This time last year, MediaWorks had hit a wall with Four, with the channel struggling in the ratings department after it slipped to launch date levels between 2014 and 2015. And concerned it wasn’t competing with TVNZ 2, the company brought big guns in, in the form of NBCUniversal International Networks, which transformed Four into Bravo.
Dedicated to unscripted Americanised reality TV, the channel’s unlike anything else on local free-to-air TV, so it decided to ease audiences into it by launching with The Real Housewives of Auckland. NBCUniversal’s Australia and New Zealand head Chris Taylor calls it a “very strong marketing beacon” and its “halo effect” saw great uptake on the channel’s other programmes.
In its first week, Bravo attracted 1,238,900 viewers, with more than 35 percent of New Zealanders in the target demographic of household shoppers with kids tuning in at some point.
Now, seven months down the track, one of Bravo’s greatest successes has been sustaining that audience and continuing to grow.
“We are thrilled with how it’s gone, it has been successful and it seems to be sustaining. But we aren’t popping champagne corks yet because obviously, it’s a marathon, not a sprint,” Taylor says.
The latest numbers show Bravo’s prime-time viewer numbers are up. Ratings are up 73 percent among total people and 59 percent among women 25-54 (Nielsen). The channel is also holding its position as fourth-placed national network and is now sitting 27 percent above its closest competitor, Prime, in peak viewing among women 25-54.
It’s also achieving well in off-peak times, including what Taylor calls the” hunger zone” of 2pm-6pm leading into prime-time, as well as being a significant part of the ThreeNow proposition.
And while results like these were hoped for by the team, Taylor says in TV you learn not to expect or be surprised by anything.
“I’ve been in the New Zealand market before and I’ve put things on TV that I thought would go crazy that have failed miserably and we put stuff on we didn’t expect much from that have gone really really well.”
He says one of the big contributors to Bravo’s success and one of its competitive advantages in the market, is its dedication to unscripted programming that audiences have come to know.
He says in the free-to-air landscape, audiences tend to follow programmes rather than brands, however, given its consistency, audiences follow the Bravo brand—so much so, they’ve been dubbed, ‘Bravoholics’.
In October, a research project revealed audiences enjoy the channel, they know what it is and isn’t, and they see it as a destination to have some ‘me time’ and escape from the real world.
And with information like that, Bravo sees an opportunity to knock on advertiser’s doors.
However, Taylor is realistic that Bravo is the new kid on the block and understands advertisers are cautious, so he’s approaching the conversation about its audience differently.
He says it’s overlaying demographics—which is what the incumbent channels talk about—with a profile of the ‘Bravoholic’, including what they do, how they like to spend their time and how active they are on social media.
“I think ultimately what advertisers want is return for their dollar spend and if they hit their type objectives and their communications goals but haven’t sold anything then that’s no good and we feel the Bravo audience has demonstrated it’s a great environment for advertisers to positively engage with an audience.”
A dose of reality
While the Bravo brand as a whole has proven an escape for audiences, there are particular programmes that make New Zealanders heads turn, including The Real Housewives franchise which saw The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills and the Real Housewives of Melbourne make it into the top five shows in the women 25-54 holiday period viewing.
Flipping Out and Dance Mums have also been popular and Taylor says Hoarders is a “tear-away success” because people are fascinated with it. Alongside it, Million Dollar Listing is a particular favourite of household shoppers with kids.
Its Thursday Night Confessions segment has also proved a winner, overhauling the night from the weakest to one of the strongest. The ratings have increased by 57 percent and share has increased by 79 percent among women 25-54 (Nielsen).
Friday night has also seen the addition of a movie slot since the channel’s launch and Taylor describes it as a “chick flick night at the movies”. Despite its break away from unscripted programmes, he says it’s come to have a loyal following with movies pulling in big numbers. Included in the coming mix is Top Gun, Terms of Endearment, Blue Crush, Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason and Coming to America.
The new Friday night offering is an example of Bravo’s mission to increase its offering by continuing to acquiring more programmes. And while that includes looking tactically at local opportunities, those will be the exception, not the rule.
Taylor says local production is expensive and it needs to make sure any programme will gain traction and deliver results.
“Whether that’s a second season of The Housewives or a new thing altogether, these are the things we will slowly and steadily look to evaluate.”
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