Food Network has reversed its decision to make viewers pay for Discovery+ to watch Robert Irvine’s Restaurant Impossible, and the show will soon be back on TV—and still on Discovery+ for those who decided to pay for the streaming service.
Moving one of Food Network’s most-popular and longest-running reality shows to the streaming platform was obviously a calculated move designed to encourage people to sign up and pay for Discovery+.
Food Network aired one episode of season 18 as a “Discovery+ First Look” in early January, and then moved the show to Discovery+.
Discovery’s various cable channels have done this with a number of series, from Discovery’s Battlebots: Bounty Hunters to Travel Channel’s Portals to Hell to Animal Planet’s Crikey! It’s The Irwins. And the return of Design Star was previewed on HGTV but then moved to Discovery+ for the remainder of its season.
The company would rather have viewers pay them directly than pay for cable and lose part of the money to a cable company. But it risked alienating those who are already paying for cable and have streaming overload or fatigue. Maybe they can’t afford yet another streaming service—especially as Netflix continues to raise its prices, which the others will do eventually—or maybe they just don’t want to have yet another place.
As they started to do this to more shows, it made me wonder: “I wonder how long it will take until Discovery’s cable network are sad, empty shells like ViacomCBS’s channels.”
At least for now, it’s a little less empty with the return of Restaurant: Impossible. Of course, what’s effectively happened is that streaming subscribers just got to watch the show early, as Food Network will broadcast the episodes that have already streamed on Discovery+, in addition to other new episodes.
When Restaurant Impossible is airing on Food Network
Starting tonight, March 11, Restaurant: Impossible is back on regular old cable television, airing Thursdays at 9.
It will precede new episodes of Dinner: Impossible, the revival of Irvine’s first series, which airs Thursdays at 10.
Robert Irvine tweeted this news earlier in the month, saying viewers “asked for it in droves and the networked listened.”
I’m curious what specifically prompted their decision. Fan outcry is one thing, but networks are businesses that make decisions according to what is profitable and beneficial to them, not what fans say on social media.
Did they have data showing that few people were watching the show on Discovery+, and decided it’d be more lucrative back on linear TV, where they can charge for advertising? Was it that their star, Robert Irvine, was apologizing to fans and tweeting, “I am sorry. It’s way above my power”? Or is this just a goodwill gesture that will be reversed someday down the line?
Whatever the reason, and despite this (welcome) move backwards, I have no doubt this general trend will continue, with companies moving their shows from cable channels to streaming platforms—especially shows with large fan bases who companies think they can convince to pay.