An injection of reality TV: MediaWorks to replace Four with Bravo

When news broke of Hilary Barry’s resignation on Friday night, many reports indicated that the media company’s chief executive Mark Weldon would have found it frustrating given that he was poised to make a major announcement on Tuesday.

Well, Tuesday has arrived, and despite the chaos encircling MediaWorks, it has still delivered its “big” news.

This morning, MediaWorks sent out a release to the media confirming that it had signed a joint venture with NBCUniversal International Networks, which will see channel Four transformed into Bravo by July 2016.

Until now, Four has struggled in the ratings department and simply hasn’t been able to attract a sizeable audience.

A MediaWorks source says the company “tried really hard with Four” but that it “almost felt too niche to compete with TV2”.

This observation is consolidated by ratings data (from Throng) for Four showing that the channel’s overall audience share never gained much momentum in the market and, in fact, slipped to launch date levels between 2014 and 2015. What this shows is that the dual-channel competitive strategy launched by then MediaWorks TV chief executive Jason Paris in 2010 never delivered the results the media company was hoping for.      

(Credit: Throng)     

The source believes the new channel will be able to better compete with TV2, because the new programming is likely to resonate with household shoppers.

A release explains Bravo will become “the premier destination for premium unscripted programming”. And from the programming schedule, this seems to imply the channel will become something of a hub for reality shows.  

In lieu of edgy comedy shows—such as American Dad, Bob’s Burgers and New Girl—Bravo will screen a slew of reality TV shows, including Million Dollar Listing (New York & Los Angeles), Top Chef (Duels, Masters, Just Desserts and All Stars) and The Real Housewives (of various locations).

Additionally, the channel will also feature Vanderpump Rules, Flipping Out, Southern Charm, Shahs of Sunset and Made in Chelsea, among others. 

Much-maligned chief executive Weldon said he hoped Bravo would carry its international success across to the local market. 

“The Bravo brand has been one of NBCU’s breakout successes of the last decade,” he said in an official statement. “It has a coveted advertiser audience with highly talk-able, engaging content that plays well on TV, and has substantial catch-up viewing audiences playing well into the binge-watching trends of our time. The fact that this is the first free-to-air partnership globally, and the first new free-to-air channel that NBCU has launched outside of the U.S., makes this an especially ground-breaking relationship.”
Of all the shows set to feature on the new channel, none has more hype than the Real Housewives of Auckland

NBCUniversal has been working with Matchbox Pictures—the company responsible for the Melbourne version of the show—to cast a collection of privileged women for the local iteration of the show, which will premiere in August.

The new programming and approach of the channel is far-removed from Four’s previous positioning as a challenger brand, filling a mainstream gap for millennial audiences.  
If anything, the demise of Four once again reiterates how difficult it is to appeal to younger consumers, particularly in the linear TV space.

Bravo might be new to the Kiwi market, but in many ways it also signals a shift to the familiar ground of appealing to a more mainstream audience.

And while Four certainly didn’t win over all Kiwi milennials, there will no doubt be a few out there that miss the classic cinematic gems the channel aired from time to time.       

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