The Food Network has hit upon a clever way of finding (and maintaining) a stable of on-air talent — just create a cooking contest show that pits a dozen chefs against one another with the ultimate winner given his own Food Network series. It’s sort of like “cooking two birds in one oven” if you’ll pardon the expression. The network needs content, so they created a cook-off show (“Food Network Star”, “FNS”); and there’s always a need for fresh on-air talent, so they simply lift the winners from “FNS” and give them their own new series.
And how has Food Network’s strategy turned out?
I can answer that in two words: Guy Fieri, who was discovered on “FNS” in 2006 (Season Two) and went on to become the face for the entire network (with several series to his name.) He is also a perfect illustration of what the show is looking for when it crowns the “FNS” annual winner, which begins its 13th season on June 4th; that is, someone who not only knows his (or her) way around the kitchen, but — just as important – someone who will light up the screen with an engaging, electric personality.
That is what has sustained “FNS” all these years, propelling it to one of the Food Network’s highest rated series. Last year, however, Live U.S. ratings and shares were down (due to increased DVR usage and the migration of viewers to all things digital), but the show still managed to deliver solid viewing levels in Season 12:
But Live cable viewing of “FNS” is only half the story. Indeed, the Live+ 15-Day DVR rating level is more than two-and-one-half times the level of Live-only viewing – a sure sign of viewer interest and engagement in the show. We normally see such high DVR activity for TV dramas… rarely for reality-based series such as “FNS”:
One last note about viewing levels for “FNS”. While the show does not deliver an unusually high upscale audience, “FNS” is still considered upscale with ratings peaking for homes with an annual income of $150,000 – $174,999:
Broad Appeal with a Midwest Breadbasket Skew
In the chart below, we selected the Top 25 DMAs with the highest “FNS” ratings through the first five episodes from last year (Season 12.) A few observations are in order: 1) The show is most popular in northern markets (only one true southern market, Greensboro, North Carolina); 2) Seven different census regions can be found amongst the Top 25 markets, but the dominant one is the East North Central (with 10 DMAs), covering the states of Michigan, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio; and, 3) The most popular state, however, is New York (with 4 DMAs), which is part of the Mid-Atlantic Census Region:
Local Cable Advertising
“FNS” has attracted very strong local cable advertising demand over the past two seasons (Eleven & Twelve, 2015 & 2016.) In all, 180+ clients ordered 2,200+ 30-second spots across 50 Viamedia markets (approximately two-thirds of our national footprint.) That comes to an average of six spots per client (per season.) And if we confine our data to the 35 Viamedia markets that exhibited advertising on the show over the past two seasons, we find a very healthy growth rate of 21% driven primarily by an increase in commercial units.
Source: B.I.G.SM database — Copyright © 2017 by Viamedia, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Far and away the largest product category is Automotive, capturing nearly 50 cents on the dollar – that’s one-and-one-half times the share level we normally see for this category company-wide. And although the Food & Grocery category is a distant second (with an 11% share), that is in fact more than 4-times the share level we typically see, which is not so surprising given the nature of the show:
On to Season 13
The talent on “FNS” isn’t confined to just the dozen or so “cheftestants.” Indeed, what has given this show an extra boost are the two very popular dual mentor-judges — restauranteur and celebrity chef, Bobby Flay and writer, chef and TV Emmy Award winner, Giada De Laurentiis. Their job is to find that unique personality who can light up the screen… and the oven. And along the way, they create all sorts of unpredictable tests for the wannabe chef-stars that keep the action going and devoted fans coming back year after year.
Written by Jonathan Sims
VP of Media Research, Viamedia