Food Network Boosts Holiday Programming by 40 Percent, Expands Into Hanukkah (Exclusive)

Television Food Network
Molly Yeh

The network saw a 9 percent ratings spike last holiday season.

Early-onset holiday spirit has Food Network in a spending mood.

After a 9 percent ratings spike in the fourth quarter of 2018, its best since 2015, the Discovery-owned network is adding 40 percent more seasonal-centric episodes and specials for 2019 and expanding into Hanukkah. Among the 100-plus hours of original programming are a slew of new competitions, including Thanksgiving Pie Fight, Holiday Wars, The Great Food Truck Race's first holiday season and a Hanukkah cook-off (Ultimate Hanukkah Challenge) hosted by network breakout Molly Yeh (Girl Meets Farm).

It's no surprise, considering what popped last season. The network's top two first-run performers in 2018 were Holiday Baking Competition (2.6 million viewers) and Halloween Wars (2.2 million viewers). And the holiday ratings gains did not come from traditional Food Network fans. "Thirty percent of the viewership last holiday season was from new viewers," says president Courtney White. "We were able to appeal to people who weren't coming for food first and foremost."

December holidays are getting a whopping 70 percent spike in related programming, while Thanksgiving and Halloween follow with 40 percent and 10 percent apiece.

Aiding Food Network in finding a new audience is the cross-promotional treatment it gets as a member of the Discovery portfolio since March 2018, as well as the evergreen boon of home cooks finding their way to the network's substantial recipe database (385 million page views last Thanksgiving season alone).

So how early is the network ready to kick off the holiday season? The first offering, Halloween Baking Championship, premieres Sept. 23. New York-based White says that the candy corn and various pumpkin spice products filling supermarket and drugstore shelves are reason enough to begin the rollout: "If Duane Reade is going, we can go."

This story first appeared in the Sept. 18 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.