Big BravoCon Throng Shows Ways To Keep Cable Networks Vital

Crowd at Panel at Bravocon 2022
A crowded panel at BravoCon, held at New York’s Javits Convention Center. (Image credit: Eugene Gologursky/Bravo)

The 30,000 fans who waited in line to attend BravoCon this month showed that there's still life in at least some cable networks.

With cord-cutting eroding cable subscribers and media companies shifting spending to programming to their streaming properties, cable's share of viewing dropped to just 33.8% in September, according to Nielsen. But there are still some pockets of enthusiasm in what remains of the cable landscape beyond live sports and news.

Looking at the traditional figures from Nielsen, Bravo viewing was down 13%, pretty typical for cable networks without sports.

But using other metrics, NBCUniversal said Bravo is having a big year.

NBCU has given Bravo a showcase on its Peacock streaming service. Episodes of Bravo shows have been available on Peacock the day after the premiere on cable since May. Previously, they'd been on Hulu.

Now Bravo is on track to have its best year ever for on-demand and streaming viewership. Nearly 1 billion episodes have already been viewed this year, up 63% from last year.

Bravo is endorsing its status as a multi-stream platform by making original content that streams on Peacock, including The Real Housewives: Ultimate Girls Trip, Below Deck Down Under, The Real Housewives of Miami, Top Chef Family Style, Ex-Rated with Andy Cohen and Vanderpump Dogs.

Bravo is also big in social media with 1.3 million followers on Twitter, 2.1 million on Instagram and 517,900 followers with 10.5 million likes on TikTok.

Among cable networks, Bravo has more than half of the top 20 reality shows among adults 18-49, led by Below Deck at No. 2.

“Peacock is drawing in a whole new universe of Bravo fans, so we’re bringing in new unduplicated audiences to Bravo,” Laura Molen, president of NBCU Advertising Sales and Partnerships, told Broadcasting+Cable.

“There's just a huge Universe for Bravo and Bravolebrities,“ Molen said. ”The audience seems to be continuing to grow. It is probably the strongest brand on cable and a brand that has absolutely been able to transcend all mediums and just keep its vibrance alive.”

Molen said Bravo has leaned into its fandom and into the multiplatform TV world by putting content everywhere — cable, streaming and social.  “It’s really been paying off for the brand and for Bravo-holics everywhere,” she said.

Bravo and BravoCon 2022 also paid off in terms of sponsorships.

Kyle Richards of 'Real Housewives of Beverly Hills' at Lay's Golden Hour during Bravocon

Kyle Richards at Lay’s Golden Hour during BravoCon. (Image credit: Photo by: Bryan Bedder/Bravo)

At NBCU’s upfront event at Radio City Music Hall in May, a musical number about BravoCon was a showstopper.

“We are so confident from the results we saw the first time we did it on a small scale in 2019, we were blowing it out big,” Molen said. “Every single one of us that is associated with BravoCon knows the power of this brand and how it can work for marketers.”

Tickets for BravoCon disappeared in a flash, even with three times the number of tickets being sold compared to 2019.

BravoCon drove five times more revenue than in 2019. It quadrupled the number of sponsors. NBCU created nine custom on-site activations for sponsors.

NBCU also expanded BravoCon’s on-site and virtual e-commerce business, with four times as many Bravo-related products being made available.

Bud Light Seltzer, Lay’s and State Farm were presenting sponsors of BravoCon. Other sponsors include Allē, Bubly, Chase Sapphire, Chevrolet, Hilton, Infiniti, Natural Diamond Council, Orbit gum, Pepsi, Pure Leaf Iced Tea, Shark Beauty, TRESemmé, Ulta Beauty, ViiV Healthcare, Wendy’s and Yoplait.

Some sponsors had special on-site activations, such as Lay’s, which offered fans snacks made from recipes created by some of The Real Housewives. Chase Sapphire emphasized its ability to bring its members unique experiences by sponsoring a VIP lounge.

“This may be the most sponsored square footage the Javits Center has ever seen,” Molen said. “It’s a marketer’s dream come true and to have the opportunity to lead our team to work with marketers in this way has been a highlight of my career.”

All of the sponsorships were boosted by NBCU’s ad platform and technologies, which found Bravo-related content on all NBCU broadcast, cable, digital and social outlets.

Gay Shark with Bud Light Seltzer at Bravocon

Bravo’s Gay Shark with sponsor Bud Light Seltzer at Bravocon.  (Image credit: Charles Sykes/Bravo)

“ComScore told us that 90% of the social conversation is around media, entertainment and sports and Bravo is one of the most social channels,” Molen said. “We have millions of followers and the Bravolebrities have hundreds of millions of followers. 

“When you put together the live activations with social, it amplified it even more because you’re giving access to those who weren’t able to attend BravoCon and you’re giving marketers to those fans who may not be able to be at BravoCon,“ she continued. “It helps advertisers to really modernize how they’re buying sponsorships today.”

The NBCU unified platform helps those advertisers follow their consumers. The company is working with research company Activate Me to make sure sponsors get the best bang for their buck. Some advertisers are also doing couponing.

NBCU’s next big live event will be the People’s Choice Awards, which NBCU purchased in 2017. Advertisers will be able to sponsor everything from red carpet opportunities to live performances to Twitter look-ins. “And again, we customize each activation to meet a marketer's objective,” Molen said.

NBCU is already starting to talk about next year’s BravoCon. “It’s our Super Bowl,“ Molen said. ”And if you’ve ever been to a Super Bowl weekend, you usually have no voice by the end of Sunday because you’ve been having so much fun.” ■

Jon Lafayette

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.