Q&A: Bravo’s Zalaznick on Bravo’s Future

Dec 9, 2007  •  Post A Comment

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, BrilliantButCancelled.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.
TVWeek: How much of your overarching digital strategy is driving the on-air success of the network?
Ms. Zalaznick: Great content drives our great ratings success. In such a competitive, crowded, ratings-challenged landscape I don’t think we’d have the ratings success we have if not for all of these ancillary extensions. The percent of resources, energy, creativity devoted to our traditional on-air development for content—while clearly 90% of our business drives us on a revenue basis, or maybe more—in terms of energy, more energy goes toward extensions. It’s probably flipped. If you took a poll of my direct reports and said forget your top line and your bottom line, in your day, what percent of the time you spend is on non-core TV things, they are going to give you a shockingly high percentage.
TVWeek: Is this a good thing?
Ms. Zalaznick: Yes, because we are poised to embrace the new marketplace and not be left in the analog ghetto.
TVWeek: How do you view programming to women on Bravo?
Ms. Zalaznick: We don’t target women first. Our slices tend to be upscale, educated, any top-30 city with a metro mind-set. We have developed around these content affinity groups, and they are food, fashion, design, beauty and pop culture. … Consumers want to be like someone on a Bravo show and they want to experience the world of those characters on the Bravo show, and that’s different than other lifestyle shows. When we examine relationships, it’s not from a place of pain and core dysfunction. There is pathos and emotion, and highs and lows, but it comes from a place of life where there is a lot to enjoy. We show money problems and relationship problems, but you can get a lot of that in other places. So we attract women viewers, but it’s just by being who we are. We don’t need to find them. We have a voice, we have a tone, we also think certain things are better and worse and there is such a thing as good and bad taste and high and low quality.
TVWeek: If you are a content company trying to reach women, what are the unique hurdles in doing that?
Ms. Zalaznick: I love demographics and relish them, and I love hard and fast research as it’s presented to me. That said, let’s say 70% of a male audience will do something before the female audience. But I don’t honestly need 80 million women to go do something to make my business endeavors a success. I need the women who want to come along to Bravo to watch something and try something else to make it a success.
TVWeek: Are female Bravo viewers tapped into new technology?
Ms. Zalaznick: An astonishing percentage of people who watch my shows also go to my Web sites, and as a female-leaning network—in the 60% range—if they are going to the Web site in those percentages, then we are drawing women.
TVWeek: What is the takeaway from that?
Ms. Zalaznick: Women are loyal and they come back and back, and the big female-centric Web sites bear that out. If we are around 60% female on-air and have a big Web presence and huge interactive take rates, you have to believe it’s not the male 40% of my viewership that is driving 80% to 90% of my alternative consumption. I think smart people, affluent and educated people in general, can afford to buy the devices to link their alternative content experience. They have faster connections, DVRs sooner, they can read and they are happy to read the blogs, and they can type and write and they take information and skew it back in the form of reader posts. This all goes along with the Bravo demo.
TVWeek: Are you saying you don’t have to overthink reaching women because that’s the sweet spot of your brand?
Ms. Zalaznick: Exactly. When people ask me about diversity on Bravo, we are diverse—and proof of that is we have tremendously diverse casts, people of color, foreign-born, gay, [varied] age and gender. Do we set out to get these digital folks and approach the problem of women in technology? My answer is we don’t impose our agenda on the world and program to it. It’s just the world as we see it, and naturally and organically we reflect that in all of our choices.
TVWeek: Can you grade the state of women in TV?
Ms. Zalaznick: That’s very tough. In general I think the industry has tons of work to do in all aspects of minority representation for people who are no longer the minority. If you have business, law school and medical school [graduation] rates for people of diversity, why don’t we see those same rates in management and chief surgeons and chief operating officers? That said, there are more opportunities to advance up to a certain level that didn’t exist five to 10 years ago. I like best of all to not assume someone’s expertise in the job function is defined by being a woman or person of color.
TVWeek: How do you get that message across as an executive?
Ms. Zalaznick: It would never occur to me that a person would not know what to do. It’s just a mind-set to say this is possible, and I am very tough with HR in terms of recruiting. I encourage my executives to not just say they have seen enough candidates if they haven’t met the right candidate. A mediocre three candidates is not good no matter which gender they inhabit. We have an explicit push to demonstrate diversity in recruiting. You do it and your business will be better for it.


  1. High quality info here! Keep up the great work. I love the feelings being expressed.

  2. I love your blog.. very nice colors & theme. Did you create this website yourself or did you hire someone to do it for you? Plz reply back as I’m looking to create my own blog and would like to know wheere u got this from. thanks

  3. Nice blog here! Also your website loads up fast! What host are you using? I wish my website loaded up as fast as yours lol

  4. Kudos to you! This is a really good blog here and I love your style of writing. How did you get so good at blogging?

Your Comment

Email (will not be published)