Guy Fieri becomes the Food Network’s 0 million man

Guy Fieri becomes the Food Network’s $100 million man

Guy Fieri becomes the Food Network’s 0 million man

Guy Fieri might frequent less-expensive eateries on his Food Network show “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives,” but his new paycheck is the stuff of four-star restaurants. The TV personality — known for his distinctively spiky hair, tattoos and enthusiasm for mom-and-pop-made food — just signed a three-year deal with the cable network worth $100 million.

Under the contract, which was first reported by Variety, Fieri will continue to host the show known by fans as “Triple D,” as well as the competition shows “Guy’s Grocery Games” and “Tournament of Champions.”

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The eye-popping figure means that Fieri will hang on to his title as the highest-paid Food Network star and, according to Forbes, the highest-paid TV chef. (Gordon Ramsay made about $20 million a year for his Fox shows, Forbes reported.) But it also catapults him into a rarefied category: Rachel Maddow reportedly makes $30 million a year hosting her show on MSNBC, and when he left Fox News earlier this year, Tucker Carlson was reportedly being paid $20 million annually.

Fieri has called the Food Network home since the mid-2000s, when he won the 2006 season of “The Next Food Network Star,” showcasing a kind of bro-bastic personality defined by booming catchphrases and slick shades worn backward. But his evolution from bad-boy novelty act to the face of a legacy network has as much to do with his ability to charm viewers as it does the rapidly shifting media landscape.

Cable networks are trying to hang on as viewers increasingly cut their cords in favor of streaming services, and as younger people get news and entertainment from nontraditional sources, such as YouTube and TikTok. Cable viewership’s long slide reached a milestone this year when, for the first time, cable and broadcast together represented less than half of the ways people watched TV. Cable watching declined to 29.5 percent in October, according to Nielsen, with streaming picking up the slack.

Keeping a marquee personality such as Fieri is not just a play for cable viewers, though, says Jon Klein, the former president of CNN who co-founded streaming platform Hang, which allows fans to watch sports alongside athletes and celebrities. “They’re looking for a foundational talent that can act as a pillar for the Max tent,” he says, referring to the streamer, whose parent company, Warner Bros. Discovery, also owns Food Network.

With the proliferation of streaming options, Klein says, viewers often don’t make a distinction of which service they’re scrolling. Instead, they might be looking for their favorite actor — or food personality. “You might not even know what service his show is on,” Klein says. “More than ever, you’re looking for talent. The platform is almost generic.”

Fieri, for his part, has evolved over the years, too, parlaying what once might have seemed like shtick into something genuine. The on-camera mugging on his first cooking show, “Guy’s Big Bite,” continued in “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives,” which debuted in 2007 — but this time, the antics celebrated the small restaurants he visited, many of whom enjoyed the documented “Guy Fieri effect” of a boost in business after an appearance. During the coronavirus pandemic, he championed and raised money for neighborhood restaurants around the country as the industry lost billions of dollars in business.

Paul Booth, a professor of media and popular culture at DePaul University, says Fieri enjoys a rare kind of fame as a “common cultural touchstone”: Younger people might know him as only a meme, while others might know his charitable work, and others might have eaten at one of a his restaurants — a ubiquity that makes the massive contract make sense, even in the world of streaming and TikTok. “As much as we think we have transformed into an influencer-shaped media environment, deals like this demonstrate that the old-school celebrity is still a valid tool for the media industry,” Booth said.

The Food Network has seen a winnowing of its longtime tentpole personalities. Earlier this year, Giada De Laurentiis jumped to Amazon Studios after 21 years at the Food Network. The host of “Giada at Home” and “Giada Entertains,” as well as specials such as “Bobby and Giada in Italy,” signed a multiyear deal that reportedly will have her starring and executive-producing content for the streaming service.

And last year, Alton Brown, whose “Good Eats” was a defining program of the network’s early days, joined Netflix as the host of “Iron Chef: Quest for an Iron Legend,” the reboot of the show he hosted for the Food Network. Netflix picked up the show after the Food Network decided not to renew it after 13 seasons.

The Food Network is still home to stars such as Ina Garten, a.k.a. the Barefoot Contessa, and Ree Drummond, or the Pioneer Woman. Bobby Flay, another of the long-standing stars in the Food Network stable, reached a three-year deal whose price tag was not made public to remain with the channel in 2021, though talks had reportedly stalled over money.

Meanwhile, many popular food personalities are bypassing traditional media to make their names. Actress Tabitha Brown was driving an Uber in 2017 when her off-the-cuff cooking videos went viral; she now has more than 5 million followers on TikTok. (In 2022, Food Network brought her on to host a plant-based competition show, “It’s CompliPlated.”)

Fieri’s fame, though, is far bigger than his shows. A number of restaurant chains bear his name, including ghost kitchens and stadium concessions. Guy Fieri Halloween costumes are an actual genre. And that’s the kind of reach that network execs are paying for. “In addition to being a star on Food Network, Guy is a global phenomenon with millions of fans throughout the world,” Warner Bros. Discovery U.S. Networks chair and CEO Kathleen Finch told Variety.