JANUARY 2010 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?
JANUARY 2010 PRIMETIME RATINGS ANALYSIS:
Live Primetime Ratings Comparison / January 2010 vs. January 2009 (% Change)
Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample
Wow, what a great start to a new year and a new decade for Food Network. With many premiers, the numbers were up across the board. Compared to December Households were up 15%, younger and older men were up 14% and 19% respectively, and younger and older women climbed 15% and 17%, respectively. That's a rock-solid month.
And the yearly comparisons were, overall, even better. Compared to January 2009, Households rose 24%, Younger and older men were up 6% and 15%, respectively, and younger and older women grew 26% and 27%, respectively. Whew. A tip of the ridiculous white chef's hat to Food Network!
The most dramatic story in January was Sunday nights, where competition cooking once again proved its worth. IRON CHEF AMERICA (kicking off the year with a White House Special), FOOD NETWORK CHALLENGE (two premiers in the latter part of the month) and the series premier episodes of WORST COOKS IN AMERICA combined for a mixed-metaphor culinary hat trick that boosted the night around 70% among men in both age groups, and 41% and 46% among younger and older women, respectively.
WORST COOKS IN AMERICA turned the standard formula on its head. Rather than severely challenging, even humiliating exceptional professionals, this series gathered regular folks with no cooking aptitude, put them through a culinary boot camp and challenged them to best their compatriots. Very clever, and very successful. Except for it's premier lead-in, IRON CHEF AMERICA'S White House Special, WORST COOKS IN AMERICA built slightly on its lead-in every week.
A trend the Food executives will surely be hoping stops or turns around in February: Each Sunday in January - and there were five of them -- did less well than the one before it. That had to have been discouraging.
DINERS, DRIVE INS & DIVES remains a powerhouse. In the list of January's top programs, it was beat only by the IRON CHEF AMERICA White House Special, which got two telecasts, and WORST COOKS IN AMERICA, which had nine outings. Though it technically came in third, DINERS, DRIVE INS & DIVES virtually tied WORST COOKS IN AMERICA in Households. But, as a testament to its strength, it did that over 26 telecasts. That's very, very impressive.
Rounding out the network's heavy lifters in January was THE BEST THING I EVER ATE. The beginning of Season Two delivered HH's nearly 15% above average, over 12 telecasts. Not bad.
For fun, a review of the top twenty January telecasts, with numbers of telecasts in parentheses. Note that Guy Fieri's road food show accounts for nearly half the slots: IRON CHEF AMERICA (2), WORST COOKS IN AMERICA (4), DINERS, DRIVE INS & DIVES (9), BEST THING I EVER ATE (2), CHOPPED (2) and FOOD NETWORK CHALLENGE (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.