Food Network Analysis


Food Network has a ton of recognizable titles that it effectively rotates through the schedule from month to month.  The network doesn’t strip across the week, but has created stacks for most nights of the week. Right now Mondays and Fridays are Guy Fieri’s DINERS, DRIVE-INS AND DIVES, Tuesday is CHOPPED or CUPCAKE WARS, Wednesday is RESTAURANT IMPOSSIBLE, Thursdays feature CHOPPED again, and on Sundays high production value studio based cooking competitions reign. Saturdays are filled with a different program each week.


Live Primetime Ratings Comparison: February 2012 vs. February 2011  (% Change)

Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample

FEBRUARY 2012:  After the numbers set records in January, pushed to new heights by the short season of RACHAEL VS GUY’S CELEBRITY COOK-OFF, ratings were back down this February.  Women 25-54 dropped by 16%, while men fell back by 7% vs. January 2012. Still, audiences are pacing nicely vs. last year. Adult 25-54 ratings climbed 18% vs. February 2011.  And, men continue to gain importance as a viewing segment, growing by 27% vs. last year and now accounting for 40% of Food Network’s 25-54 primetime viewers.

Food Network rose to the top of a different list this February as Colman Andrews, famed foodie and the editor of website The Daily Meal, named the Food Network’s President Brooke Johnson as the most powerful person in the food industry, ahead of the US Secretary of Agriculture, food critics and celebrity chefs.  The reasoning? “What she presides over and what she created has changed the way people think about food. It invented food as entertainment and food as competition. Even shows that are not on the Food Network, like Top Chef or The Chew… really would not exist without the Food Network.”

With those lofty heights reached, let’s take a step back and look at the programs that put Ms. Johnson at the top of the food chain.

New program HEAT SEEKERS starts out the week, leading into Guy Fieri’s DINERS DRIVE-INS & DIVES. HEAT SEEKERS settled in 3% ahead of its premiere month on adults 25-54, with a strong male skew and a good concept to lead into DD&D, but slightly below the network average. Both Mondays and Fridays primarily feature Guy Fieri’s DINERS DRIVE-INS & DIVES, which is showing renewed signs of strength with men. The program ranks fourth among women 25-54 but first among men 25-54. Viewing for the program reached new levels last month when Guy’s other program, RACHAEL VS. GUY was airing on Sunday nights.

CHOPPED rules the roost on Tuesday nights, and on its strength Tuesdays actually outpaced signature Sundays. CHOPPED pulled the highest individual telecast ratings this month, and has become the bar by which competitive food programs are judged. But with 19 telecasts this month, the show needs to be protected from burn-out. CHOPPED CHAMPIONS returns in April, and should help to expand the brand.

RESTAURANT IMPOSSIBLE is still in place on Wednesday nights. Ratings are not as strong as Food Network’s top tier programs, or the primetime average among women. But it works for men, and it single-handedly holds up Wednesday nights. Specifically, it lifted Wednesday nights by 50% among men 25-54 and 13% among women 25-54 vs. last year.

If Wednesdays are for men, Thursdays are for women as two encore telecasts of CHOPPED lead into FAT CHEF. FAT CHEF is a PR success given its noble goal of helping chefs and inspiring others to confront their food issues, plus its impeccable timing surrounding Paula Deen’s diabetes revelation. However, it tends to lose about one-third of its female audience from lead-in CHOPPED, and it has lost about one-third of its audience from last month.

Saturdays remain a rotating stack of programming each week. This month viewers could tune into CHOPPED, WORST COOKS IN AMERICA, DINERS, DRIVE-INS & DIVES or RESTAURANT IMPOSSIBLE. The program they chose most was DINERS, DRIVE-INS & DIVES, which started out the night as the weakest program of the four, but consistently built audience through the night to come out the winner.

Sundays started out slow as the final episode of RACHAEL VS. GUY was doubled up in January in order to clear way for the Super Bowl. Encores of CUPCAKE WARS aired instead, with some of the lowest ratings of the month.  WORST COOKS IN AMERICA and IRON CHEF AMERICA saved the night in the next three weeks. The two programs both delivered top-tier ratings for Food Network, and showed vast improvement over last year’s performances (Adult 25-54 ratings up 36% for WORST COOKS and up 53% for IRON CHEF).