Epicurious And Bon Appétit Launch Digital Video Network

FIG videoCondé Nast’s Food Innovation Group – a year-old partnership that combined the Epicurious and Bon Appétit brands – sees a hole in the digital video market: short, food-related content for mobile and connected TV viewers.

Consequently, the publisher on Monday launched the Food Innovation Group Video Network, featuring content specifically tailored for mobile and connected TV consumption.

Some videos were shot vertically, for example, for mobile viewing. Those vertical videos instruct cooks how to pit an avocado or chop an onion in 10-second loops. The video network is launching with nine series, and aims to produce 26 different shows by 2016.

The videos will appear on Bon Appétit’s and Epicurious’ websites as well as Condé Nast’s The Scene, Amazon, AOL, Apple TV, Facebook, Instagram, MSN, Roku, Snapchat, Spotify, Tumblr, Twitter, Yahoo and YouTube. Those distribution deals come from agreements Condé Nast Entertainment already had in place.

Advertisers can either place pre-roll spots on Food Innovation Network’s digital offerings, or sponsor product placement. Alternatively, they can develop branded content, a growing category.

Food Innovation Group publisher and CRO Pamela Drucker Mann sees more advertisers experimenting with branded content. It’s not because they’re afraid of ad blocking, but rather because they want to find ways to connect with consumers who have limited attention.

“Branded content is going to be more and more important, because it’s proving it performs,” Drucker Mann said. “As advertisers see positive results, they’ll devote more dollars to it.”

While there’s huge demand for quality video in programmatic channels, Food Innovation Group is eschewing automated selling for now. “Intuitively, it’s a direct-to-the-marketplace sell,” Drucker Mann said. “Our strategy is direct.”

That’s partially because transacting programmatically adds a middleman who takes a cut, said revenue head Craig Kostelic: “There are so many hidden costs that direct deals can sometimes be more efficient than programmatic deals.”

In order to keep margins consistent, Food Innovation Group potentially would have to charge more to transact programmatically, Kostelic said, and it doesn’t want to pass on that cost to buyers.

Of course, for Food Innvovation Group to succeed, it will have to gain scale in an extremely cluttered digital video environment.

Drucker Mann is optimistic that the combination of the Epicurious and Bon Appétit brands, which reach 50 million monthly uniques, along with extensive distribution, will make it easier to achieve scale.

The brands and distribution will serve as a “jumping off point,” Drucker Mann said. “There are also viewers who are going to find us for the first time when they’re on Roku, and that’s a good thing.”

Content will come in different flavors, with some video series focused simply on making food, while others will replicate signature features like “How To Cook Like a Pro” or focus on combining celebrities (“Red Obsession” with Russell Crowe) or travel (“Eat Stay Love”) with food content.

The Food Innovation Group, will also bring its network of 80 partners to produce food-related content for ME Studio. They’ll create their own videos and embed useful ones from Food Innovation Group.

“It’s critical for us to enhance the value of the recipe detail page while incorporating video,” Kostelic said of Food Innovation Group’s philosophy. “Not putting 10 autoplay videos on the page.”

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