Entire Julia Child cooking show streams on gaming site

All 201 episodes of The French Chef, hosted by Julia Child (left), will be aired on Twitch, which is known for its live gaming matches.
All 201 episodes of The French Chef, hosted by Julia Child (left), will be aired on Twitch, which is known for its live gaming matches.FILE PHOTO

SEATTLE • Every month, more than 100 million people go to Twitch, a video streaming service known for airing live matches between people playing League Of Legends, Counter-Strike and dozens of other games.

On Tuesday, an interloper entered the Twitch fray for a marathon video streaming session - Julia Child, the legendary chef and TV personality who died in 2004. Over four days, Twitch is consecutively streaming all 201 episodes of The French Chef, the groundbreaking cooking show hosted by Child that aired for a decade, from 1963.

Tuesday was the 65th anniversary of the official date of Child's graduation from Le Cordon Bleu, the cooking school in Paris where she received her culinary training.

The marathon event is a peculiar mash-up of one of the Internet's leading destinations for gamers and a cultural icon who introduced United States television audiences to beef Wellington, crepes Suzette and other dishes. It is part of a budding effort by Twitch, acquired by Amazon in 2014 for nearly US$1 billion (S$1.38 billion), to cultivate viewers interested in all forms of creativity, whether sewing, sculpture or cooking, not just those who want to watch virtual orcs getting slain.

The Julia Child marathon, inaugurating a new food channel on the site, also reflects a relatively recent insight by Twitch into its audience. While many Twitch visitors come to communicate with the people they are watching through chat rooms that accompany the videos, that will obviously not be possible in the case of Child. Instead, Twitch is betting that many of its viewers want to chat with each other.

"We always had this idea that it's critical to be able to talk to the broadcaster," said Mr Bill Moorier, head of Twitch Creative. "There are some cases where the community just enjoys interacting with itself while enjoying prerecorded content. That's what we're experimenting more with."

Twitch decided to double down on recorded videos after the improbable success of a week-long streaming session featuring the landscape painter Bob Ross. From last October, Twitch aired the entire archive of The Joy Of Painting, the show narrated by the honey-voiced Ross as he completed canvases, more than 400 episodes in all.

About 5.6 million viewers in total watched the marathon over the week, with as many as 183,000 people tuning in at the same time, according to Twitch.

Twitch viewers flooded the chat room with running commentary riffing on Ross' hypnotic manner, kitschy paintings and guileless expressions like "happy little trees". In one show, he demonstrated how to shake the paint out of a brush, telling viewers to "beat the devil out of him".

Some viewers jokingly chided Ross, who died in 1995, for not responding to their chat messages. Others blended gamer jargon with their commentary. Whenever an episode ended, Twitch's chat room invariably filled with the letters "gg" - slang for "good game," a valediction online gamers use at the end of a match.

There was also a dose of toxic comments of the sort that so often accompany online discussions. Twitch says it was a minor problem and that it has teams of moderators who police its chat room for misbehaviour.

In all, Twitch says viewers sent 7.6 million chat messages during the marathon.

With Twitch, live commentary is more tightly integrated with the experience of watching video, which makes audiences feel as if they are in a single place, rather than scattered around the Internet. Dr T.L. Taylor, a professor of comparative media studies and writing at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, believes that makes the discussion around Twitch events especially dynamic.

"The community is building memes," she said. "They're coming up with their own frames of reference and comedy on the fly."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 17, 2016, with the headline 'Entire Julia Child cooking show streams on gaming site'. Print Edition | Subscribe