Surfair
5

Tasty TV

Technology trends and news by Bambi Francisco Roizen
February 15, 2007
Short URL: http://vator.tv/n/9

I don't watch television at home because I don't have a TV. But one reason I would get one is to watch the cooking channel, or "Top Chef" on Bravo. So when TasteTV sent in their video to us at vator, I found a nice alternative. For those who want to be entertained and informed about all things tasty - and only have a computer to watch video programming -- this is a great channel. It is chock full of video programming. You could spend tons of time on it. In fact, I think I did. Video programming is what the other food sites are missing. Food Network, which was the No. 1 food site, with 10 million unique visitors and 269 million pageviews in December (according to Nielsen//NetRatings), has no video. If it does, I certainly couldn't find it. Cooks.com, which is the No. 5 food site with 6.1 million unique visitors, had minimal video. And, Yahooâ??s food channel, which ranks No. 10 with 2.7 million unique visitors, has some video, but it's not prominent. TasteTV appears to be one of the first really video-rich food channels on the Internet. Interestingly enough, there's very little advertising on the site. Ironically, a site like Cooks.com already has short ads between video snippets. Andre Crump of TasteTV tells me that the company decided not to focus so much on advertising on video, but rather the programming for now until the team figures out what type of advertising would be suitable and useful to the audience. This is similar to what YouTubeâ??s Chad Hurley once told me when I asked him why he just didn't put 5-second pre-roll or post-rolls on the videos. For YouTube, it's tough to pre-schedule 5-second pre-rolls on a 10-second video. But on TasteTV, the videos appear to be about 5 minutes each. Now, the programming was quite enjoyable even though I have to admit I didnâ??t get the idea behind Million Dollar Dinner .  ? I watched one episode where the diners were at Jack Falstaff. Basically, I watched a bunch of courses being served. I watched people eating them, and at the end, they gave their opinion. Now, I wasnâ??t sure what the point was. I wanted to find out about the recipes. And, I wasn't that interested in hearing an average person talk about a meal. I wanted an expert to tell me whether the meal was cooked well. Then, I watched another episode at LuLu's restaurant. Here I figured out that the show was about giving the viewer a sense of the ambience. Fair enough, I thought. In that case, it's useful. So, I decided to search for a restaurant to get a sense of the â??ambience.? But there was no search box. Note to TasteTV -- get a search box. It would be helpful if I wanted to cook a nice French dinner and could put that into a search box. Also, I wish there was a place where I could select recipes and read them. No matter, there are many other sites that offer this. And, maybe TasteTV is not about the 10-inch viewing experience (where a person interacts with the content), but about the 10-foot viewing experience, where the viewing is more passive. That brings me to a critique against all video sites on the Web (even vator's), the video snippets make it hard to watch for too long because at the end of the day, they're not long enough to engage you. So, if they're not long enough to engage you, there have to be other features or stuff for people to do â?? read the recipes while watching, or read about the chef or restaurant, or maybe vote on whether you like the restaurant. (Note: I'm not being too critical. These are all ideas vator could use as well.) All this said, for niche video sites, TasteTV is off to a good start. The navigation is good. I love the fact that its SF section is pretty filled out, since I live here. As far as a business, TasteTV also has some interesting ways to find content. There are only 10 people on staff at any time. Now, that's pretty impressive, given the amount of production that's taken place. Part of the reason it has so much content is because they actively solicit users in a very smart way. So, what does TasteTV want to be? Here's how Crump describes it: "What's important to us is that we're not trying to have the largest volume of material on food, wine and lifestyle (art, style, fashion, design, travel, etc.), because aggregators and Yahoo! Food or Google Video can do that. â??What we we want is to have the most interesting, diverse, and compelling lineups, because this is what mainstream television lacks and people crave. One of the best ways to achieve that is through the input of our Tastemakers and Tastesetters, as well as from our own research and programs."