Most of the players in the online video space are chasing millennials, as is just about anyone else with a product to market. But the SVOD service Feeln is bucking the trend by targeting what it calls “digital boomers,” an underserved, 50-plus, digitally-capable audience that uses tablets & mobile for Facebook, video calling, online games, reading and watching movies.
Apparently, they also like to cook. Today, Feeln debuts the first two 22-minute episodes of its new food-themed lifestyle show “Breaking Bread with Brooke Burke.” In each 22-minute installment, Burke (a former model, actress and “Dancing With the Stars” host) cooks and shares recipes and reminiscences with celebrity guests.
The premiere episode featuring Florence Henderson is available for free while the second, featuring Jane Seymour, is available to subscribers who pay $3.99 a month or $23.99 annually. Future guests include Nicole Ari Parker and Boris Kodjoe, Carnie Wilson, Ali Landry, and Roma Downey and Mark Burnett.
“Breaking Bread” marks another stage in the ongoing evolution of Feeln. Founded in 2007 by veteran film producer Rob Fried as SpiritClips, it initially specialized in streaming original inspirational short films. Later, it struck a deal to license Hallmark Hall of Fame telefilms. In 2012, Feeln was acquired by Hallmark, and Fried stayed on as CEO.
Fried was a production exec at Columbia, 20th Century Fox and Orion Pictures in the 1980s before striking out on his own to establish Fried Films, through which he produced such features as the fact-based inspirational sports drama “Rudy,” the Mike Meyers comedy “So I Married an Axe Murderer,” the 1998 “Godzilla” remake and the Tom Cruise thriller “Collateral.” In 1996, he launched his first online venture, Whatshotnow, an ecommerce service for the licensed merchandise industry.
Fried spoke with VideoInk about how Feeln has evolved along with the rest of the streaming video industry and why Burke emotional sensitivity made her the right host for “Breaking Bread.”
Why did you choose to target 50-plus women?
I wouldn’t say that we chose to go after the demographic. I would say that the demographic found us. I think it’s partly a function of the fact that it’s Hallmark and it’s a function of the content that we’re offering. The organic roots of Feeln are as a production company that endeavored to make a series of short films of a particular sensibility, then offer them online for a subscription. So that’s what we’ve been doing for the last six or seven years. And the audience that was attracted to those original films that we made tended to be a little older, a little more female, and then it was natural that we ended up partnering with Hallmark, which has a somewhat similar sensibility. So, as we grew, the demographic became more clear.
Once you found it, did you think, “Hey, these people are being ignored and underserved”?
I think it is true that this demographic is underserved in the technology space, but like most other technology product, they eventually come around. They might not be early adopters, but they convenience and fun also. Why did feel it was the right time to launch Feeln in 2007? I was comfortable with the technology. I believed that subscription was a good way to structure a business. But the real interest was in creating an enterprise that disintermediated many components of the entertainment industry. The films we make at Feeln, we write in-house, we direct, we produce, we edit, we distribute directly to the consumers via technology. So there are now unions, no agents, no labs, no advertisers, no distributors. It’s total disintermediation. That was the initial appeal, plus the opportunity to artistically make a collection of films that reflected our creative sensibility without having to go through the process of the traditional studio system, which ends up being a pasteurization process.
Does “Breaking Bread” signal a shift in Feeln’s programming strategy?
For years, Feeln was just original short films, then we added the Hallmark Hall of Fame library, and then we began licensing other programs. Based on the viewership data and the surveys, although they watched the short films a lot, there was a desire longer form content, reality content. We saw the other kinds of shows that they watched, and we realized that our audience seems to know and like who Brooke Burke and the guests are, and they like this type of format. So we have the expectation that the show is going to do pretty well with our subscribers.
How did Brooke Burke become the host?
The actual logistics of it is her manager had a relationship with an executive at the company, but the reason why worked out to be is that after meeting with her a few times, we realized she drilled down to the emotional truth. Did you ever see the movie ‘Ratatouille”? That movie had the scene where the food critic is tasting that ratatouille and it brings him back to his childhood. I think is exactly what she’s trying to accomplish with the show. We all have some dish that we had as a kid that reminds us of our parents or our grandparents or our heritage, somehow consciously or subconsciously, and it’s delivered to our kids and carried on as a tradition. In the right context, it can be a very moving and emotional experience. And that’s what Brooke Burke wanted to bring. That moved us, and we related to it, and it’s very consistent with the Feeln brand.
One thing that makes the show different than others in its genre is that the creative sensibility of Feeln is really focused on trying to make things that are life-affirming, genuine and emotionally intelligent, and the guests, the discussions and the topics and even the recipes themselves in some way all have to distill down to a personal story and something that endeavors to be genuine and moving. And that is consistent with the original content that we’re making and why we call the company and its services Feeln.
You produced big movies for the big studios and traditional outlets for years. Is there anything you had unlearn from that world?
I don’t know if unlearn is the word. The difference is that when you are putting a film and television show together for traditional Hollywood, it is an extremely collaborative process. And it’s very difficult to get to a place where the original vision is ultimately what is executed. In this environment, there is very little difference in what the original vision is and what it ends up being.