Bravo’s Viral ‘Project’

Dec 12, 2005  •  Post A Comment

Last week’s partnership between Bravo and social networking Web site MySpace.com to market the launch of the second season of “Project Runway” resulted in tripled traffic to Bravo’s Web site in the first three days of the promotion, the cable network said.

MySpace.com offered 10 minutes of the show’s premiere episode on its site in advance of the Dec. 7 on-air premiere on Bravo. While MySpace would not reveal usage numbers, Bravo said traffic to its Web site spiked to 3 million page views from the clip’s Dec. 3 debut through Dec. 5. What’s more, the top referring site for Bravotv.com during that time was MySpace.

The traffic figures compare with 1.1 million page views on Bravotv.com during the same time last year, also immediately before the start of the first season of the fashion reality show. While other factors contributed to the Web site traffic bump, including the expected growth in popularity of the show in its sophomore run, Bravo attributes a large portion of the increase to the MySpace promotion, an early indication of the potential for viral marketing and buzz to drive a show.

“Cable shows live and die on buzz. We believe this is a great buzz generator for the show,” said Jason Klarman, senior VP of marketing for Bravo.

The MySpace deal served as one of the principal ingredients in a broader marketing campaign for the show, and also the first deal for Bravo to deliver video content online on a networking service such as MySpace, which was purchased by News Corp. this summer, rather than via a video portal such as AOL. MySpace is built on the premise of viral marketing and word of mouth and has 40 million users each month.

Earlier this year Bravo premiered both “Queer Eye for the Straight Girl” and “Project Greenlight” as on-air/online simulcasts on AOL and the network itself. While AOL has been on the cutting edge of broadband delivery of content this year by offering online reality series and with its plan to launch a broadband network of old TV shows, the MySpace partnership speaks to the need for networks to find the next cutting-edge service for online distribution of video.

“MySpace is the right partner for ‘Project Runway,'” Mr. Klarman said. “It’s a young-skewing show. … It will appeal to people who want to be trendsetters, who want to be in the know.”

MySpace allows members to build pages with profiles, photos, music videos and other content. They then invite friends to join. As of Dec. 5, more than 5,600 MySpace members had added the “Project Runway” video to their own pages on the site, compared with more than 4,700 who had linked video from Fox’s “Kitchen Confidential” to their pages-and video from that show has been available since Nov. 7.

This word-of-mouth marketing strategy seems good for “Project Runway,” which built a following last year largely through word of mouth. From the premiere airing of the first episode in December 2004 through the season finale in February 2005, the show rose 414 percent in household viewing and 500 percent in adults 18 to 49, according to Nielsen numbers provided by Bravo. Each of the weekly episode premieres averaged more than 1.3 million viewers over the three-month run.

Bravo hopes to capture that kind of growth again this year by “seeding” the show in front of a fresh crop of potential Bravo viewers on MySpace. As many as 150,000 new members sign up on MySpace each day, representing 4 million new members per month. Unique user visits have risen from 1.85 million in September 2004 to 24 million per month. What’s more, the site is used heavily by artists, graphic designers and bands, suggesting “Project Runway’s” focus on emerging creative talent should fit well, said Jamie Kantrowitz, VP of marketing for MySpace.

MySpace has partnered with TV networks twice before. In March it offered video of the premiere of NBC’s “The Office” and last month showed an episode of “Kitchen Confidential” that had not been seen on Fox.

Other networks have tried their hand at viral marketing. Earlier this year SoapNet relied on a handful of viral marketing tactics to promote the second season of its reality hit “I Wanna Be a Soapstar.”