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009 – Tim McElreath – Food Network Kitchen

Today’s episode of the podcast features, Tim McElreath, Director of Technology for Mobile and Emerging Technologies at Discovery. Discovery is the parent company of Food Network, and Tim’s team is responsible for building applications like the recently revealed, Food Network Kitchen. If you recall, this application was something that Katherine Prescott and I talked about at length during episode two of the podcast, when we exploring different use cases for multi-modal smart displays.

Food Network Kitchen represents a multitude of services bundled together within the application that is available through mobile devices, and specifically tailored for Amazon’s Echo Show and Fire TV devices. The services include a library of thousands of recipes – many of which are linked to on-demand cooking classes, walking the user through the process of cooking the recipe – as well as live cooking classes with many of the chefs who are featured on the Food Network.

According to Tim (paraphrased), “We realized that we need to change the way we deliver content based on the new ways consumers are consuming media today. We’ve done very well on linear TV, but that’s not really what we’re going to be doing into the future. So, we really had to do a deep rethink as to what the Food Network brand means and how it adapts to this new future. Instead of just being a ‘lean-back, watch TV’ experience, we wanted to move into a direction that’s more interactive. As well as being an entertainment provider, we’re also striving to become an educational provider.”

The type of interactivity that Tim describes is what’s so intriguing about this application, as it’s really designed to be used with one of Amazon’s smart displays. The smart display is uniquely positioned to facilitate interactive-type experiences that fuses together video streaming (on-demand and live) with voice commands to control the display (pause/rewind, ask questions pertinent to the video).

In regards to the voice usage, the ultimate goal, according to Tim, is to allow for the ability to cook a complete meal without using your hands. “Our Northstar here is to put a non-technical person in front of one of these devices, have them bring up a recipe, and successfully complete it without frustrating them with the process.”

The live streaming portion of the service is particularly interesting. Food Network will be broadcasting 4-6 live segments per day, where chefs like Michael Simon will banter with the audience and even answer questions filtered by a moderator as he cooks his meal. Tim mentioned that he was surprised at how intimate and different the live streams feel than what we’re accustomed to with what Food Network is putting out on TV.

In addition, the team is looking at Peloton as an example of how they might begin layering social aspects to Food Network Kitchen, where you and your friends can be following along in the same stream and communicating together while everyone follows the chef along. Again, it’s this new layer of interactivity that is so intriguing.

In my opinion, Food Network Kitchen represents a very compelling service that’s entirely oriented around the smart display modality, and therefore, I think it may serve as a blueprint for other types of media-based companies to think about how they can leverage smart displays for their own content. As we discuss at the end of the episode, Discovery very well may launch similar apps for other content hubs that it owns, such as HGTV. I personally would absolutely love the ability to take live classes or watch on-demand videos helping me to become more handy, with video how-to’s.

This conversation really opened my eyes to just the type of applications that are uniquely suited for smart displays, and how Food Network Kitchen very well may be one of the applications we look back on as the first to really take full advantage of this new modality.

-Thanks for Reading-

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