DECEMBER 2009 PRIMETIME SCHEDULE:
* Bold denotes programming change
Food network has a ton of recognizable titles and rotates them through their schedule from month to month effectively. They use quite a lot of half hours. This network, more than most nonfiction channels these days, has a predictable Sunday night. On Sundays, high production value studio based cooking competitions rein. Food Network doesn't strip and Sunday night is the only reliable true stack. Other nights seldom run more than two episodes of a title, but will often match those two with a couple of similarly-spirited programs, creating a sort of affinity stack. At this shop, should anything less than three hours be called a short stack?
DECEMBER 2009 PRIMETIME RATINGS ANALYSIS:
Live Primetime Ratings Comparison / December 2009 vs. December 2008 (% Change)
Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample
A mixed bag at the channel that has made cooking sporty, sexy and adventurous. Last month, the month-to-month comparison of Households was up 4%. In December the same measure was down, and by a more significant 8%. Women, crucial for this network, led the decline. Younger and older females were both down 12%. Men slipped a less worrisome M18-49 -3% and M25-54 -6%.
Yearly numbers - which provide a high-altitude, big-picture snapshot for senior folks who live a bit further from the trenches - were fabulous. HH's were up 20%; younger and older women were up 31% and 27%, respectively; and by the same measures men were up 26% and 23%, respectively. That would make for nice conversation in the upper management dining room, while mere programming mortals sweat out the monthly viewer losses at their desks over takeout (gourmet, we assume).
And... there's certainly some news to sweat. DINERS, DRIVE INS & DIVES, an extremely important franchise that has performed at or near the top of the list for many months, again lead series. It brought in about 20% more HH's than network average, over 12 telecasts. Rock solid. There's a "but" coming, however: It was down 13% compared to the previous month, when it made a similar number of schedule appearances. The show has been in a very heavy rotation and has carried much more than its own weight. A decline was inevitable. Still, consider the scheduler who must contemplate what to do next month - keep going and grab above average numbers while you can, or give it a rest, so as not to kill this gold egg-laying goose?
Other titles in heavy use in December: CHOPPED was the other heavy lifter to beat network averages. Like DINERS, DRIVE INS & DIVES, it's December numbers were down compared to November -- -9% HH with little variance from that in specific demos. In eight outings it just barely bested HH average. IRON CHEF AMERICA (15 telecasts) and ACE OF CAKES (16 telecasts) came in just below HH average. Here, there was a bit of bright news: the title was up HH 11%, led by men, who grew at roughly three times the rate of women.
December's FOOD Network top twenty telecasts includes more titles than usual. Number of telecasts in parentheses: IRON CHEF AMERICA (4), DINERS, DRIVE INS & DIVES (9), CHOPPED (2), FOOD NETWORK CHALLENGE (1), ACE OF CAKES (1), THE BEST THING I EVER ATE (1), CUPCAKE WARS (1) and UNWRAPPED (1).
CABLEU NEED TO KNOW:
This network, one of the most clever in the cable universe for many years, needs you. The snazzy, studio-based Super-Bowl-like cooking competitions are still solid, but DINERS, DRIVE INS & DIVES, a field-produced roadshow dominates at the moment. A competitor, TLC, has dipped its toe into these potentially lucrative waters with a new series about BBQ competitions, thus blending two proven concepts. Here, as much as at any network, personality rules. Guy Fieri (a competition winner himself) is what makes DINERS, DRIVE INS & DIVES WORK. Imagining that show without him is like thinking DIRTY JOBS on Discovery would work without Mike Rowe. So... look for a new twist for these folks, whether in the field or back in the studio. They're surely looking for both. But don't even think about it if you don't have some good, promotable on-camera talent in mind.