Bravo's Original Prerogative

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New York — As part of its most ambitious development slate yet, Bravo plans a busy summer featuring six new series, fresh installments of returning shows and several specials.

Bravo president Lauren Zalaznick, speaking at an upfront presentation for the press here last Tuesday, said the network's original programming continues to grow by 25% per year.

For the next 18 months, Bravo has over 30 new series and specials in development or in various stages of production, she said.

First up on the new series beat is Sports Kids Moms & Dads, an eight-parter, debuting June 1 at 10 p.m., that will follow the struggles and conflicts of families whose children strive to excel in the “win-at-all-costs” world of sports.

Unscripted Commitment

Cinema verite is the order of the day for eight half-hour episodes of Being Bobby Brown, following the life of the Grammy winner, his wife Whitney Houston and their family. It begins June 30 at 10 p.m.

On July 27 at 10 p.m., Bravo rolls out Kathy Griffin: My Life of the D-List. The six one-hour episodes follow the comedienne, the “peeps in her world,” her public appearances and her stand-up act. The series will benefit from her second one-hour Bravo special, Kathy Griffin Is … Not Nicole Kidman, set to air immediately before the series' debut.

In August, Bravo will air unveil three series. Situation: Comedy is in the Project Greenlight mold, with unknowns competing to pitch a show idea. Two will ultimately produce a pilot, both of which will be screened on the show's final episode.

Viewers will help decide the winner, who'll receive a contract with the William Morris Agency, a cash prize and the potential for a series pickup.

Taking a page from broadcast yesteryear, Bravo will have the likes of Survivor's Richard Hatch and Omarosa from The Apprentice competing in Battle of the Network Reality Stars.

Hidden Howie: The Private Life of a Public Nuisance will mix hidden camera reality with scripted comedy around Howie Mandel's gig filming segments for The Tonight Show.

Among returning series, the second season of salon series Blow Out, showcasing celebrity hairstylist Jonathan Antin, is slated to blow in on June 7 at 9 p.m. An hour later, Queer Eye for the Straight Guy's new season begins and perhaps will give new meaning to the phrase “Cowboy Up,” when the Fab 5 works with a quintet of Boston Red Sox players, including Kevin Millar and Johnny Damon.

Beginning on Aug. 18, Celebrity Poker will ante up with the first of six new two-hour competitions. The second season of Heidi Klum-vehicle Project Runway will span 12 hours, but Bravo has not yet determined its air date.

Bravo executives also talked up a trio of series in development that will hit the screen next year: The Real Housewives, a six-part reality series examining the women pulling the purse strings in a California gated community; The Daily News, a look at the deadlines and other goings-on at the New York newspaper; and Top Chef, a culinary elimination competition show searching for who's next in the kitchen.

The pop culture and arts network will begin its special proceedings May 2 at 8 p.m. with the two-hour The Million Dollar Recipe, following several of the 100 finalists in the Pillsbury Bake-Off, as they vie for a $1 million first prize.

From May 26-28, Bravo will air UltimateSuper Heroes, Ultimate Super Villains, Ultimate Super Vixens. Narrated by Batman's Adam West, the special will celebrate the top villains, heroes and vixens that have left audiences with lasting impressions over the years.

Younger and Affluent

Pointing to the array of new programming, NBC Universal Cable senior vice president of entertainment sales Jeff Lucas insisted, “We're not the Queer Eye network.”

Lucas and his team, who've been making the rounds agency by agency, have been discussing a number of positives: a nine-year drop in the net's median viewer age to 41 since NBC acquired Bravo in December 2003; strong primetime growth among its core 25-to-54 audience in 2004; and research indicating Bravo is the top cable network relative to upscale viewers at breaks covering income levels of $75,000, $100,000 and $125,000.

Assessing the upcoming Madison Avenue bazaar for Bravo, Lucas is sanguine because the network has been selling second-quarter scatter inventory at CPMs 10% over last year's upfront level.

However — given a larger baseline forged by last year's upfront, which saw Bravo more than double its take and add 50 new advertisers — Lucas doesn't expect to match last year's upfront performance levels.

“We're going to build on it, but not get double the revenue,” he said. “With Bravo, advertisers can get younger viewers who are upscale.”

Lucas said that over 60% of Bravo's deals incorporated brand integration or other marketing opportunities. This year, Bravo is again peddling a variety of platforms, including Webisode and Mobisode content.

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