Bravo’s The Real Housewives franchise transforms the reality of reality tv    April 3, 2017

Love them or hate them, The Real Housewives franchise is undeniably in your face.  The franchise which originated with producer/host/personality/media guru Andy Cohen, has been unapologetically sashaying its way into living rooms globally since 2005. Viewers are provided with the opportunity to peek behind the curtains and gates and business women from Beverly Hills, Orange County, and most recently Toronto (!). What we see is not always funny – it can be emotional, heartbreaking, or downright embarrassing. But no matter the situation, viewership continues to embrace the popular television series, which has led Bravo TV to create more and more methods for their viewers to engage and consume programming content. Bravo has taken a dynamic approach to consumer engagement, including generating dynamic social media strategies to a continually thirsty audience. Bravo’s whole enterprise social media formula is nothing more than a well-devised strategic assault on the senses – and it’s bloody genius.

Let’s start from the very beginning. At it’s heart, we have a series of programs located (most often) in glamorous parts of the United States (although Canada, Greece and Australia are just a few of the countries that have also been blessed with franchises). On a weekly basis, we watch with rapt attention at the glamorous lives of the 1% – how do they spend their time? Who is buying Chanel this week? When will the next fight take place?  Within the weekly one hour timeslot, we receive 41-45 minutes of juicy content. Like most television programs, Bravo could stop there and leave their audience wanting more. But what Bravo has been able to do is capitalize on their audience’s desire to continue the conversation by making reality tv a true reality. Beyond the engaging characters (she said WHAT??!!), gorgeous scenery (each season has a fabulous group vacation thrown in), and the tawdry drama, one of the most successful departures that The Real Housewives has made is the ability for viewers at home to interact and engage with real television personalities.

When interviewed by Jeremy Liew, Cohen highlighted the fact that this success is down to respecting the customer, above all else. “The people will decide, and watching what the people decide and how they decide is far more important than the decision itself.”  When making moves to continue to drive the rise of the blossoming franchise, Cohen relies on the audience. As the franchise began to widen, the audience outreach vastly increased. The normal channels were used – Twitter, Facebook, Instagram – in order to ensure that each franchise had a voice. To ensure that each housewife could showcase her individuality, blogs became the norm. Then came the Real Housewives Social Edition, introduced in 2012.  The Social Editions allow viewers to watch the season premieres, generate conversation on social media, then have the best comments show on the repeated and syndicated episodes, thus allowing Bravo to capitalize twice on viewer engagement. “We initiated Social Editions because it seemed like an obvious extension of our brand for our highly engaged audience,” said Jerry Leo, EVP of Program Strategy & Production for Bravo. “Viewers’ intense passion for Bravo shows is widely known and evident in their countless tweets and Facebook posts. This gives them a new reason for watching their favorite shows a second time around.” These social editions continue to be popular today across the series.

Lessons for Others

Why does all of this matter? Let’s be real: we live in an age of reality tv and continually evolving social media channels. Love it or hate it, this is where we are. Where once an organization could work laterally in terms of content they provided to the marketplace (ie: a television show and it’s personalities should be present only during their chosen timeslot), no longer will that bring sufficient consumer engagement. What Bravo has done over the years with The Real Housewives franchise has evolved the impact of social media and how viewers (Bravo TV’s customers) are able to consume content, engage with their television personalities, and have their voices heard by the network. Instead of passive commentary and reactive conversation, viewers are now at the forefront of discussions.  Putting the power into the hands of the consumer, in this manner, is something that makes the engagement feel personalized and tailored to the individual. That feeling of uniqueness and sense of contribution that will allow Bravo and The Real Housewives franchises to continue to bloom over time. What we are seeing is truly innovative thinking that puts the consumer at the forefront and allows the organization’s brand to grow across audiences. Bravo is using APIs and other social media metrics to track success. But most importantly, they are working with and listening to their viewers – as they are the heart of the organization’s success. That key insight is what is helping Bravo to maintain a secure and loyal brand following. And that is a formula that can make success a reality.

Organization: Real Housewives
Industry: Television
Name of Organization Contact: Andy Cohen, Talk show, radio host, author, producer

Authored by: Donna Alexander

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