June 30, 2013
Paula Deen Doomed By Low TV Ratings?

The Paula Deen scandal has caused her marketing/endorsement empire to crumble, but was she already in "hot water" because of declining television ratings?

The southern cooking diva has been engulfed in a huge controversy as a result of a lawsuit filed by former employee Lisa Jackson who accused Deen and her brother of sexual harassment and using racial slurs while she worked as manager of Uncle Bubba’s Seafood and Oyster House in Savannah, Ga. The revelations about Deen’s use of racial slurs years ago emerged as a result of deposition transcripts in the case.

Deen's fall from grace has caused her to lose her gig with the Food Network as well as business deals with Smithfield Foods, Walmart, diabetes drugmaker Novo Nordisk, and many other risk-averse marketing partners. Random House has even pulled the plugged on her new cookbook even thought it was a guaranteed best seller.

A report in the Wall Street Journal suggests that her expiring Food Network contract might not have been renewed even absent the scandal because of falling viewership. Moreover, network programming is gravitating more toward reality competition shows and away from show-and-tell cooking. Therefore, it is possible that Paula Deen was already "cooked."

"Ratings for Ms. Deen's show 'Paula's Best Dishes' were down 15% in total viewers -- and 22% in the 18-49 demographic that advertisers care most about -- for the 2012-13 season, compared with last season, according to Nielsen ratings provided by Horizon Media."

A Horizon Media analyst added that "[Deen] represented in many ways a bygone era."

Deen's ratings were also apparently undermined to some degree when she revealed her type 2 diabetes condition despite years of promoting fried food and dishes piled on with cheese, butter, and potatoes.

The WSJ report added that "As ratings declined, the cost of Ms. Deen's show became too high for the network to support, according to people familiar with the matter, particularly as the network itself faced prime-time ratings declines of 17% in the target demographic and 15% in households for the 2012-13 season as of June 20 ..."

Complicated contract renewal negotiations between Paula Deen's agent and the Food Network reportedly had been in the works for several weeks but the emerging scandal changed all that.

Paula Deen's Food Network contract officially ends today, June 30.

Do you think a contract renewal would have been agreed to if the Paula Deen scandal had not occurred?