The Real Nets of NBCU

Despite boasting some of the beefiest CPMs on the cable dial, NBC Universal’s Bravo continues to grow at a feverish clip, bolstered by zeitgeist-defining fare like Top Chef and The Real Housewives of New Jersey. Last June, the latter program gave the world the gift of the spirited, (if not wholly redundant) epithet “prostitution whore,” an assessment that birthed a catch phrase and a viral video sensation.
Such moments helped Bravo grab a record 3.47 million viewers for Jersey’s season finale, and reinforced the network’s bona fides as TV’s fizziest confection. In keeping with its heightened status, Bravo boosted its 2010-11 upfront take by 30 percent versus a year ago, leading all NBCU properties on a percentile basis.
Through the first eight episodes of Jersey season two, Bravo is averaging 2.4 million viewers, up 11 percent over the year-ago 2.17 million. Returning favorites like Top Chef are still going strong, and new series Bethenny Getting Married? on June 10 set a high water mark for a premiere, delivering 2.1 million viewers.
Bravo continues to educate clients on the glories of its target demo. The network has become a reliable vehicle by which to reach the influential, acquisitive female consumer, ranking fifth among women 18-49 in Q2 ’10 with an average draw of 361,000 in prime, up 13 percent year-over-year.
“The ratings growth is absolutely great, but beyond that, there are qualitative factors about who our audience is and how powerful they’ve remained as a consumer segment, even in the midst of the recession,” said Susan Malfa, svp, ad sales, Bravo Media and Oxygen Media. “We had all sorts of money show up this year.”
The same applies to little sister Oxygen, which now reaches 76 million homes and has carved out a niche for itself among the top 25 nets serving women 18-49. Oxygen lifted its upfront commitments by 20 percent on a dollar-volume basis, as auto, CPG and movie business improved markedly.
Oxygen in Q2 grew its core demo deliveries by 6 percent, but the net may have some ground to cover if it hopes to enjoy similar gains in the current quarter. New series Jersey Couture failed to catch fire, averaging 335,000 viewers in its first four episodes, while season two of the ’09 hit Dance Your Ass Off stumbled, averaging 624,000 viewers, well shy of the 1 million it delivered last summer.
“Oxygen still has a lot of room to grow,” said one national TV buyer. “Their viewers are young and like to spend money, and our clients obviously like that. They’re really making strides with digital and the price is right, so we’re happy with what we’re seeing.”
The net also raised its Q rating with its acquisition of the off-net rights to Glee, picking up the Fox musical comedy for some $500,000 per episode. Per terms of the package, Oxygen is developing a companion series that will allow fans a shot at a guest stint on Glee. Malfa said she hasn’t cut any deals for the new property, although the branded entertainment unit has been fielding some inquiries.
“It’s a high-profile show, and that will attract major sponsor alignments,” Malfa said. “It’s a great moment for us. People are coming up for air again, and we’re going to do a lot of innovative things with the show.”