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Few cheers for Bravo

Despite some considerable effort on the part of the company, MediaWorks seems pretty much alone in its excitement over the joint venture with NBCUniversal that will see FOUR rebrand as Bravo.

As with many things MediaWorks these days, the launch didn’t go to plan. Last Friday Hilary Barry resigned, providing many other media organisations the opportunity to remind people of everybody else who’s also left MediaWorks since it emerged from bankruptcy.

On Saturday, the announcement of the FOUR rebrand appeared online briefly before disappearing. With an event planned for late Tuesday, the Bravo announcement was made early Tuesday morning, stemming if not stopping the ongoing speculation about how long it would take Hilary Barry to join TVNZ.

The announcement of Bravo does little to stem the tide of criticism of MediaWorks’ strategy of late – although in some ways that strategy seems to be trying to achieve a self-inflicted death by a thousand cuts.

In the announcement MediaWorks’ CEO Mark Weldon said all the right things about NBCUniversal and noted, “A deep, genuine relationship beyond simply purchasing content is of high value to MediaWorks.”

It was, of course, MediaWorks’ inability to maintain a ‘simply purchasing content’ relationship with FOX that gutted FOUR of much of its programming and led to the need to do something different with the channel.

The MediaWorks TV network will become, to all intents and purposes, a single channel operation, like Sky’s Prime or half of Maori Television. Promises were made yesterday that NZ On Air-supported content currently on FOUR, such as kids’ programme Sticky TV, would survive the changes, although when and where they will screen isn’t clear.

The official announcement of the rebrand confirmed that a NZ show would feature in the line-up, albeit made by an Australian production company. The Real Housewives of Auckland will join the stable of over 15 Real Housewives shows and as many spin-offs Bravo currently produces. The line-up of housewives, including former TV3 staff member Louise Wallace, was revealed late yesterday.

Matchbox Pictures, better known for quality drama productions such as The Slap, Devil’s Playground and kids’ show Nowhere Boys, will produce. The company is owned by MediaWorks’ partner in Bravo, NBCUniversal and produces the Australian version of the show, Real Housewives of Melbourne.

While there’ll be an audience for Bravo, it’s unclear whether it’ll be big enough to be worthwhile. John Drinnan tweeted yesterday, “I haven’t overheard anybody at dairy saying I wish we had Bravo”, which succinctly sums it up.

Like getting rid of John Campbell, Hilary Barry and several other key staff members, a reality channel isn’t a demand-driven strategy.

Having spent Tuesday pushing Bravo out into the world and defending it, CEO Mark Weldon resigned on Wednesday morning.

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