An engaging business

Bravo’s Hsia discusses how the network uses new media

Q: What has changed since you first came to Bravo nearly three years ago?

A: When I arrived, the Web site was primarily a marketing vehicle. There was no other platform or digital exten­sion at all. There was a turning point where we suddenly realized a need to get into more places, more often. When Project Runway was in its second season we decided to ask viewers who they thought should win. Hundreds of thousands of people responded. That gave me the hint.

Q: What strategy does Bravo take with emerging technology?

A: The way I look at it, we’re not only an entertainment company, we’re in the engagement business. We’re increasingly having success monetizing engagement. For the Project Runway mobile fan club, we had 92% participation while normal engagement is 1%–2%. We also did vot­ing with cable remotes [for Top Chef] with Time Warner and Dish Network. With Time Warner, we had 26% participation. In the beginning it was just an experi­ment. Now, sponsors come on board because they want the engagement our users have. We also want to engage users on wireless, video game consoles and through downloading. Online drives the biggest volume, but wireless is getting there. You can’t begin to measure the value of games and downloads.

Q: How does this engagement add value for advertisers?

A: With Bravo’s Info Frame [an interactive panel allowing viewers to participate in polls, games and chats during programming], the consumer is interacting during the program as well as during the commercials themselves. The advertisers can also interact and, presumably, if they’re engaging during the program, they’re going to engage during advertisements.

Q: What is the role of blogs written by the stars of programs?

A: Blogs are one of the most popular parts of our site. I think the fans are passionate about the content and the night of or day after watching Top Chef they really want to know, “what did Tom Colicchio think?” Blogs add a third dimension to the experience. It’s a way of understanding the programming to see that the content goes way beyond the program itself.

Q: Why has Bravo been so successful with new media?

A: We experimented in the space — that’s half the battle. Also, Bravo’s audience tends to be extremely passionate and affluent, engaged and tech-savvy; they want to try new things. Finally, the content — shows in which contestants are eliminated every week — creates water cooler buzz. With our mobile fan club, we were pushing users with content and they were answering even when we weren’t asking them questions. The more we ask them, the more they want to respond.

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