Vox Media Expands Into OTT With Eater Food Channel

Vox Media is entering the OTT world with food-themed content produced by Eater.

The publisher is repurposing programming for a new OTT channel under its restaurants and culinary vertical Eater, which is available to download beginning today on Roku. The channel is free and went live under a partnership with Hilton Hotels & Resorts, which will run pre-roll ads on the publisher’s programming and sponsor curated video playlists through the end of the year.

It’s an opportunity for Vox Media to create a new revenue stream and an add-on option to entice advertisers. The decision to move into OTT is based on the success the publisher has seen with the programming on its YouTube page. In all, Vox Media claims to have garnered over 30 billion minutes watched with over 1.75 million viewers on YouTube, according to Amanda Kludt, senior vice president of editorial for Curbed and Eater, where she is also editor in chief.

Hilton Hotels & Resorts is using the play in the midst of redesigning its lobby bars. “Our partnership with Eater helps to amplify that effort and draw more guests and locals into our bars to gather, connect and reenergize,” said Christine Lynn, vp of global brand marketing at Hilton, in a statement.

It’s part of a larger buy with Vox Media that also includes ads on the publisher’s website, according to Vox Media publisher and co-founder Melissa Bell.

“We’ve always thought we had the ability to move through different mediums,” Bell said. “We know we have strong connections with our audiences, that see us as not just a website. We know they respond to us in short form video.”

The Eater channel will include hundreds of episodes from 10 series that Vox Media has been airing on its YouTube channel over the years, including Prime Time, How to Make It and Kitchen Gadget Test Show.

Even in a crowded media environment, buyers are looking for unique ways to target consumers with advertising in a way that is “respectful,” said Clint White, president and founder of WiT Media. “Eater content seems like a perfect environment to do so, and I look forward to seeing how it rolls out.”

Watching what performs well has helped the publisher shape which series are greenlit for more episodes. For example, Vox Media posts four times less now than just a few years ago “because we’ve refined what we want to do and what the audiences are looking for,” Kludt said.

The same would go for the OTT channel, which execs will monitor to see what’s being watched as it looks to expand programming on additional platforms. Next year, Eater will also release channels on Apple TV, Fire TV and Android TV.

“We’re able to choose really specific series that we think will work and perform well for this audience,” Bell said.

The OTT channel represents the publisher’s latest foray into TV after already releasing two seasons of No Passport Required, featuring chef Marcus Samuelsson, who showcases the food scene throughout American cities. Vox Media is also in production with Hulu on a multi-show deal that will put original series on the platform over the next few years, Kludt said.

Among those series will be Eater’s Guide to the World, a travel and documentary showcase of international dining destinations, Kludt said.

It’s the coverage itself that Vox Media hopes will separate it from competitors already in the OTT food space, like Condé Nast’s Bon Appétit, with programming that leverages the star power of its test kitchen.

“At the end of the day, we’re journalists,” Kludt said. “We do want to dig a little deeper and have that original angle.”

The strategy could also extend to New York Media brands, which are now officially under the Vox Media umbrella after the two companies merged. Bell noted The Cut’s female audience and the Vulture’s commentary as two distinct voices from the New York Media portfolio.

“We will be thinking about how we’ll bring those experiences to audiences to all the platforms,” Bell said.

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