Kate Bulkley, Media Analyst.

Vice deal is food for thought

By Kate Bulkley

Broadcast News

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For Broadcast February 27, 2014

It’s not just TV and online that are converging, says Kate Bulkley

Figuring out which genres will lead the convergence of YouTube content and traditional TV programming is not easy – but the current favourite is food, glorious food.

There have been several initiatives recently: Jamie Oliver’s Food Tube has added celebrity chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall to its roster; the TV production company owned by American Idol host Ryan

Seacrest has signed a deal with online food network Tastemade to co-produce digital food and lifestyle programming; and hip online content maker Vice Media has tied up with TV production powerhouse Fremantle Media to create food content for both online and TV.

The common thread is food and scale. Together, Vice and FM plan to create hundreds of hours of foodrelated programming designed for the Millennial audience that Vice knows how to reach online. What FM brings to the party is global reach onto TV screens and into the world of licensing and merchandising. FM wants to learn more about digital content creation and distribution, and had already signalled at Mipcom last year that it would be focusing on “lifestyle verticals including food, fashion and possibly cars”.

Meanwhile, Vice recognises that it needs to move beyond Vice.com and YouTube. Food seemed a good place to start, drawing on its “network of some of the hottest chefs with a lot of personality in the space”, according to Andrew Creighton, president of Vice Media.

On 2 April, an online food channel, co-owned by Vice and FM, will join Vice’s eight existing verticals, spanning music, technology, art, dance, martial arts and fashion. New sites around news and sport are also coming soon. Creighton won’t reveal the investment for the food venture but he’s hiring around 60 people to develop video and app-based utilities for shows with an edgier focus.

The content will look beyond cooking to talk about food politics and culture. Vice already has operations in 34 countries and plans to partner with sites in different countries to increase the food site’s digital footprint. Vice will own 70% of the venture and FM 30%.

Finding a successful commercial model that works for digital content is not easy. Vice will turn over close to $550m (£330m) this year bur Creighton is keen to turn the company from a niche digital brand into a “general young person’s consumer brand” so he can tap into bigger advertising budgets and off-line revenue streams.

This is clearly on the minds of executives at Food Tube as well. Oliver has already battered, boiled and basted his way to 36 million views and his Food Tube channel has a whopping 690,000 subscribers. There are 13 affiliated cooking channels under the Food Tube umbrella (from CupcakeJemma to DJ BBQ to French Guy Cooking).

But Zoe Collins, head of food at Jamie’s Fresh One Productions, says the goal isn’t to build the biggest food multichannel network online: “It’s about growing a credible brand and seeing what you can do from there.”

A bigger profile will help Food Tube with planned moves into live events and publishing – so it’s not just TV and online that are converging, it’s the whole content sector.

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