Scripps Networks to buy Spoon University in online push

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Scripps Networks Interactive SNI.O said it has agreed to buy online food publication Spoon University, a startup it hopes will give its flagship cable channel, the Food Network, a foothold with younger audiences.

Media companies and cable network owners such as Scripps have been searching for some time for ways to reach and hold onto younger audiences who spend most of their time online and do not watch traditional television.

Comcast Corp CMCSCA.O, for example, has invested hundreds of millions in media startups such as Buzzfeed and Vox Media, while Univision bought Gawker and The Onion last year.

Spoon University is being valued at roughly $10 million in the deal, according to a source familiar with the matter, who asked not to be named because terms of the deal were not publicly disclosed.

Scripps said in a statement that the acquisition will help its goal of generating more revenue on emerging digital platforms. Spoon University will be kept as a separate division and report to Vikki Neil who runs the Scripps Lifestyle Studio, a unit focused on digital content for advertisers.

Spoon University was founded in 2013 as a print publication at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois by two students, Mackenzie Barth and Sarah Adler looking to learn how to cook. The founders raised a few thousand dollars on crowd-funding website Kickstarter to pay for the first issue.

The now online only publication has spread to hundreds of colleges campus and features recipes, restaurant reviews and articles catered toward college students, such as “11 unusual ways to use your microwave.”

The New York-based company has since branched out into selling meal kits with Chef’D, a Blue Apron competitor, and creating branded content for advertisers.

Spoon University had already been working with Scripps to provide content for Food Network’s Snapchat channel.

Kathleen Finch, Scripps’ chief content, programming & brand officer, said Spoon University “captures the grassroots passion for food and community that is so important to millennials.”

Spoon University had previously raised more than $2 million in funding from investors such as SoftTech VC and Lerer Hippeau Ventures.

Reporting by Liana B. Baker in San Francisco; Editing by Stephen Coates