Digital Spy spoke to Dave Clarke, the channel's managing editor, about the new look, this season's new shows as well as the future for Bravo and its audience.
Hi Dave, tell me a bit about your responsibilities as managing editor at Bravo?
"I am responsible for the scheduling of the channel, for all its acquisitions and obviously I play a very big role in all our commissioning and original production development."
Bravo has had a bit of a re-brand to mark its 21st birthday. Were you involved in that?
Can you tell me a bit about the new look? What was the thinking behind it?
"A lot of the thinking was that we felt that the current, or previous, on air look didn't quite reflect the style and tone of the new shows that we were introducing to the channel. So we went away and had a think about how we could reflect new level quality on the channel in the on air 'look and tone' of the presentation.
"The starting point was to work with the fact that Bravo is 21 years old; certainly in 'multi-channel' that's a lifetime. It's one of the most highly-regarded brands out there and it's got a lot of fans because of that.
"So that got us thinking about the fact that it's a 'heritage brand' in the world of TV. So the thought process moves onto 'well what other "heritage" brands are there out there?', and then you start thinking of classic British brands such as Dunhill which play on their heritage.
"We then had a little bit of fun with that with our new strapline, 'Bravo: Entertaining men since 1985', so that was where it came from.
"Then the actual on air look and feel we believe now looks a lot classier. It's very slick. It even takes cues from modern tailoring, in the way the colour schemes are created. It looks fantastic and I think it will blend in with the new shows we're launching, which are of the highest quality, and will look really nice."
It's quite a 'mature' look. Do you think this might alienate some of your younger audience at all?
"I don't think so. There's lots examples of brands who 'tinker around the edges', and that's all it is really. It's not really a wholesale change. It's a kind of natural development in evolution, so were certainly not planning to alienate any viewers.
"The fact that it looks a lot slicker I hope will re-engage our viewers and give them reason to tune and consider us in a slightly different way. Certainly the content on the channel isn't changing drastically - on the whole - but we are introducing some key new shows at strategic points. But holistically the channel's output is the same as it was six months ago."
It has quite an 'aspirational' feel...
"It's something that we thought was really strong. There are a lot of brands out there playing on 'heritage' and we wanted to distinguish ourselves from a lot of the other multi-channel outlets out there, which arguably have a more corporate feel to them. They feel slightly 'less British', and one of Bravo's strengths is with its original productions which are all tightly aimed and focused at British viewers.
"So, in having this kind of heritage and mature tone, at the same time it's very tongue in cheek and funny as well, so we certainly aren't losing any of our humour. But to be able to use those cues, it directs us to what are distinctly British elements, which we want to keep at the forefront. It's what Bravo's always been about and been very good at."
Part of this revamp to rename Player as Bravo 2. Player was aimed at a slightly younger audience, so will the 'cheekier' aspects be covered off by Bravo 2's output?
"It's a perfect dovetail. Whilst the on air look of Bravo changes, and whilst we introduced a different kind of show into primetime on Bravo - like The Unit and Life on Mars - Bravo 2 can kind of clean up.
"The aim is to have a 'full service delivery' for men throughout the night on Bravo and Bravo 2. So whilst you're getting some incredibly well-crafted drama on Bravo 1, albeit aimed at men, you are getting some nice easy access, dip-in, dip-out, action-heavy clips on Bravo 2. So if you're not in for a bit of drama you can switch over for a bit of 'old Bravo'."
Which of the new season's shows do you feel embodies Bravo's new upmarket image?
"The Unit is really high up on the list. It's very difficult - it's like asking me which one of my children I prefer! I love them all equally and for different reasons.
"The Unit is up there because it's a great blend of action, and great dialogue from David Mamet who did Glengarry Glen Ross and The Shield, and The Untouchables.
"Life on Mars is very indicative of what we want Bravo to be because again it's clever, but it's got classic copy show elements to it, and again it's very British, which makes it even more favourable within our eyes.
"And then there is our original productions like Towers of London. Towers in particular - the lead singer, who I noticed got mentioned in The Sun today as he's about to have a dangerous liaison with Peaches Geldof."
Tell me more about Towers?
"It was brought to us by an independent production company, called Vashca. And it was one of those shows which, on the basis of the tapes they included with their pitch, which was only a paragraph long, it was a no-brainer.
"Within minutes everyone in the room was like 'Yes, we're gonna make this.' The characters are so insane. Its everything you want to see about a young rock band trying to make it. It's all the clichés. And the beauty of it is they don't realise. They clearly haven't seen Spinal Tap - they wouldn't be behaving as they do and they certainly wouldn't be doing their hair as they do if they had. It's a real big hit waiting to happen."
Any type of shows you would like to see Bravo doing more of?
"We've got a few priorities. We are desperate to replicate the success of the show The Real Football Factories. It's an example of what we want to be doing with our factual shows - great in-depth journalism, passionate presenter who knows his stuff, so we're desperately trying to find our next generation of TRFF.
"We are very keen to find a returnable factual entertainment format so we have got high hopes for Football Saved My Life. We would be over the moon if we could recommission that for 2007.
"The other type of show we would like bring to Bravo would be our own observational documentary series. A good example would be Dog the Bounty Hunter, which in the US put A&E on the map in a big way and was their most successful show ever. So we'd love to find our own Dog, and Towers of London could well be the series that does that for us. We’re certainly continuing to look - you can never have too many good shows!"
For the new season, are any of your shows being promoted across multi-platforms - is there any kind of '360-comissioning' going on?
"All our original productions will be appear on mobile and there will be a web presence. Towers will probably be available as a 'teaser' free download the week before first transmission on i-pods, broadband and PSP. The same will probably be the same for Football Saved My Life but there is not any bespoke content being made for multi-platform for those two shows."
How important do you think '360 commissioning' is to engage your audience?
"Our core demographic arguably includes some of the most techno-savvy people out there, and we are well aware of that. The plan is to seriously upgrade the Bravo website over the coming months, so it will be more than just a repository for information, it will become, we hope, a web destination in itself.
"When that happens, it will enable us to commission more specifically in a '360 fashion' because, you're absolutely right, we need to supply those platforms and be utilising them more and more."
You've also set up the 'Future Foundation' research project to look into the way men think today: what does it hope to achieve?
"I think the main hope is to understand our audience more - their habits, trends and directions they're heading in, because we need to be on top of the game really.
"As one of the few channels out there targeting men specifically, I think it's our duty to go out there and find the stuff they're going to be interested in; in 6 months, a year, five years. We need to be leading that charge because it doesn't seem to be that anyone is going out there and leading that mantel for young men."
Finally, you've been given a new position on the EPG. How important do you think that is in promoting the channel?
"It's probably a very inexact science, but by moving Bravo to 121 on the EPG we jump up a page on the TV guide, which means we're on the bottom of page two rather than at the top of page three.
"The effect that has, maybe we should talk again in two weeks time when we've had a few days research, but arguably that is very valuable 'real estate' - equivalent to a few thousand pounds worth of marketing. We will wait to see but we hope the effect will be a very positive one."
And with re-branding Player as Bravo 2 it makes it look like a family of channels.
"It makes sense. The hope is we will be able to keep our viewers within 'Bravo world' if you like without seeing them heading off into channel surfing land."
Thanks for you time, Dave.