Lauren Zalaznick, who last month added president of Oxygen Media to her duties as president of Bravo Media at NBC Universal, held a town hall meeting with Oxygen’s entire staff Wednesday.
Earlier in the week, NBCU’s integration team had cut 25% of the people working at the women’s network, and those still employed were eager to hear about their new boss’s plans.
When the question-and-answer session started, Ms. Zalaznick improvised a unique personal touch. After answering someone’s question, she would ask one back, such as, “What’s your favorite TV show?” or, “When was the last time you bought a pair of shoes?” or, “What was the first concert you went to?” It broke the ice and lessened the anxiety.
Bravo’s audience is about 60% women, which is why NBCU believes Oxygen makes a good fit with it.
Under Ms. Zalaznick, Bravo is on track to record its best year ever in prime-time ratings for both the 18 to 49 demographic and total viewers. Even more impressive, the network was on that pace even before its signature series “Project Runway” returned to the air Nov. 14 for its fourth season.
Bravo boasted its highest-rated quarter ever in the third quarter in prime time for viewers 18 to 49, marking the network’s eighth consecutive quarter of year-over-year growth in that all-important demographic.
The network said it counts 11 telecasts that have hit more than 1 million viewers at least once, including the shows “Top Chef,” “Real Housewives of Orange County” and “Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List.” Emmy-nominated “Top Chef” was the top-rated food show on all of cable this year, beating the Food Network, Bravo said.
The number of Web viewers also has risen. The quintet of Web sites that make up Bravo Digital—BravoTV.com, GetTrio.com, BrilliantButcanceled.com, Outzonetv.com and TelevisionWithoutPity.com—grew monthly page views in November by nearly 400%, to 89.6 million up from 18.4 million a year ago. In addition, monthly unique visitors rose 204% to 3 million from 988,000 a year ago, with video steams doubling to 1.7 million.
TelevisionWeek contributing writer Daisy Whitney spoke with Lauren Zalaznick, president of Bravo Media, about Bravo’s current trajectory, the importance of a broad digital strategy for any network, and the progress made and still to be made for women in the television business.
TelevisionWeek: Give an example of your digital strategy.
Lauren Zalaznick: For Bravo content, it means taking [“Top Chef” head judge] Tom Colicchio’s expertise, moving from the TV shows, yes, to the Web site, but it’s also about going incredibly deep with his blog or his Q&A with all the judges. Or we have blogs from contestants who win or were booted the night before. Or it’s having [Bravo Senior VP of Programming and Production] Andy Cohen’s half-hour live broadband show that Tom Colicchio is on, to Tom being involved in our first ever “Top Chef” cookbook, to signing “Top Chef” talent to our management company.
With that kind of extension of the “Top Chef” brand, TV remains at our core, but everyone here is imbued with the idea of delivering that content for people where they want it. From a business perspective, we were organized to capitalize on emerging marketplace trends. Our value comes from super-serving a niche of passionate consumers.
TVWeek: Are we at the point where digital extensions can make or break a network?
Ms. Zalaznick: I believe that’s the case. It’s like any development in the television industry: There is this individual point where the consumer has to get on board and technology is running at such a faster run rate, and it seems more foolhardy to cling to a history that is no longer viable. It’s like smoking or not wearing a seat belt—they’re not cool anymore. You can’t not understand the Internet.