Viewership Deep Dive: How 'Top Chef' and Other Hit Food Shows Compare

Bravo is off to the races with a new season of Top Chef, this time taking place in Kentucky. We took a look at the advertising and viewer trends around this popular culinary competition show, as well as how it compares to some of the others out on TV, namely Hell’s Kitchen on Fox along with two current Food Network series: Chopped and Holiday Baking Championship.

According to advertising analytics firm, BMW was the brand with the biggest estimated spend during the Top Chef premiere (the automaker has been a series sponsor since 2016). Movie studios had a strong showing as well, with Universal Pictures and Warner Bros. both appearing in the top five.

We also looked at top advertisers for the most recent new episodes of Hell’s Kitchen, Chopped and Holiday Baking Championship. Of the three, only Chopped also had auto makers appear in the top five for brand spend — actually, three of the top five (Subaru, Acura and Mercedes-Benz). It’s also worth noting that Kohl’s allocated big budget for both Hell’s Kitchen and Holiday Baking Championship.

We also worked with Inscape, the TV data company with glass-level insights from a panel of more than 9 million smart TVs and devices, to get crossover viewership data. But first, a note about methodology: You have to do more than just flip past a station with your remote to count as a “crossover viewer” in Inscape’s system. For the data below, the minimum viewing threshold is two minutes. Some specific insights:

  • It’s no surprise to see the high crossover between Chopped and Holiday Baking Championship given that they both air on Food Network. 41% of Chopped viewers tuned into HBC in the last week, while slightly less of the core HBC audience (36%) also watched Chopped.
  • In turn, both Chopped and HBC had the lowest crossover rate with Hell’s Kitchen (5.4% and 5.5%, respectively).
  • Top Chef fans were most likely to watch HBC in the last week (19%), while 18% also checked out Chopped.
  • Only 11% of Top Chef viewers watched the recent episode of Hell’s Kitchen.

What certainly won’t come as a shock is that the audiences for these shows absolutely love other cooking shows, as well as reality series in general. Topping the list of other shows watched in the last week are Beat Bobby Flay, Guy’s Grocery Games, The Pioneer Woman and Master Chef; further down the list are Bravo series such as The Real Housewives of Orange County.

Given how visually delightful cooking shows tend to be, we also examined social video strategy using data from Tubular Labs, but found that only Top Chef and Hell’s Kitchen have made social video a priority. (Food Network seems to focus on promoting many of its shows only on the parent social profiles.)

Top Chef has prioritized posting to Facebook (23 videos) over Twitter (15 videos) in the last 30 days. Although clips promoting the new series are all over both social profiles, the most-watched video during the time frame had nothing to do with the Kentucky season. Instead, it was in partnership with Tostitos and Sunday Night Football on NBC, highlighting a recipe from show alum Chris Scott. The video has racked up 1.1 million views, of which nearly 960,000 occurred in the first seven days according to Tubular’s V7 metric.

On the other hand, Hell’s Kitchen has uploaded more clips to Twitter (34) than Facebook (23) or YouTube (11) — but it’s a YouTube video that’s accumulated the most views (52.6K), slightly edging out a Facebook video with 52K views. (Note: the YouTube video is no longer available).