Scripps Networks Interactive, owner of Food Network and Cooking Channel, needed a new way to reach hungry millennials — many of whom have tuned out cable TV.
So the company built Genius Kitchen: a multiplatform digital-media brand aimed at young adults (ages 21-35) who are passionate about food, cooking and culture. Genius Kitchen will comprise original short-form programming, plus licensed food shows and content repurposed from Food Network and Cooking Channel.
In addition, Genius Kitchen’s videos will be integrated with a database of more than 500,000 recipes culled from Food.com, which Scripps Networks plans to phase out. When you’re watching a Genius Kitchen show and there’s a relevant recipe being featured, you can have it delivered directly to your smartphone.
“It’s a desire to create content for younger audiences, who are consuming it in different ways,” said Rich Lacy, senior VP of digital brand creative at Scripps Network Interactive.
Scripps Networks is initially launching the free, ad-supported GeniusKitchen.com website, which goes live Tuesday. That will be followed in early October by the rollout of 150-plus hours of video content, available on mobile apps, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV and Fire Tablets, YouTube, Pluto TV, and other platforms.
Genius Kitchen’s original programming development is being overseen by Lacy and produced out of Scripps Lifestyle Studios, SNI’s digital production arm. The company has created a dedicated Genius Kitchen studio in Manhattan’s Union Square neighborhood.
Original shows include “GK Now,” a weekly food newsmagazine hosted by Akilah Hughes — known for her YouTube comedy channel as It’s Akilah, Obviously — and Mike Lockyer (pictured above). They’ll be joined with various co-hosts, talking about offbeat food trends, pop culture, and other news for the young and grub-minded.
The weekly “GK Now” will be around 22 minutes, but the runtimes for other Genius Kitchen originals (which Scripps isn’t revealing yet) will be at most around 15 minutes per episode, Lacy said. About one-fourth of the Genius Kitchen is brand-new original content; another 25% is “reimagined” Scripps Networks library shows from Cooking Channel and Food Network, reassembled into shorter formats. The remainder will consist of licensed shows, featuring personalities such as Nigella Lawson and Sophie Dahl.
“No other media company is better positioned to introduce this level of investment in premium food content,” said Kathleen Finch, Scripps Networks Interactive’s chief programming, content and brand officer.
It’s worth noting that Scripps Networks is an investor in Tastemade, a food, lifestyle and travel digital-media company — also aimed at millennials. (Currently, Scripps Lifestyle Studios doesn’t have partnerships with Tastemade on any projects.) Meanwhile, Scripps Networks is in the midst of being acquired by Discovery Communications in a deal worth $14.6 billion.
The concept for Genius Kitchen began brewing two years ago, according to Lacy, after Scripps Networks began seeing how social video was started to explode. “We invested in it, and we got really good at that,” he said. “Then we said, ‘What if we built a food brand from the ground that embraced the way younger people are consuming content?'”
One of the goals for Genius Kitchen is to produce branded content in association with advertising partners. “If the content is good, people will watch it,” Lacy said. “You just have to be honest about the fact that there is a sponsor relationship.” In addition, Genius Kitchen will have a lighter commercial load than typical TV channels, with fewer ad breaks, and they’re shorter.
Another key piece of Genius Kitchen is the content being migrated over from Food.com (previously called Recipezaar). First launched in 1999, the user-generated recipes site was acquired by Scripps Networks in 2007. Now, the company is going to shut down Food.com and has populated GeniusKitchen.com with the half-million-plus recipes instead; the staff working on Food.com is shifting to the new project as well.
The recipes section on the Genius Kitchen website will be geared toward community discussion, Lacy said — for example, letting users post photos of how their recipes turned out, or showing how they’ve changed a recipe.
According to Lacy, when it came to naming and positioning the youth-skewing food network, Scripps Networks didn’t consider leveraging its well-known cable channels. “The Food Network brand is very recognizable and very loved,” he said. “We didn’t want to create any confusion – Food Network is a story brand.”
Scripps Lifestyle Studios combines the digital content operations of HGTV, Food Network, Travel Channel, Cooking Channel, DIY Network, Great American Country — and now Genius Kitchen. The unit operates the Food Network Kitchen in New York City and the HGTV Studio in Knoxville, Tenn.