CNN Debuts Next Digital Business With Anthony Bourdain

By Published on .

As CNN continues its push into new digital businesses, it is debuting a digital travel site on Wednesday based on Anthony Bourdain's TV show.

The cable news behemoth is partnering with Roads & Kingdoms, a publication that focuses on food, travel, politics and culture, for Explore Parts Unknown, a stand-alone digital brand that will feature original series, travel guides and other content focused on Mr. Bourdain and his travels.

Users will be able recreate Mr. Bourdain's journeys, as well as take a deeper dive into the people, places and stories he has encountered.

While much of the content will be steeped in his CNN series, "Parts Unknown," Ed O'Keefe, senior VP-premium digital content, CNN, said this is much more than a fan site or extension of the series.

"We are creating a business based on the most successful show on CNN," Mr. O'Keefe said. When "Parts Unknown" debuted in 2013 it was the first show in CNN's new strategy in creating more lifestyle content to air in primetime. "Now we are using it to build a new brand," Mr. O'Keefe said.

The season 8 premiere of "Parts Unknown" last fall, which featured a dinner with former President Barack Obama in Hanoi, drew just under 1 million viewers and was the second highest-rated episode ever.

Explore Parts Unknown is the second digital stand-alone brand CNN has created since launching Great Big Story in October 2015. The company has been vocal about growing its digital business, with CNN boss Jeff Zucker previously saying digital will be a $1 billion business in the next five years.

At launch, Explore Parts Unknown will stream a seven-episode series, "Catalunya: The Return," following Mr. Bourdain and Roads & Kingdom's co-founder Matt Goulding discovering an out-of-the-way jewel of Spanish cuisine. Each eight-minute episode discusses the surrounding region, and touches on the history and culture.

Land Rover is the exclusive sponsor of the series, and Mr. Bourdain and Mr. Goulding will use the car in each episode to get to their culinary destination. Land Rover will also advertise across the site, social media and TV.

From an advertising standpoint, Explore Parts Unknown gives CNN the opportunity "to have very unique conversations with advertisers who want to do business digital-only," said Katrina Cukaj, exec VP-portfolio sales and client partnerships, Turner Ad Sales.

Ms. Cukaj said two seasons of "Parts Unknown" a year is not enough to keep up with demand from viewers or advertisers.

CNN will be selling ads for Explore Parts Unknown, but there aren't standard ad units. Each sponsorship is customizable and advertisers will be brought into the creative process from the onset, Ms. Cukaj said.

"There is a need in the industry for better user experience and ad experience that doesn't get over-loaded with clutter," she said.

There will be additional digital series that will roll out ahead of new seasons of "Parts Unknown" that have nothing to do with the destination being featured on the season of the CNN show.

Other features of the site include: Perfect Day, time-stamped blueprints for 12 hours in any given destination; Hotel Bar Diaries, personal stories from hotel bars around the world; and recipes linked to the week's episode of "Parts Unknown."

There is a dedicated Roads & Kingdom staff of about 25 people who will be working on Explore Parts Unknown, along with nearly 100 freelancers from around the world contributing to the site, said Nathan Thornburgh, who is leading the editorial coverage of Explore Parts Unknown.

The site,, launches on Wednesday and is available on mobile and desktop web. There is no plan for an app at this time, but Mr. O'Keefe said they would be open to building an app experience with the right partner.

Most Popular