With over one million page views in its first two weeks, Eat This with Dave Lieberman can be considered one of the first true broadband TV successes. The 13-part series of shorts was filmed entirely for Scripps’ FoodNetwork.com, and features Lieberman trekking between five us cities to uncover the coolest trends in cuisine.
The Food Network site had been offering seasonal and thematic packages of clips from the network for about 18 months, so original content was a natural evolution. Since broadband audiences tend to be younger and have shorter attention spans, the plan was to go young, be hip, and keep it short. This was fresh territory, as the late 20s to early 40s target demo is younger than the channel’s typical viewers. Explains Beth Higbee, SVP Scripps Networks Interactive, ‘One of the things we were trying to do strategically with the network and the site is to get younger [audiences] and have them grow with us.’
The first hurdle was finding the funding, as production for broadband is uncharted territory. To solve this, Interactive partnered with another department, Creative Services, which has a budget for short-form programming and interstitials. (A one-minute version of Eat This will appear on the network.) For a little over $10,000 an episode, the resulting effort created a whole new brand that can pull audiences back and forth between broadcast and the web.
To produce the series, Scripps brought in New York’s Teale-Edwards Productions. From there, it was three weeks for pre-production – where Interactive worked with the culinary department to decide on trends – followed by five weeks of shooting in as many us cities (with lots of 14- and 16-hour days, and five or more locations a day), all the while continuously sending tapes back daily for dupe and digitization. Finally, it took about a month of editing with Wild Child in NY to turn rushes into episodes. First Born Multimedia (also NY) was brought in to do the interactive site.
Doug Parker, director, Scripps Networks Interactive and EP on the series, says wrangling the constituent pieces wasn’t as hard as it may sound. ‘From the start, I knew exactly what I wanted to achieve with the project, which made it very easy for me to go out and get the right people to help me – to be very clear and concise about what I needed for the page, how it was going to look, how the information was going to flow, and the overall vibe that I wanted to present for the show.’
As for lessons learned, Parker says he may reduce the elements on the next site to cut down on the avalanche of info users receive, although no decisions will be made until numbers and usage from Eat This can be evaluated.
So why bother producing for the net? Says Higbee, ‘Because the audience, who the networks are getting nervous about moving to other forms of media, are moving towards the Web… So we see a real value in exploring different extensions. Eat This is extremely valuable, even if only from a research angle.’