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How Roker Media Invites Twitch Viewers To Dine In

Twitch launched its food channel earlier this year with a marathon of Julia Child’s The French Chef, and now the Amazon-owned streaming platform is partnering with Al Roker’s Roker Media to take things a step further. A new two-hour cooking show called ChefShock will debut on Twitch starting Monday, October 31, 5 pm Pacific time. The live show features former Food Network Star winner, Justin Warner as the host.

Viewers will be able to purchase ingredients before each daily episode airs, either by looking at the meal schedule or by choosing one of the show’s home delivery partners, so that they can cook along with the host.

Ronald Pruett, co-founder of Roker Media with Al Roker, and Tracie Brennan, executive vice president at Al Roker Entertainment and Roker Media, spoke with [a]listdaily from The LiveFronts in New York City—an event that focuses the growing trend of live content—about ChefShock and how livestreaming platforms could become media networks in the future.

Ronald C. Pruett, Jr., co-founder of Roker Media

What inspired the creation of ChefShock?

[Pruett]: We’ve wanted to do something on Twitch for a long time because we love their platform and the community they’ve built. We approached a partner of ours, SXM—a gentleman named Tom Bannister—who was also very keen on Twitch. He had been working with different partners to develop a slate of shows that might fit that platform. One of them was in cooking, and we at Roker Media have a deep background in the food space, and he had a perfect show in development that we wanted to partner on.

It all came together very quickly because we all wanted to work with Twitch, Twitch wanted more shows on their Creative channel, and we put all together in about two or three weeks.

ChefShock will be geared towards millennials. How do you plan on targeting that audience, specifically?

[Pruett]: I’ll leave it to the chef to ultimately decide, but I think it’s in Justin Warner, an award-winning chef. Cutting-edge, very in-tune with the gaming community and the millennial marketplace. So, we asked him, “What do you think would work?”

It turns out, he’s a collector of all artifacts gaming. So, he’s going back into the ‘70s with crazy gaming stuff around his house. So, we decided to shoot it out of his kitchen. The set will be his kitchen in Brooklyn. It’s authentic, if nothing else.

How did you come to work with Justin Warner?

[Pruett]: We got to know him through Tom Bannister, who was talking about different show ideas. Justin is just a natural. He’s someone who can take food and make it simple for just about anyone to understand. We met and we all liked each other immediately, and that’s how it evolved.

Do you think it’s funny or ironic that Chef Warner was a winner on Food Network Star?

[Pruett]: You know, it’s both, but it is more ironic. When we started down the path of livestreaming, we started in the food category because we think that the next Food Network is going to be on a livestream. In fact, one of our early advisors was the creator of the Food Network.

So, we’ve had our eye on this space for a very long time. There’s irony to it, but it’s also somewhat by design.

How will ChefShock stand out from cooking shows on TV or YouTube?

[Pruett]: First of all, it’s live. When anything is live, anything goes. Justin is a terrific chef, but he’s also a little bit crazy too. So, I think he’s going to make it an interesting event every day. The food will be different, but it’ll also be food that anyone can prepare. He’s really tuned in to his audience.

With livestreaming, it’s interactive. If the audience doesn’t like what you’re doing, they’re going to let you know. So, it’s a show that might even change midstream based on the reaction we’re getting from the viewers.

[Brennan]: The call to action is to have the audience cook along. As part of our channel page on Twitch, we’ll have shopping lists days before [the livestream] for each day so our audience can cook along with Justin during our two-hour long live show—which is daily from 5-7 pm Pacific and 8-10 pm Eastern.

Tracie Brennan, executive vice president at Al Roker Entertainment and Roker Media

Two hours is a lot of time to fill. How did you come up with that format?

[Brennan]: Because he (Warner) literally wants to go from taking the ingredients out of the bag and starting from there. A lot of his audience probably aren’t chefs or even home cooks. The goal is to take them from A to Z. Whereas on most cooking shows, you’ll see everything pre-measured in glass bowls that are poured into a larger bowl, that won’t be the case here. We’re going to measure everything, pull them out of their packaging, and go from beginning to end with the audience following along.

Plus, Justin is really fun. He’s going to be taking questions, he’s going to be demoing, and it’s going to be a big interactive experience for the audience. Believe me, that two hours is going to fly by.

[Pruett]: You were asking about how it was an authentic show, and Tracie helped design it. It’s like a real cooking experience. It’s what everyone goes to every night at home, and they’re going to walk through it with Justin. It’s totally novel.

[Brennan]: He’s also going to eat it. He’s going to invite the audience, once they’re done, to eat with him. They’re cooking a meal at home, then all sitting down to meal together on a livestream.

How will you work with the inevitable downtime while cooking?

[Brennan]: Well, you’ll have to tune in to see. Justin has a great personality and he’ll be taking questions. Maybe they’ll be talking about games that have come out or what games he’s hot on right now. I don’t think there will be that much downtime to fill.

[Pruett]: That is why it’s so important, when you’re doing a livestreaming, to find the right personalities that can keep people interested. It’s not like YouTube or some of the more edited platforms. It’s live, like a talk show or radio show. You really need someone who can, while something is cooking, get them interested in something else.

Will ChefShock have a theme for the food?

[Brennan]: That comes from Justin’s personality and the type of food he likes to cook, but each day will have a theme, and it’ll be the same theme each week. [For example] Monday is Meaty Monday, where a lot of times you’d find Meatless Monday. They’re all Justin’s ideas.

Will there be cross-promotional plans for some of the ingredients Chef Warner will be using?

[Pruett]: Yes, one reason we’re interested in Twitch is because of their parent company, Amazon. We have been looking at coupling content with commerce, and we think Twitch has got a lot of it figured out. We have interest from various e-commerce platforms to work with us, but we don’t have anything to announce yet.

We’ve been thinking from the beginning: why aren’t platforms doing more with commerce tied to content? There are new ones like Busker that are starting to do that, but we’ve all along thought this way.

How do you think livestreaming has impacted the way people consume media?

[Pruett]: We all believe that we’re at the early stages of this—we’re at the first base of many. We think that probably the biggest component of it is [how] not only are people consuming it, they’re participating in it. You’ve seen that on Twitch—the ability to interact with the host is something that’s very novel, at least in the platforms we’ve been working with.

I think that the next so-called networks are these online platforms we’re seeing evolve in front of us—YouTube, Facebook, Twitch and more—because they not only provide transactional capability, but content distribution.

What convinced you to choose Twitch, as opposed to YouTube of Facebook Live?

[Pruett]: We’ve worked on a multitude of platforms, from YouNow to Periscope and Facebook Live. We haven’t done as much with YouTube, but we’ve always had our eye on Twitch because we really respect the incredibly strong community that has built up on that platform. For us, this show is just a natural for Twitch.

What are the benefits of being able to broadcast live to the world in real-time?

[Pruett]: [You can do it] at the press of a button with no carrying costs that a traditional television network has. I spent a lot of my life abroad, so we always approach these things with a global view. We saw the potential of how you and I, at the press of a button, could build a global audience using Periscope, YouNow and Facebook.

We know from looking at the analytics that when we launched a show like Camilla Alvez on Facebook, her biggest audience is in Brazil because she’s Brazilian. We could create these crazy global shows instantly. Never before have you been able to do that.

What are the challenges of creating a live show for a global audience?

[Pruett]: We’re wrestling with a couple of things, but first is language. The types of technology different countries use could be an issue. Commerce platforms and time of day are a challenge, but also the brands. If you want to get your show sponsored, if you’re predominantly an American brand or known primarily in the US, you may have a different brand name in France. So, do you want to be on a global platform?

We haven’t figured all these things out, but I feel like the economics of livestreaming are so compelling, and the communities being built are so passionate, that you’re going to see a whole new wave of programming and shows being developed.

What is Roker Media’s long-term goal and how does a show like ChefShock fit in?

[Pruett]: When we started out, we wanted to learn and work with as many platforms as possible. We are agnostic when it comes to the platforms we partner with. As we evolve, we want to continually provide good programming that the viewers want to watch.

Our goal is to create interactive, optimized shows for the audience. In the long-term, we want to create the next network with programming on a cell phone. We’re going to create an LSN—a Livestreaming Network. LiveFronts is our step in that direction, to couple advertisers with programming.

At this time, what is your measurement for success with ChefShock?

[Pruett]: With ChefShock, it’s getting out of the gate and doing something new. The second phase will be getting brand interest. ChefShock is the next type of show in the cooking genre. There are a lot of great cooking sites out there, from Food Network to Tasty, but this is different because it’s live and interactive.

So, our goals are getting viewership, getting brand interest and then getting the numbers up to where we have a big interactive opportunity with the audience.

What do you think will matter more, live viewership or on-demand views of archived shows?

[Pruett]: We’ve done a lot of shows that have smaller live audiences but have really long tails on the archive piece of it. We’ve always looked at live as being hybrid, so we’re as interested in the longer tail syndication of the show as we are the live piece. Honestly, we’d love to have a big of a live audience as possible. I think that’s the main driver of success, but we’ll see how this new space plays out.