It's 18 months since Bravo graced New Zealand's screens, delivering a dose of reality television to local audiences in the form of Real Housewives, Vanderpump Rules and Million Dollar Listings and now, looking at its figures from the end of 2017, it's clear those programmes have been embraced as guilty pleasures of New Zealanders.
The channel, which launched in July 2016, finished off 2017 ahead of Prime, Duke, The Edge, Choice and HGTV according to figures released by Bravo. It makes the channel the fourth most popular free-to-air channel among key advertiser buying demographics, including the coveted adults 25-54 demographic, behind TVNZ 1, TVNZ 2 and Three.
Among its core demographic of females 25-54, Bravo also holds the fourth position as the number four channel in New Zealand—both peak and off-peak—ahead of Prime, Duke, The Edge, Choice and HGTV.
Across all day viewing, Bravo ranks number four in the market among all key trading demos, including Females 25-54 with a share of 5.6 percent, Females 18-49 with a share of 6.0 percent, household shoppers with Kids 0-14 with a share of 5.0 percent and adults 25-54 with a share of 4.5 percent.
The numbers reflect Bravo's results after its first year after it steadily grew among 25-to-54-year-olds during peak viewing times.
And it's still early days, says Chris Taylor, managing director of networks and distribution for Australia and New Zealand who is pleased with the channel's consistent delivery.
“I think as with all new businesses you like to be reasonably modest in your expectations. I think that we had very good confidence in the Brand bravo, evidenced by its success overseas.”
Not only are New Zealanders tuning into the channel through linear TV, they’ve also been consuming it online, so much so that Taylor says he didn’t expect the digital side of the business to be as big as it is.
The digital side includes both on-demand viewing, via Threenow.co.nz, as well as its Bravotv.co.nz website, which is five months old.
Featuring editorial content under six categories—including The Daily Dish, The Feat, Jet Set and The Lookbook— as well as information about the programmes, the website earns an average 125,974 unique visitors a month. Meanwhile, on-demand numbers vary month to month but it's hoped January will see it achieve north of 500,000 streams.
Both the website and on-demand are part of the multi-platform ecosystem Bravo is endeavouring to build. First and foremost, that ecosystem is driven by a strong linear free-to-air platform but Taylor says it’s hoping to harness the power of the brand and super-serve its audience across them all.
Research shows it has highly social viewers who are very engaged, have high disposable income and are particularly fertile for advertisers.
Taylor adds there's also been a “really respectable” Auckland audience across the last year, which is exceeding expectations.
While it could be no surprise Aucklanders have shown interest, considering the channel launched with The Real Housewives of Auckland, Taylor says the show generated plenty of attention outside of the main centre as well.
It was a talking point in New Zealand, and Taylor says with the quality of the local production matching that of the international productions of the show, The Real Housewives of Auckland was later picked up by Bravo in the US.
Real Housewives of Auckland is savage— 💎 Lena Dunham 💎 (@lenadunham) September 19, 2017
“It was part of our plan, that if you are going to launch a channel, you can spend a bucket of money on billboards around the country or you can spend it on a show that is going to attract attention and drive a lot of PR - which it did,” Taylor says.
“It was very expensive but I think it was worth its weight in gold to us.”
When questioned if the local housewives will be returning to the screen for another round, he says there’s nothing it would love to do more. However, reiterating the expense of the production, he adds it’s hard to justify the cost without a channel to launch and the obvious inherent marketing value.
But that’s not to say that Bravo has ruled out all local productions and its recent appointment of a local host is evidence of its aim to give the channel's international line up an injection of Kiwi.
Late last year, Bravo went on the hunt for a local host and from thousands of entries, Cassidy Morris claimed the role and is now providing local coverage of events around the country and regular updates on Bravo’s content.
Morris will also be moving into a mini programme that will air twice a week and have a significant presence on Bravo’s digital platforms.
And while it’s too early to gauge how the New Zealand audience is responding to a local on the screen, Taylor reflects on his time as chief executive of Prime and bringing Charlotte Dawson on board to present localised segments for the travel programme Getaway. He says that experience taught him New Zealanders respond well to localisation.
“We want Bravo to feel more Kiwi. We know a lot of the product is obviously reality product and we are not hiding from that,” he says.
“But we will localise where we can.”
While The Real Housewives of Auckland was a worthwhile investment for the attention it generated for the channel, it has had a lasting impact on its budgets.
Taylor says it was still feeling the cost of last year, meaning there was little room for the acquisition of new product and therefore, its refresh rate on programming wasn’t what it hopes to make it this year.
However, the new year has brought with it a new budget and it’s hoped that having the capacity to refresh the content during peak and off-peak times will maintain the audience throughout the year, where in the past year, the audience has tailed off as programming ran out of steam.
“Now we have a new budget etc., we will probably have a more sustained year this year than we were able to last year – that’s all learning and comes with experience.”