Bravo Fashions Mobile, Interactive 'Runway’ Fare

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Mobile and interactive content will come into fashion this week as the latest season of Bravo’s hit series Project Runway debuts.

The show, hosted by supermodel Heidi Klum, has 15 wannabe fashion designers vying for the opportunity to win a runway show during New York’s Fashion Week. In its third season, Project Runway will add interactive accessories, including Short Message Service (SMS) content sent to viewers’ mobile phones and an “Adopt a Character” interactive offering.

With the season debut July 12 at 10 p.m., viewers can receive three text messages per week, timed to send as each episode airs. The messages are composed by the contestants themselves, providing gossip and personal thoughts about the competition.

CHARACTER ADOPTION

The Adopt a Character promotion is set to begin during the fifth episode, debuting Aug. 9. For an added fee of $1.99 per month during the remaining two months of the series, fans will be able to choose their favorite contestant and receive three SMS messages per installment from that contestant. Sprint Nextel or Cingular Wireless customers also will be able to receive two downloads — one, a wallpaper image of the contestant and the other an exclusive ring tone featuring the contestant’s voice.

“It’s really a personal expression,” said Lisa Hsia, Bravo’s senior vice president of new media.

If the contestant is eliminated, the viewer won’t receive any more SMS messages. But they still can get the two downloads, or adopt another character.

Viewers who adopt contestants that make it to the final round of the design competition will get a Project Runway winners’ download.

A custom Web site built for mobile-phone displays has also been set up to offer added content surrounding the series, including exclusive photos taken by the contestants, interviews and fashion opinions. Mobile users will be able to tap that Web site by text-messaging Bravo, which will send back a link to the site.

“All of this is totally new, and it’s actually fun,” Hsia said. “We’ll see how people play along, and I think if there’s any show that this is going to be a success with, it’s Project Runway.”

BEYOND TV

All of these elements are part of Bravo’s strategy to expand its programming beyond the TV. For the past six months, Bravo has been increasing its online and mobile activities, and there are signs the viewers are responding, according to Hsia.

As evidence, she points to an interactive campaign surrounding Top Chef, offering Time Warner Cable customers the opportunity to answer questions about the show using their digital cable remote. When it began, only 4% or 5% of the viewers responded, but by the end of the series that ratio had risen to 30%.

Hsia said “research increasingly showing that people like to do multiscreen — people are watching online while they are watching TV,” Hsia said. “So we really want to tap into that and give the Bravo viewer an added interactive experience.”

Going forward, look for Bravo to stage mobile and Internet extensions for all of its original series, Hsia said. Next up: providing multimedia messaging service offerings, sending video clips to mobile phones.

“What we hope to do is grow a revenue stream and have increased sponsorship,” Hsia said, adding that Bravo content also is now available on Apple Computer Inc.’s iTunes content service. “We look at where there is an electronic sell-through, interactivity, SMS, a wireless component — all of that is going to be part of the experience of all shows going forward.”

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