Channeling the Customer
Bravo crosses channels with customers
About two years ago, commencing with the ninth season of its hit reality TV cooking contest Top Chef, the NBCUniversal-owned cable network Bravo Media LLC initiated what its Digital Media EVP Lisa Hsia describes as its “first foray into transmedia storytelling.” The “experiment,” in Hsia's words, resulted in the supplementary Web series Last Chance Kitchen, through which banished Top Chef contestants could compete for a chance to return to the main television show. During the Web series' second season, chef Kristen Kish won Last Chance Kitchen, returned to Top Chef, and won the final contest. For viewers, what was once a supplementary Web series became an integral subplot within the Top Chef narrative.
“Bravo has a long history of multiplatform engagement,” says David Kaplan, VP of Bravo ad sales research at NBCUniversal. He points out that Bravo viewers are 32% more likely than the general population to own tablets and 18% more likely to own smartphones. Bravo pays close attention to the way its audience watches its shows on these different formats. Hsia points out that in season nine, for instance, there were eight million video views of Last Chance Kitchen across its Web, mobile, and video-on-demand channels. The recently ended season 10 saw an overall increase of 14% in viewership, much of it driven by a 56% mobile increase. “Some of the content is tailored to a particular screen,” Hsia says, pointing out that Bravo's mobile content is usually shorter. She adds that the second screen works to enhance interactivity—pushing out polls, synced content, and interactive commercials. “It's important that we have a strong multiscreen presence from the brand perspective and to increase our reach and discoverability,” she says.
But with that multiscreen presence—and as once-optional Web content becomes increasingly important to on-air shows—Bravo needs metrics to better understand how its consumers move from channel to channel—and why. This is, Hsia admits, a bit of a sticking point from a technical perspective. “We still face challenges tracking fans across platforms,” she says. “I'd like to know if fans click on a Facebook link, which takes them to a piece of content on our website—where do they go after that? How can I more effectively get them to consume more content? And what are the most important drivers to get fans to cross platforms in our transmedia storytelling experiences?”
Another area she'd like more insight into is tracking across some of the newer video channels. The cable channel can easily track Web audiences, TV audiences, and audiences who watch on both TV and Web; but tracking those audiences who view content on the mobile Web or on tablet apps is still difficult. “Currently, robust single-source behavioral measurement across touchpoints is not readily available,” Hsia says. “And so, marketers are challenged to accurately understand their multiscreen footprint.”
However, Bravo continues to experiment and test. Despite some limitations in measuring across channels, Hsia knows Bravo's audience is highly engaged across multiple channels, which is why the network continues to study and harness that passion. This is exemplified best in Bravo's “social editions”—reruns overlaid with social posts that were made during the episode's premiere. Bravo research found that these social-infused reruns add a 41% lift in social activity the week after a social edition airs, and a 34% lift the week after. “So, we've found fan recognition like this actually deepens fan engagement and increases multichannel participation,” Hsia says.
With so many channels to choose from, it's easy for marketers to design campaigns around the channels, rather than around their top priority: the customer, says Ashley Johnston, SVP of global marketing at Experian Marketing Services.
She says that traditional brick-and-mortar companies are now “retrofitting” and are prone to designing for a channel compared to their online counterparts. And while data shines light on high-value customers, it's important to not let other high-potential customers' desires and preferences fall into the shadows. So let data be a study guide, just not a final answer.