo, offer food-related shows.

“It's like putting a big jigsaw puzzle together and saying, maybe this piece is a little bit better over here than over there,” says Brad Adgate, senior VP of corporate media research for media buyer Horizon Media. “These cable networks face a lot of competition, and Food Network is trying to maintain viewers. This is a way to do it, having a better audience flow.”

Food has also posted steady ratings in recent years, although its current quarterly primetime audience is the smallest since third quarter 2005. It plans to introduce one series each in July, August and September.

Glutton for Punishment, premiering July 10 at 9:30 p.m., follows host Bob Blumer as he challenges food experts; Cater Dudes (working title), debuting Aug. 16 at 10:30 p.m., profiles two caterers in Los Angeles; and Zane's World, Sept. 3 at 10:30 p.m., travels to food destinations around the world with comic Zane Lamprey.

“We feel it is time to move Emeril to a newer time slot so he can capture a newer audience,” the network said in a statement. “We feel confident that his current viewers will come along for the ride.”