Food Network is in advanced negotiations with YouTube about launching a new channel with exclusive online content on the site, the cable network’s senior vice president and general manager of online brands Bob Madden told me during an interview this week. The channel would be part of YouTube’s professional channel lineup, and it would represent Food Network’s next big step towards embracing online content, complete with all the challenges that this entails.
The content for the channel would be produced with a significantly lower budget than Food Network’s TV shows, Madden said. However, the bigger challenge may be to come up with something that actually works for YouTube’s existing audience. “You need a community mindset to do it,” said Madden.
That’s something Food Network has been working on for some time, with a gradually expanding slate of online offerings. The network not only offers complementary content to its TV shows, like the recipes for dishes Bobby Flay and other chef personalities whip up on screen, but also an increasing amount of online-exclusive fare.
There’s Food.com, the user-generated recipe site, there’s an increasing amount of original online video and photography, there are food-centric apps. And then there are experiments like Fodder, a comedy web series starring members of New York’s Upright Citizens Brigade that just launched into season two. For Food Network, it’s uncharted territory, and Madden admitted that the network is still trying to figure out how to produce content that could go viral online.
Fodder: not your regular Food Network fare.
Food Network has done some experiments with YouTube in the past. Earlier this year, it was looking for the Next Food Network Star on YouTube. But the network is getting some competition from one of its former executives on the site: Bruce Seidel, who used to be in charge of programming for the Food Network’s Cooking Channel, is now running a YouTube channel called Hungry for Ben Silverman’s Electus.
For YouTube, a partnership with Food Network isn’t necessarily a slam dunk. The site launched its premium channel initiative about a year ago, giving sizeable advances to some 160 new channels. Since then, some have taken off – but especially traditional media brands with little YouTube experience have struggled to find an audience on the site. Earlier this week, news broke that YouTube is only extending funding for about 30 to 40 percent of its original channel line-up.