Food Network, Twitter Canada cook up new format for series of chef videos

TORONTO — Corus Entertainment and Twitter Canada have cooked up a new social media format that will dish out a weekly series of eight, pre-recorded episodes featuring a variety of Food Network Canada chefs preparing a wide range of meals for foodies.

The #DestinationDishes series of five-minute episodes on @FoodNetworkCA is sponsored by Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce’s CIBC Aventura travel-oriented credit card.

Representatives of Corus and Twitter Canada see the series as the first of several new collaborations that will provide customized sponsored TV-quality programming to the social media platform.

They say they’ll be closely monitoring how the series performs with audiences but they won’t be selling that information to third parties or collecting personal data about individual followers.

However, Twitter Canada’s Michael Palombo conceded in an interview that followers may be “served ads at some point, similar to how all social platforms work.”

Dervla Kelly, who heads the #DestinationDishes project for Corus, said each episode was less expensive than a 30- or 60-minute Food Network Canada television episode but they use TV-quality techniques and technology.

For example, Kelly says all the episodes are created in-house and pre-recorded — not live-streamed — in super-high definition 4K standard “so all of these episodes could be retrofitted for TV if we chose to.”

But unlike some cooking shows that use an overhead camera to show the chef’s hands creating the food, the Twitter series was mostly shot with a single camera with a frontal view of the chefs.

“So you don’t have a lot of that production intricacies and that definitely helps keep the costs down,” Kelly said.

However, Kelly said that the 40-person So.da team she heads as a Corus senior vice-president will tweak the production technique to suit the needs of each other series created with Twitter and future sponsors, who she declined to identify.

“In social, you are testing and learning all of the time,” Kelly said.

Corus already sends out about 1,500 pieces of content per week on various social media platforms, she said, and monitors audience engagement “to the second” to determine when interest drops off.

“We also go in and scrape the social web to understand what’s performing around the world … what ingredients are popping, what formats are working. That’s the kind of data we use to inform our strategy and our social productions.

“But we’re not collecting or selling data on users,” Kelly said.

For the #DestinationDishes series, So.da created more than the required eight episodes to give foodies more choice when they vote on which destination they’d like to see presented by Food Network Canada chefs.

“That’s really the crux of this program, I would say,” said Palombo, Twitter Canada’s head of entertainment partnerships.

“We’ve actually produced more content than we needed for this, so we have a full library to choose from. Week over week, polls will be published … and users will vote which episodes they want to see that week.”

The first poll opens March 7 and the first pre-recorded weekly episode will be out on March 11 at 4 p.m. ET.

Like most television, radio and publishing companies, Toronto-based Corus is exploring new ways to generate revenue in response to competition from newer digital media such as YouTube, Facebook and video-on-demand services like Netflix.

According to its most recent financial report, issued Jan. 11, Corus Entertainment’s overall first-quarter revenue for the three months ended Nov. 30 was about $467.5 million — including $426.2 million from its television division.

Television revenue was up due to a four per cent increase in advertising sales and a three per cent increase in sales from merchandising, while fees from subscribers to Corus specialty TV channels was essentially flat.

Looking at Corus television revenue from a longer-term perspective, fiscal 2018 TV revenue was just under $1.5 billion, down two per cent from fiscal 2017, the first year that included results from its acquisition of Shaw Media.

Meanwhile at Twitter, total worldwide revenue for the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31 was up 24 per cent from a year earlier at US$909 million, including US$691 million from advertising.

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