From TV to YouTube: The Rise of Jamie Oliver’s Food Tube

/ May 7, 2014

jamie oliver food tube

As regular readers of VideoInk learned when we published our “Video Food Fest” special issue earlier this year, a remarkable aspect of the digital world is that being out of the kitchen and in front of the computer doesn’t necessarily mean you’re not entitled to a delicious dish.

For Richard Herd, network manager and producer behind Jamie Oliver’s Food Tube, this notion isn’t just one of simple theoretical conjecture, but a mission statement for delivering cuisine-based content the world over. Working with the renowned celebrity chef, Herd meticulously helps curate a vast array of recipes, content, and personalities for hankering Food Tube subscribers to feast upon with just a few clicks. Featuring Oliver at the forefront, the channel (which recently won two Webby Awards for Best How-to DIY Channel and Best Lifestyle app), has been met with great success and acclaim.

Jamie Oliver Food Tube“We launched with a live show on the 21st of January,” Herd tells me about Food Tube’s beginning. “Prior to that, we were chatting with YouTube, and they said, ‘If you can get to 100,000 subscribers by the end of the year, you’ll be doing a good job.’ When we launched, we hit 100,000 subscribers that night. It was an awesome start for us and it’s gone on from there.”

Coming out of the gates a juggernaut, it would almost seem as if Food Tube was an overnight success. However, in talking to Herd about the channel’s development and inception, one begins to get the sense the explosive momentum of that first day was no fluke, but rather the result of insight from Oliver and Herd about the needs of the digital space. Prior to the switchover, Food Tube was Jamie Oliver’s personal YouTube channel, with a moderate amount of subscribers and infrequent updates. But, after seeing a need among their audience for more than just weekly content, Herd and Oliver realized YouTube could be so much more.

“Jamie and I, about three and a half years ago, started doing live-streams to coincide with ‘Food Revolution,’ the show he had [on ABC], and we’d go live right before broadcast,” Herd says. “Jamie would do a few recipes, and then we’d post those over on and YouTube. Jamie enjoyed the freedom that gave him. From there we did a podcast, that was an hour-and-a-half with one camera and a laptop, but that was sort of the beginning of it all. Jamie loves Instagram, Twitter, and all the other social media, so he was quite keen to use YouTube as a dialogue, which was a primary reason we set the channel up.”

Knowing that the curation of that dialogue couldn’t rest solely on his shoulders, Oliver insisted on bringing many more voices to the discussion, and from there, he and Herd began gathering the assortment of personalities viewers see on Food Tube today.

“People would come to us, a great character or chef, and we would fall in love with them, but despite pitching them to the network, we couldn’t always make it work for TV,” Herd says. “We wanted to create a new platform to give these people an opportunity to be seen.”

Despite being a well-known name in the world of cooking, Herd tells me that Oliver’s move from television to the digital space was not without its initial hiccups.

JAmie Oliver Food Tube 2

“We got punished in the beginning by the audience because we were treating them like TV audiences,” Herd tells me. “That’s something that we learned early on: The YouTube audience, as soon as they smell a producer anywhere, they switch off or tell you, ‘This is YouTube, not TV.’ We had to relearn everything we knew with Jamie and TV for the last 20 years. We had to integrate ourselves into this new form of content, and that was an interesting journey. If you look at our early videos, they are very TV like, they have an opening title sequence, and we soon learned through analytics that we were losing 40% of our audience before Jamie even started cooking. It needed to be more immediate. We moved everything up, and we got straight to the cooking. It was interesting for us to re-learn the grammar of what we do.”

Of course, looking at the success of Food Tube as it stands, one could argue that Herd, Oliver, and the rest of the team didn’t just re-learn the grammar, they set the new curve. With each passing day, the demand and need for what Food Tube provides grows…and why not? There certainly are a lot of hungry people out there who are looking to the internet to satiate their needs. It’s a fact that Food Tube recognizes and a challenge it’s constantly rising to meet.

“No one wants to be waiting until 9 o’clock for a show to start when they can watch it on-demand or online,” Herd says about meeting the needs of a growing,  food-obsessed audience. “We’re seeing more people recording more content, because there are more choices on most of the networks and they want that flexibility.”

It’s a flexibility which, with an ever growing roster of personalities and content, Food Tube shows an incredible amount of savvy in managing. As if to exemplify this point, Food Tube has recently even spun-off into a new entity titled Drinks Tube, further providing subscribers an even vaster array of edible content. When I speak to Jonathan Almond, the channel manager of the Drinks Tube team about the new endeavor, he explains why the combined entities are really becoming the web’s most knowledgeable cuisine hub.

Jamie Oliver Drinks Tube

“Food Tube has been hugely successful in bringing fantastic food-based content to the YouTube audience,” Almond tells me. “Following this success, we’ve launched Jamie Oliver’s Drinks Tube — an exciting new channel designed to entertain, inspire and educate an adult audience through a celebration of great-tasting drinks. Filling a clear gap in the market, it’s a global channel for people who are interested in trying new things and want clever ideas and tips that are easily achieved at home and on a variety of budgets.”

Drinks Tube content is currently organized into four broad areas — cocktails, beer, wine and soft drinks, says Almond. The content in each area is presented by a variety of personalities “with authentic expertise in their field, from bartenders and producers to educators and enthusiasts, with an emphasis on diversity.”

With a diverse palate of personalities and plates, Food Tube and its newly-launched sister channel are making incredible headway in the digital world, trailblazing a path that is changing the way we look at dining in the digital space. Yet, for all its successes and game-changing ideals, Herd insists that the key to Food Tube’s forward momentum is the fact that Jamie Oliver believes everyone is entitled to a good meal.

“That’s all Jamie wants, is people to engage with food, have some fun, and find out it’s not impossible to make a really good dinner out of something in your cupboard or that’s easily accessible,” Herd says. “He’s very passionate about using YouTube to push that message about getting involved and getting younger people to cook.”



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