Fox Craves Bigger Cut of TV Rivals’ Food Advertising Dollars (EXCLUSIVE)


Img. provided by Variety

Brian Steinberg, Writer

Fox is hungry for a different kind of advertising dollar.

The Fox Corp.-owned broadcast network has thrived for years on outlays from movie studios and fast-food chains, but in 2023, it’s looking to expand its relationship with something that might be more hearty. Armed with its recent launch of the Studio Ramsay Global with celebrity chef and entrepreneur Gordon Ramsay, Fox is eager to court more food advertisers and marketers who are eager to woo consumers who like food experiences.

“We are really the only broadcast network with any food-related programming, over 80 hours a year,” says Suzanne Sullivan, executive vice president of ad sales for Fox Entertainment, in an interview. Fox hopes the combination of Ramsay’s shows on its broadcast network; a new spate of short-form content that will be available on YouTube; and the launch of a FAST channel that makes use of Ramsay’s many shows produced for Fox and can be seen via the streaming hub Tubi will whet Madison Avenue’s appetite for the concept. In the recent past, Fox has sought between $75,000 and $100,000 for a 30-second spot in such programming on linear TV, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Ramsay’s Fox shows over the years have included “Hell’s Kitchen,” “Kitchen Nightmares,” “Gordon Ramsay’s 24 Hours to Hell and Back,” “Masterchef,” “Masterchef Junior,” “Hotel Hell” and “The F Word.” The current series “Next Level Chef” puts Ramsay in the role of mentor, leading a team of three, and was given the spot after Fox’s February broadcast of the Super Bowl — a sign of the network’s belief in the show.

“Gordon Ramsay is among the most recognizable and consequential forces in the culinary world, not to mention one of the network’s most prolific creative talents.” says Rob Wade, CEO of Fox Entertainment, in a statement. “Our partnership with Gordon — that now also includes the in-house Studio Ramsay Global — and other food personalities has led to an incredible wealth of culinary content that spans linear, digital and social, opening the doors to infinite innovative and meaningful brand partnership opportunities.”

Fox is clearly setting the table for the industry’s annual “upfront” ad-sales market, when U.S. media companies try to sell the bulk of their commercial inventory ahead of their next cycle of programming. Madison Avenue will be on the lookout for new opportunities that help gather like-minded consumers, particularly because primetime TV shows are more challenged to do so in an era of streaming video. In this digital era, marketers have new appetite for content that appeals to a sizable audience niche with similar characteristics — an easier fit for the consumer-data sets and programmatic algorithms that often dictate how specific commercials are aligned with binge-viewing sessions.

Food-related content has easy appeal for many consumers, says Darcy Bowe, executive vice president and media director who oversees video investment at Starcom, the Publicis Media agency. Viewers will often binge such content over the course of a few hours, she says, giving advertisers a safe place to make a pitch. It’s also an easy genre in which to attempt to weave products, she adds. “Food will always be a content genre that people gravitate toward,” she adds.

While Fox typically competes more directly with other broadcast networks, it’s a Warner Bros. Discovery-backed cable outlet that tends to rule the pantry. Food Network took in approximately $815.9 million in advertising in 2022, according to an estimate from Kagan, the market-research unit of S&P Global Intelligence. Others have tried to win a similar food fight, as NBCUniversal’s Bravo has done with its “Top Chef.”

To be certain, if advertisers were going to choose Gordon Ramsay over Guy Fieri, it would have likely happened by now. Ramsay’s programs have been part of Fox’s schedule for about two decades. But media buyers were upset last year during upfront negotiations with Warner Bros. Discovery, which is grappling with billions of dollars in debt, and pushed sponsors to commit to pricing and volume demands that some agencies felt were unwarranted.

They may face similar entreaties in 2023. During a recent call with investors, Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav indicated he would push for price in this year’s discussions. In 2022, buyers indicated, some clients went elsewhere rather than agree to the company’s edicts. Warner Bros. Discovery declined to make executives available for comment

Fox’s Sullivan says the network isn’t just looking for something to eat. Such programming might appeal to food-delivery services like Uber Eats or DoorDash, she says. It might prove appetizing to travel advertisers and credit-card companies eager to find food-savvy consumers as well. The opportunity, she says, “is bigger than just the traditional food advertiser.” It’s an idea that will no doubt give some marketers, um, food for thought.