NBC Universal head Chris Taylor on partnering with MediaWorks, reality TV saturation and the Real Housewives of Auckland

New Zealand’s about to get a new television channel: a local version of the all-reality, all-the-time Bravo. Its entry, a joint venture between Bravo owner NBCUniversal and MediaWorks marks the U.S. network giant’s first free-to-air deal outside the United States—and a pretty big get for MediaWorks. We caught up with NBCUniversal’s Australia and New Zealand head (and former Prime TV boss), Chris Taylor, to chat about what the partnership means.  

What makes MediaWorks and the New Zealand market a good bet for NBCUniversal?

Suffice to say, the opportunity was reasonably unique—in the sense that we have an opportunity in partnering with MediaWorks to jump onto a pre-existing national free-to-air channel. In scoping out the opportunity, what I was looking for in the first instance, and what NBCUniversal was looking for in the first instance, was to take the Bravo brand and the content and find a path to market. And then looking at all the opportunities, this was indeed a very, very good one.

What laid the foundation of our desire to bring Bravo to market is the fact that this content and this brand has done very, very well regionally in Australia and it wasn’t being exploited in the New Zealand market anywhere near to the [same]extent. It’s a genre that is extraordinarily popular with very, very high engagement in all the markets it operates and obviously particularly in the United States where it’s been very successful — and that bodes well for advertisers. It’s been a very well thought through and deliberate plan to bring Bravo to market, and the opportunity to jump onto a channel that is part of the selection set of viewers in the country already is a really great and unique opportunity.

Speaking of free-to-air, this is the first such partnership globally and the first new free-to-air channel that NBCU has launched outside of the US. So why did that make sense?

Look, I think in this day and age it’s less about free or cable or XVOD or branded, on-demand, whatever it might be. Ultimately you have brands and you have content and you’ve got to establish what you think is the most appropriate commercial path to market. In this instance we believe, in this market, that this is an opportunity that was the right one for us.

How do you think Bravo will succeed where Four struggled?

My observation would be – and I’ve run Prime Television in New Zealand before, so I know what it’s like to be a broad, general entertainment channel of the smaller variety up against One, Two and 3. What I would say is that, if all you’re doing is providing another version but without any point of differentiation, then it’s always going to be difficult to deliver an audience and turn in a commercially profitable business.

We have a very unique and deliberate niche that we’re going after. I’m calling it a niche but we think it’s obviously going to deliver a good audience, because people will know precisely what they’re going to get when they get there. This is a very loyal, very passionate and very engaged audience and it does hit demographics in the household shoppers that is particularly fertile for advertisers.

Viewers haven’t reached reality television saturation yet?

No. Unscripted reality programming is increasing in terms of total volume hours around the world. And if you take a look at who produces unscripted reality, Bravo is very much at the pinnacle of it.

This isn’t just about throwing a bunch of reality content on TV and hoping for the best. This is genuinely some of the most recognised markets in the world that are synonymous with this genre. They’re brands that people know and have done well in territories around the world.

New Zealand is about to get its very own Real Housewives franchise, thanks to Bravo. How have other regionalised versions performed in similar markets in Australia?

Very, very well. It’s not an inconsequential undertaking to produce something locally, particularly something like this that needs to deliver to a global standard, not just a local standard. But such has been the success of these shows – and again you only need to cast your eye over to Australia and the success of [Real Housewives of] Melbourne, which has spawned what looks to be a Sydney version. It’s a big franchise and from what I know of the Auckland version, it certainly won’t disappoint.

It’ll look like a Bravo TV show?

Let me make this really clear, this programme is produced to the same standard as any of the Housewives franchises that you know. This will look every bit as glamorous as Beverly Hills, Orange County, as all of the Housewives

  • This interview is part of a content partnership between StopPress and NBC Universal. 

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