By Sahil Patel
Fresh off a $25 million Series C round led by Scripps Networks Interactive, digital food network Tastemade is actively building out its original programming slate — and the company plans to have brands on board for every show it produces.
At the outset, the slate is comprised of five programming projects, all currently in production, all pre-sold to brands, and all certain to come out in 2014 and 2015:
Grey Goose / “Local Flight”: A 12-episode series that treks across the country to feature innovative mixologists and challenge them to create unique cocktails based on their area’s local ingredients. Themed to series sponsor Grey Goose’s “Fly Beyond” campaign, the series will also feature Grey Goose creator Francois Thibault in an episode.
Stella Artois: Previous collaborator Anheuser Busch is back for another show, which will consist of recipe-based videos of dishes and locations that are recommended and submitted by Tastemade’s social audience. This show will roll out in July.
Chase / “Off the Menu”: A food-and-travel series, sponsored by Chase Sapphire Preferred, which will seek out some of the world’s best-kept dining secrets — from unmarked hole-in-the-wall restaurants to a secret menu item at the most prominent restaurant in town. This show will air in the third quarter.
Kraft Philadelphia: Pulling in some of the top talent in Tastemade’s network, a new video series will feature unique and interesting dishes that feature Kraft’s Philadelphia Cream Cheese.
Bottlenotes: Tastemade will launch a new YouTube channel for the online wine community. Among four new wine- and spirit-themed shows being developed for the channel include two travel series, one which features the world’s most unique vineyards (and includes recipes inspired by that location) and another that enters the home of wine collectors to learn about their most treasured bottles of wine. These shows will also air on Tastemade’s channel.
These won’t be the only brand-sponsored series coming to Tastemade in the coming year, according to Oren Katzeff, head of programming at the network. Tastemade is targeting 8–10 more original series with brands attached from the beginning.
This ambitious goal is a testament to the demand Tastemade is seeing from advertisers, says Katzeff. “From a production standpoint, there has been a lot of demand for our content from the brand side,” he says. “So we’re very aggressively going down that path, and we’re going to build my team so we can explore that [opportunity] further.”
It’s also indicative of the company’s approach to developing original content, which prioritizes aligning ideas developed in-house by Tastemade with a potential brand partner’s goals. “We have a list of 40–50 shows that we are very passionate about doing,” says Katzeff. “One of these shows might fit a certain brand — with Bacardi it was about making something ordinary extraordinary.” This led to “Local Flight,” which goes a bit beyond a well-shot mixology video.
Don’t call this “branded entertainment,” though — Katzeff doesn’t think it is. “At it’s core, any show that we create with a brand has to be an amazing piece of content on its own,” he says. “I think where others sometimes fall short is that when it’s ‘branded entertainment, it feels like a commercial — and the audience is going to see right through that. That’s bad for the brand and bad for you.”
Tastemade is also wary of a criticism lobbed at many presenters at the Digital Content NewFronts — when a slate isn’t a collection of shows in production, but rather ideas that require advertiser money to get made.
“When you look at something like the NewFronts, so far there are a lot of people talking about shows that they would like to make if they got a brand [on board],” says Katzeff. “What we’ve done that we think is exciting is we’re saying: Here’s a slate of five shows, we’re producing them, we’re producing more, and they’re all going live this year.”