The world of food content can easily be divided into two camps: the traditional media houses who have access to warehouses of recipe-based content and the digital media startups using social and video to help a new generation of home chefs. Today, Scripps Network, parent company of Food Network, HGTV and the Cooking Channel has acquired digital food media startup Spoon University.
Spoon University was started by Techstars alums Mackenzie Barth and Sarah Adler who founded the company as a magazine while undergrads at Northwestern. The two created a selective content platform that allowed college students to create, upload and share their food videos – after they applied and were accepted. Barth and Adler raised $2m in 2015, positioning themselves as the Food Network for millennials and were accepted to the popular Techstars accelerator program. Spoon University started with 3,000 volunteers contributing to the platform and has grown to support 4 million daily website visitors and “tens of millions” of viewers across social platforms. Every college chapter contributes original content to the site, including recipes, reviews of restaurants, news and events and tips to make cooking simple and fun.
The terms of the deal between Spoon University and Scripps Network were not disclosed, but the announcement indicates the Spoon team will continue daily operations and exist as a separate division, reporting to the company’s head of Scripps Lifestyle Studios. Reuters talked to a source who speculated the deal was worth around $10 million. “Food Network has always been a brand that we have looked up to, and over time we have seen that our teams share similar energy, curiosity and passion,” commented CEO and co-founder Mackenzie Barth.
The move by Scripps is a smart way for the powerhouse network to move faster into the digital food content space, an area where Spoon University competitors like Tastemade and Buzzfeed’s Tasty are battling be the go-to resource for home chefs. Stations like the Food Network and Cooking Channel have historically relied on TV programming to monetize content with advertising sales. With cable subscriptions declining and a huge uptick in the use of online recipes and crowdsourcing via social media to figure out “what’s for dinner?” companies like Scripps have to innovate in order to keep up with a new generation of cooks.
According to the announcement, Scripps Network’s efforts to move reach younger audiences and create revenue streams on digital platforms have been paying off. With the launch of their digital division, “Scripps Lifestyle Studios,” in late 2015, the network claims to have delivered 5 billion video views across all shows and content areas.
Kathleen Finch, Scripps Networks Interactive’s Chief Programming, Content & Brand Officer added, “Food Network has become a significant force in digital and social food storytelling over the course of the last year, and this acquisition will provide us with the opportunity to build content, community and brand as we seek to accelerate our strategy in the sector.”
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