Bravo's On With the Show campaign aims to get kids interested in the theater and finds a way to get the brightest ones to New York and the bright lights of Broadway.

It started in 2001 when Bravo was still under Rainbow Media, explains Erica Conaty, vice president of marketing for NBC Universal Cable, which now owns the network. But the old program worked in reverse: It sent a handful of Broadway actors to a few states for two-day workshops.

Now Bravo cable has teamed up with 44 cable operators across 38 markets in 20 states for a contest for students ages 10-17. The first round required filling out a questionnaire and getting a teacher recommendation; the semifinal round required a 500-word essay about the importance of the theater. Bravo purposely avoided head shots and audition tapes. "We did not want this to be American Idol," Conaty says.

From 400 original entries, the 50 finalists were then brought to New York for three days of theater workshops that were led by some of the city's top talent. In the grand finale, they participated in a specially scripted performance using music from shows like West Side Story
and 42nd Street
at the Imperial Theater in front of an audience of 700 people.

Bravo also provided affiliates with tools to teach them about running fundraisers for local theater arts. The network also worked with Theater Works and Dodger Productions to offer theater tickets to affiliates so they could bring school children to see live theater. And Bravo provided PSAs that allowed local operators to promote local organizations and events. Conaty says the network received cross-channel promotions worth $2 million.

"It was a hit," she says. "We want to do it again next year."

Stuart Miller

Stuart Miller has been writing about television for 30 years since he first joined Variety as a staff writer. He has written about television for The New York Times, The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, The Guardian, The Boston Globe, Newsweek, Vulture and numerous other publications.