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Food Network Analysis - August 2011


* Bold denotes programming change


Food network has a ton of recognizable titles that it effectively rotates them through their schedule from month to month.  Food Network doesn’t strip across the week, but will often match similarly-spirited programs through-out the night, creating a sort of affinity stack. On Sundays, high production value studio based cooking competitions reign.


Live Primetime Ratings Comparison / August 2011 vs. August 2010  (% Change)

Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample

AUGUST 2011: Food Network has been off its game this summer, pacing almost 20% behind 2010 in both June and July. But this August core women ratings have almost caught up with last year, off by less than 5%. Compared to last month women ratings are up nearly 15% -- it looks like Food Network is pulling out of its slump.

So what worked? Jeff Mauro, the Sandwich King was pronounced Food Network’s next star on THE NEXT FOOD NETWORK STAR this August, with ratings that topped the charts. Ratings for the finale were more than double the next best rated telecast. But in its fifth go-round the program is showing its age. The women 25-54 finale ratings were 37% lower this year than last. Of note, men 25-54 ratings dropped just 3% vs. last year’s finale. While the preferred way to get a male audience would be through additional tune-in rather than attrition, the fact remains that the program does have a sizable (42%) male audience now.

In fact, many of Food Network’s programs have a decent male skew. Programs with masculine names (GREAT FOOD TRUCK RACE, DINERS, DRIVE INS & DIVES, RESTAURANT IMPOSSIBLE, IRON CHEF AMERICA, HEAT SEEKERS and GOOD EATS) are attracting men (go figure!). Each of them has an adult 25-54 audience that is more than 40% male. The not ready for primetime series, SANDWICH KING, bowed Sunday, Aug. 21 at 11:30PM. Sounds like another program with a balanced male/female audience. Programs that are decidedly female include UNWRAPPED, TOUGH COOKIES, CUPCAKE WARS and CHOPPED,  This month it was the male skewing shows that performed better. Definitely a trend to watch.

But back to our search for what was working this month. The first place to look is the programming that takes up the majority of the inventory, and it this is Food Network, it must be DINERS,, DRIVE INS & DIVES. The program remains a key component in the Monday and Friday line-ups, but month over month the program ratings are flat, and compared to last year they are down 20%. In fact, every returning programs was off by more than 10% vs. last year, with the exceptions of THE BEST THING I EVER ATE and THE GREAT FOOD TRUCK RACE.

With 22 hour-long episodes, CHOPPED actually took up the most primetime inventory this month. The program average was down 12% on women 25-54 ratings vs. last year, but the program remains one of the best-rated on the net. With the increased inventory this year, particularly on Thursdays where it replaced last year’s low-rated ACE OF CAKES, it helped raise the bottom line, if not its own program average.

RESTAURANT IMPROSSIBLE made a big difference for Food this month. It ran as a three-hour stack on Wednesdays, pulling up the night by 29% on women 25-54 and 43% on adults 25-54 vs. last year (there’s that male influence again…).. Wednesday was one of only three nights to deliver above the network average, in a three-way tie for first place with Sunday and Tuesday. The program has received an order for an additional 26 episodes.


This network, one of the most clever in the cable universe for many years, is at a crossroads. Both competition and food-focused roadshows are fading,. The slickly produced competition and big personalities coming from TLC and Bravo are redefining the food genre, and Food Network is getting left behind. So… look for a new twist for these folks, whether in the field or back in the studio. But don’t even think about it if you don’t have some good, promotable on-camera talent in mind. Bob Tuschman, general manager and senior vice president, programming and production, says they are looking for the perfect mixture of strong culinary chops, a breakout personality, and boundless food passion.