How Food Network parent Scripps Networks is reaching young viewers online

Food Network parent Scripps Networks Interactive is building out new media brands to reach younger viewers who are less inclined than older generations to tune in to linear TV.

In September, Scripps Networks — whose other brands include HGTV and Travel Channel — launched Genius Kitchen, a streaming video brand focused on making food videos for people in their 20s and early 30s. With a website, apps for all the major mobile and connected TV platforms and distribution on Facebook and YouTube, Genius Kitchen is Scripps Networks’ attempt to reach younger people with food content that’s distinctly different from the half-hour and hourlong programming on Food Network’s cable channel.

“Food Network is a great anchor brand — it’s a household name,” said Vikki Neil, gm of Scripps Lifestyle Studios. “But as we were looking at the food category and the opportunities that are still out there, what we realized is that the space is still very large. All of the content that we continue to create for Food Network — and it’s so much on a daily basis — is not necessarily reaching everyone.”

The approach to Genius Kitchen is focusing on content that’s “for the people, by the people,” Neil said. This means eschewing content like reality cooking competitions and other long-form programs hosted by mainstream celebrity chefs and instead creating more short- and mid-form programming that are useful and entertaining. This could be in the form of short recipe videos for dishes that can be made in any 20-year-old’s apartment, as well as programs such as the weekly talk show “GK Now,” which covers the latest food-related trends and news; and the irreverent “Carnivorous,” in which host Courtney Rada, a food enthusiast, tours the country in search of meat dishes and the chefs who make them.

Genius Kitchen launched last month with more than 150 hours of content, mostly produced in-house by Scripps Lifestyle Studios, which Scripps Networks Interactive formed two years ago to create digital programming for the company’s media brands. Scripps Lifestyle Studios has 20 people dedicated to Genius Kitchen, with additional support from production partners such as Spacestation (for “GK Now”). Scripps Networks has also licensed the U.S. streaming rights to some international digital shows such as “Simply Nigella” and “The Delicious Miss Dahl.”

A month in, millennials account for nearly half of Genius Kitchen’s audience across platforms, Scripps Networks said. Some videos, such as this recipe video for “pizza skulls,” have gone viral on Facebook.

Earlier this year, Scripps Networks also acquired Spoon University, a food publisher focused on 18- to 24-year-olds who are in college or are recent graduates.

Scripps Lifestyle Studios has 30 people working on Spoon content, aside from a network of 11,000 contributors from nearly 300 campuses who provide recipes, photos, videos and other food-related content. Scripps Lifestyle Studios itself aims to produce at least one video a day for Spoon, according to Neil.

“You’ll see people pushing DIY macaroons, Nutella shots, Uncrustables and Oreos,” Neil said. “They’re approaching food from what you would do with a small budget for you and your friends.”

About half of Spoon’s audience is 18 to 24, Neil said. Millennials account for three-quarters of Spoon’s total audience, Scripps Networks added.

Meanwhile, Food Network is no slouch on digital platforms. While 25- to 44-year-olds account for more than half of Food Network’s total audience, the legacy brand had 26.1 million followers and 818.6 million video views on Facebook in September, according to Tubular Labs. (On Facebook, Food Network ranks higher than BuzzFeed’s Tasty in Tubular’s monthly video rankings.)

Scripps Networks plans to continue building the Food Network brand, including making shows for Facebook’s Watch and Snapchat Discover, Neil said. As Food Network, Genius Kitchen and Spoon University continue to grow, expect more collaboration between them.

“At Food Network, where scale really matters, it’s our biggest brand across everything,” Neil said. “But people can also move across all of these brands and maybe spend more time with one that they connect with the most.”

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