Networks: Let Your Shows Be Your Brand

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New York — When it comes to the question of
which came first — the show or the brand — the
answer is not so clear-cut.

“We had a brand before we launched a huge
hit show, but then the show became the launch
pad for what the brand became, because we saw
what was working with the audience,” Frances
Berwick, president of Bravo and Style Media,
said about Bravo’s Queer Eye for the Straight
during a CTAM in New York panel session.

Queer Eye, through its five male hosts, illuminated
the five passion points of the Bravo
audience — food, fashion, beauty, design and
pop culture, points that would manifest in future
network shows like Top Chef and Project

“Those then became the tenets of the network
out of which we then created a development filter,”
Berwick said. “Everything that we developed
fell within that framework. It started it all.”

Perhaps the most-often-cited example of a
show transforming a network is AMC’s Mad
, and as such Ed Carroll, chief operating officer of AMC Networks, tends to believe that it is
the show drives the brand.

“I think it’s always the show,” Carroll said.
“I have come to believe the audience tells you
where they’re willing to go. You get that first
show, and then the work really starts, because
no network wants to be just one show. So you
have to convert that show into a mandate.”

Herb Scannell, president of BBC Worldwide
America, and former president of Nickelodeon,
employed a similar strategy at the kids channel
based off the success of the series You Can’t
Do That on Television
, which portrayed a world
where kids were smarter than adults.

“That was really the signature of Nickelodeon,”
he said. “And all the shows that were
made afterwards, we always took the kids’
side,” he added, citing later hits Rugrats and
SpongeBob SquarePants. “That’s really what
put Nickelodeon on the map, this attitude of
celebrating kid-dom.”

More than 10 0
shows launched this
summer on cable and
broadcast, making it
increasingly difficult
for any show to break
through the clutter,
moderator Jason Klarman,
president of Oxygen
Media, noted at the
start of the panel. So to
ensure a show can gain
enough viewers to support
a brand, it’s increasingly
important to
be present across multiple platforms.

For Bravo’s unscripted series, that means
creating a conversation around characters that
viewers want to know and interact with, like
those of its popular Real Housewives franchise.
The aim: Getting more live tune-in.

“The real learning for us has been we can mitigate
the DVR use a bit by creating an event,” Berwick
said. “The audience doesn’t want to talk
to the network. They want to talk to each other
while they’re watching the show. With unscripted
shows, they want to know these people.”

Andrea Morabito is a staff writer at


& Cable.