BuzzFeed is expanding its Tasty empire into long-form.
Tasty Date Night is a long-form series built like a game show. The premise is a cooking challenge based on a Tasty recipe that two couples try to cook within a time limit. At the end of episode, which are about 12 minutes long, a local chef will judge each dish to determine the winner.
“The experiment here is seeing if short-form content can drive long-form viewership,” said Lee Brown, BuzzFeed’s chief revenue officer. “All of our previous Tasty experiments, as with most things at BuzzFeed, were driven by signals we received from our viewers and commenters.”
According to Brown, the Tasty team saw people tagging their significant others in the comments section of videos or sharing the video on their pages, suggesting that they should try making the featured meal soon.
“We saw that, and we wanted to build on it,” said Brown.
Tasty Date Night is a three-part series that was filmed outside of BuzzFeed’s studios. A host and production crew set up with Smorgasburg LA, an extension of the original Brooklyn outpost and flea market; Juvia, a restaurant in Miami; and the Charleston Wine + Food Festival in South Carolina.
Toyota worked as a partner with BuzzFeed throughout the series. The car company previously partnered with BuzzFeed on a different long-form series, Unfortunatly Ashly, which was a scripted series on YouTube.
“There’s great synergy between the two brands and we have many of the same goals,” said Lisa McQueen, media manager for Toyota Motor Sales, USA, Inc. “We’re both about creating a sense of adventure, discovery and empowerment among our audience and doing so with a seamless integration.”
“Research shows that our adventurous RAV4 buyer is enthusiastically seeking new culinary adventures,” she said. “Knowing that, we teamed up with BuzzFeed on inserting ourselves into a program that hits the sweet spot for those buyers.”
While RAV4 buyers are adventurous, BuzzFeed treated this series as an adventure, too. Brown said the team broke out of its usual studio space to interact with fans and the food community.
“We recognize the importance of food bringing people and culture together, and the Tasty experience doesn’t only have to come from our studios,” said Brown.
BuzzFeed, a company this reporter worked at for three years, stresses that when it comes to platforms and formats, brands and partners have to be willing to experiment. None of the locations, or Toyota itself, knew how it would go as BuzzFeed developed long-form Tasty content.
The first Tasty Date Night video was uploaded to Facebook on Valentine’s Day and at the time of writing received 4.5 million views. That 11-minute video earned 2.8 million more views than the video uploaded the previous night, which was a two-minute video of five dessert recipes. While it’s not uncommon for a Tasty video to get dozens of millions of views, Brown considers the long-form experiment a success so far.
“There’s more behind a muted recipe video than you’d realize,” said Brown. “Our job is to see what content is performing well with the audience and to recognize opportunities to franchise within successful franchises.”
“For us, there was something smart about what they’re doing,” said Eric Demby, co-founder of Smorgasburg and Brooklyn Flea. “A lot of times, people just want to film our customers walking around and eating cool food, but we loved the audience component to this show.”
Gillian Zettler, the executive director of the Charleston Wine + Food Festival, appreciated BuzzFeed’s outreach into food communities around the country and thought it aligned with her festival’s overall mission, as well.
“Our guests have an insatiable desire to learn or be educated,” said Zettler. “That transfers into them searching for digital content and then to coming to a live event to experience it. BuzzFeed was able to do all of that for them succinctly. A snack-sized bite of a video is the perfect way to teach people something new.”
“With food, you can always be a tourist in your own town,” she said.