VP, strategic program planning and scheduling,
Ever since the phenomenal success of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, Bravo has built a stable of successful original competition reality and docusoap programming around the same five Queer Eye themes: food, fashion, design, beauty and pop culture. From Project Runway and Top Chef to Real Housewives and Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List, the channel has continually reeled in increasing numbers of educated, affluent viewers keen to follow each story to its conclusion, often actively engaging through voting, online games and additional content.
‘The viewers are so engaged,’ says head of scheduling Jerry Leo. ‘We definitely have a wildly intensive fan base which is embracing another platform and on two screens at the same time. We’re very happy with those results.’
Having scheduled previously at VH1 and MTV, Leo outlines three tactics he’s used extensively at Bravo to build each cycle of a show into an event. First off, is stacking the entire run of the series before the latest episode airs at 10 p.m. ‘By the end of a Runway we have Runway on all day so you can catch every episode all day,’ says Leo. ‘We found that that really works for us.’
Leo rounds off all the stacking with a ‘double pump’ – showing the new episode twice. He’s adamant that rather than turning away viewers who have just watched the program, the double pump helps to strengthen the franchise. ‘The shows so far have been very addictive and wildly buzzy. So I think even the same audience is watching them back-to-back. And if you miss some of them you know you can come in.’
Competition is intense – there is so much in the marketplace. And we’re not just dealing with TV; we’re dealing with everything on every platform now, so you really have to create that moment. It’s not nearly so easy as it used to be
This intensive airtime for the program of the moment plays into Leo’s scheduling philosophy. ‘I’m from the school that you have to air a reality show many times – that the critical mass helps you create a moment. You have it on, people catch it, there’s a buzz factor, it builds more, it drives to other platforms,’ says Leo. ‘And then you let go. You rest it, and that moment is over. Bring it back here and there down the road, but for the most part it is just a very brief period of time where that reality show is an event.’
Leo’s third key strategy is making sure that as each event winds up, it hands off to a brand new show. The last series of Runway finished and handed straight into a double pump of Top Chef. ‘It gets this great platform; the finale always has a big number and hopefully it can drive those people into sampling this new show.’
Leo’s goal is to have each returning series surpass the one before, an aspiration he has so far achieved. He touts Kathy Griffin as a particular success, which in its third series gained both record ratings and an Emmy.
Leo’s plan now is to become ‘laser focused’ on the audience, to help figure out how far Bravo can take these formats. He says that at the same time the channel is doing ‘fantastic’ in the 25-to-54 demographic, it is definitely getting younger. Bravo is conducting heavy research into the habits of Gen Y, which he points out are extremely different from Gen X and baby boomers.