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The Future of Engaging with TV: Bravo Provides the Perfect Case Study

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Rachel J. Dreyfus

Bravo TV research leads, Eric Cavanaugh and Dave Kaplan, gave an encore presentation at the ARF’s series of “AM Plus” sessions on July 22.  It was the perfect case study for advertisers and others obsessed with understanding where the TV content experience is going.  It illustrates the benefits of leveraging all of TV programming’s flexibility, added content and opportunities for social interaction.

In the spirit of experimentation and providing new ways for fans to engage with favorite shows, Bravo went beyond uploading photos, bonus clips from existing episodes and parlor games, to producing a way for viewers to go deeper in following Top Chef.  How? Via Contestants who don’t spare the drama.  Yes, you know, the beloved cast-offs who, when eliminated, take to cursing, weeping, revealing egos and weaknesses and generally winning our empathy with their humanity.

Last Chance Kitchen original mobisodes consisted of 11-minute episodes that give the eliminated contestants a “last chance” to get back into the Top Chef as a finalist. It became the most-viewed digital series in NBCU history with over 8 million views across all platforms.  Offered on Video-On-Demand, online and mobile, Last Chance Kitchen succeeded in deepening fans’ relationship with Top Chef, provided cross-platform exposure of the sponsor, Toyota, and ultimately delivered hard measurements of the extent to which digital content can augment both engagement and reach for a brand.

Last Chance Kitchen episodes aired parallel to the Top Chef episodes. Strong cross-platform overlap resulted, with around 20% of Top Chef viewers using more than one platform to view.

For Toyota the benefits of sponsorship were numerous. Digital advertising lifted online reach 24% beyond TV.  It delivered more desirable consumer demos (and reached them more frequently), superior brand linkage for Prius and even drove customers closer to purchase (as measured by purchase consideration attitudes).

From a consumer experience perspective we get a window into what consumers want; to engage more deeply with quality content on their own terms, as we see from the combination of viewership and survey research:

  • Highest-rated Top Chef episode followed the finale of Last Chance Kitchen, implying that LCK boosted viewership of the main show
  • VOD drove up views of Last Chance Kitchen — Those who viewed Top Chef on demand were just as likely to discover the new content on cable TV as online (leading to more fans discovering)
  • Mobile provided immediacy of viewing Last Chance Kitchen (sustaining the fans’ excitement and the show’s momentum between episodes)
  • Surveys corroborating that Last Chance Kitchen made Top Chef more enjoyable for fans

This kind of digital content is probably costly and takes talent and resources, for networks. Ultimately if it provided return on investment and deepened loyalty of Bravo viewers, it leads to competitive advantage. Let’s keep the quality up, Networks, more please!

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