At a time when real news is positioned as “fake news” (and vice-versa), how apropos the title for this cooking contest show, “Cooks vs Cons.” But don’t let the title fool you… the “cons” in the show are a very talented group of everyday, amateur home chefs posing as professionals. And against whom do the cons compete? Why, of course, professional chefs (i.e., the “cooks”). Indeed, the entire show rests on the premise that the judges have no idea who’s who – cook or con?
The show is hosted by world-renowned chef and restaurateur, Geoffrey Zakarian, who directs the action of this fast-paced, two-round cooking show with four contestants divided between professionals and amateurs. They are judged by food critics who provide a running commentary as the chefs scurry about creating their assigned dish under the time pressure of a 30-minute clock. Round One ends with three of the four cooks advancing to the second and final round. The one left behind must reveal whether he (or she) is a “cook” or a “con.” You can imagine the embarrassment of the judges when they find out (on occasion) that they eliminated a professional chef, meaning they’ve advanced two cons to the final round.
“Cooks vs Cons” premiered in the first quarter of 2016 with half a dozen episodes, but it didn’t stop there. By July of that year, Season Two kicked in with a full dozen episodes, quickly followed by Seasons Three and Four with an additional 25 episodes (which ran into the second quarter of 2017.) In other words, in the span of just 15 months, the Food Network aired 40+ original episodes. That’s a lot of content crammed into a short period of time, which may have led to some viewer fatigue. Still, the show’s Live U.S. household ratings and shares have held up fairly well, especially considering the migration of so many viewers to digital video:
Mid-Atlantic and Midwest Market Appeal
Unlike the Southern market skew of so many ad-supported cable shows that we’ve reviewed in this space, “Cooks vs. Cons” breaks the mold by appealing to the Mid-Atlantic and Midwest regions of our country. Below we’ve selected the Top 25 highest DMA ratings for Season Four (2017) and have identified the state and U.S. census region that each market belongs to. Nineteen out of the Top 25 markets (76%) are in either the Mid-Atlantic or East/West North Central census regions. Only three Southern markets made it into the Top 25; in contrast, the state of New York has five:
Local Cable Advertising
Over the past year-and-a-half, across 43 episodes since its first airing, “Cooks vs. Cons” has attracted 100+ advertisers in 39 Viamedia markets (~50% of our national footprint.) Collectively they’ve ordered 1,000+ spots which comes to an average of over 9 spots per client. And in terms of advertising categories, Automotive captures 43% of all local cable ad dollars, which is about ten share points higher than what we normally see for this category company-wide. The next two highest categories combined (Medical/Health Care & Food/Groceries) accrued a 16% share — double what we normally see for these two local categories:
Source: B.I.G.SM database — Copyright © 2017 by Viamedia, Inc. All Rights Reserved
It’s all about the Con
What makes “Cooks vs. Cons” stand out from all of the other cooking contest shows on cable? It’s all about the fun and entertainment as four proficient chefs compete against one another while the judges try to figure out who’s the pro and who’s faking it. (And you’d be amazed at how well many of the “cons” know their way around the kitchen!) That is what has sustained this show so far and is likely to do so in the coming months. The only question in my mind: Can “Cooks vs. Cons” continue with the rapid-fire pace of new episodes compressed into such a short period of time? Maybe it’s time to turn down the oven a few degrees.
Written by Jonathan Sims
VP of Media Research, Viamedia