Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Bravo Just Doesn't Understand...

I don't understand Bravo.

When the network first launched, it was simply a division of Rainbow Media and known to be the Ovation TV of its day: it featured programming that tried to be higher brow that what you might find on one of the "for everybody" non-cable networks, and therefore its audience was pretty small. In 2001, though, NBC acquired part of Bravo, and due to the testing and success of Inside the Actor's Studio, they saw a goldmine and bought the whole thing the following year. Under new management, so to speak, Bravo really took off in the reality television arena, starting with their breakout makeover hit Queer Eye for the Straight Guy and following suit just in time for the big surge in the medium with competition programming for all of the finer arts, such as fashion (Project Runway), fine dining (Top Chef), and even real estate/interior design (Flipping Out, Top Design, Million Dollar Listing). However, the demand for those pseudo-scripted reality shows proved to great to be ignored, and Bravo added The Real Housewives to their roster just two years ago. The first season, taking place in Orange County, was such a draw for the post-Laguna Beach demographic (those who were old enough not to want to revisit drama in a high school setting but who still thrived on the high school-like dramatic antics) that it spun off onto the east coast first with The Real Housewives of New York, and more recently, The Real Housewives of Atlanta.

Bravo may be owned by a giant (GE is the parent company to the NBC-Universal hybrid that controls the infant station), but its numbers are still not consistent enough for the channel to be winning timeslots, let alone whole nights. This leads me back to my original point of what I just don't understand: Bravo is still relatively new on the whole; some people who may be new to cable (transitioning because of the February 2009 deadline) or have recently switched providers probably can't even find the station on their hundreds-deep digital guide. Though Bravo runs ads like crazy for their original programming while you're already watching their station, they don't tend to cross-promote and advertise on other stations the way they allow others to buy their ad time. They don't tend to take out banner space on the internet, and they purchase very few print ads (and usually then it's only for their highest rated programming that you have already heard about for endless seasons, like Project Runway). Either they don't yet have the funds, or NBC-Uni is screwing around to try to keep them "down," but really that's neither here nor there right now. My point is this: unless you're already tuned into Bravo, you're not going to hear about one of their new shows, which basically means it's going to take longer for that new show to "find it's audience." Yet, Bravo's seasons are so short, virtually copying the "pull it before it sinks us" attitude of networks like Fox. The Real Housewives of Atlanta, for example, is coming to an abrupt season end next Tuesday simply to make room for the newest season of the original installment of the series. But this is not CSI: this is one spin-off that is actually much, much better than its original and deserves not only a fuller, longer season, but also a proper send-off when it is time for the lights to go out, even if only for a short hiatus. There have been no "Season Finale" banners on the promos for next week's episode; there have been no "make sure to tune in" special commercials. In fact, the only way you would know the show is ending after only seven episodes is because those O.C. housewives are taking the timeslot.

So I don't understand Bravo. I don't understand how they expect to get new viewers if they do not promote the kickass programming alternatives they provide. I don't understand how they expect to keep the viewers they do have if they prematurely truncate seasons of awesome shows for lackluster ones. And furthermore, though this may really be a diatribe for a whole other blog, I don't understand why they don't put full episodes of such shows up on their website, giving millions more pairs of eyes opportunity to stumble upon, and fall in love with, their programming.

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