Santa Monica-based Tastemade is redefining food programming for the digital age.
It’s more than coincidental that Tastemade’s Santa Monica studios once served as a set for MTV before becoming the site where TOMS was founded. These former tenants, brands rooted in the zeitgeist, went on to revolutionize their respective fields; now, the current resident is in the process of doing just that. Tastemade, a food-focused video network launched by three founding members of content and social media company Demand Media, is transforming the entire concept of how we watch TV—though the point is that it’s not technically television at all.
“Younger audiences aren’t watching television but they are spending an enormous amount of time on digital platforms,” says Steven Kydd, who founded the venture-backed company with business partners Larry Fitzgibbon and Joe Perez. “We think this is like the early days of cable. We have great respect for folks like the Food Network, but this age is fundamentally different. We’re going to find and develop talent from digital platforms.”
Tastemade, which started in the attic above the current studios with just 10 MacBooks and a wireless connection, utilizes social media outlets like YouTube and Facebook as both a means to broadcast programs as well as to tap new talent. Fast-forward a mere two-and-a-half-years and the operation boasts a whopping 42 million followers across those social media platforms for a global audience that includes hundreds of millions of monthly views. Those are the sort of numbers that tend to get serious attention. This March, they launched on Apple TV as the exclusive food channel.
Original programs shot in their 7,000-square-foot sound stage as well as on the road are also garnering accolades for their ingenuity. Lifestyle-centric cooking shows include the James Beard Award-winning “Thirsty For…,” which highlights quirky and cool drink recipes from around the globe, as well as a chef-focused tailgating series called “The Grill Iron.” (Both were among this year’s nominees as well.) Then there is an international fabric of Tastemakers—as they’re referred to—that comprise the brand’s network. “Think of the farm system,” explains Kydd, making the sports analogy. “You discover them, develop them and then bring them up.” One such example is Sydney-based chef Guy Turland, a scruffy Aussie version of Jamie Oliver, who broadcasts his show “Day Tripper by Bondi Harvest” via Tastemade, garnering a worldwide audience of more than 47,000 subscribers in the process.
Perhaps the most pioneering component of Tastemade’s self-propelling business model is its ability to discover new stars while expanding the community through user-friendly apps that enable anyone to shoot, edit and upload their own brief HD show directly from their phone. “Just like Instagram allows you to be a better photographer, Tastemade helps you to be a better videographer,” says Kydd. The Video City Guide app walks users through the filming process, outlining everything from sound bites to font options. These visual stories are then screened by the Tastemade team, who scout for promising hosts while aggregating the best submissions on their network. “So as we sleep, people all around the world are creating one-minute audition tapes for us,” Kydd adds. tastemade.com.
By Marin Preske.
Photographed by Jessica Sample.