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Viewers Put Food TV On Back Burner

Food Network and sister network HGTV -- Scripps Networks' two biggest money-makers -- are seeing troubling signs that their core female fans are starting to look elsewhere for entertaining fare. After years of growth, both networks experienced their first major ratings falloff at the end of last year. Food Network ratings among women ages 18 to 49, and 25 to 54, fell 9% last month.

In the fourth quarter, Food Network, which helped launch the careers of celebrity chefs Sandra Lee and Rachael Ray, posted a 10.3% drop among viewers ages 25 to 54, considered a key category for advertisers. Post photo composite What's more, the network's quarterly declines worsened throughout the year, falling 3.3% in the second quarter and 4.5% in the third quarter, according to Nielsen figures.

It doesn't help that both networks are starved for new shows, analysts say. Food Network's prime-time schedule relies heavily on four shows: "Diners, Drive-ins and Dives," "Chopped," "The Best Thing I Ever Ate" and "Unwrapped."



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