Entertainment Industry

Category: Bravo

Bravo: 'Silicon Valley' reality show is part of digital push


Move over "The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills." Here come the geeks of "Silicon Valley."

Bravo Media, the cable network owned by NBCUniversal, on Wednesday unveiled two digital-themed reality shows it hopes will click with younger viewers. In its upfront presentation to potential advertisers, the network announced two new series called "Silicon Valley" and "Huh?"

Yes, you read that correctly. "Huh?" will follow Ben Huh, the founder of Cheezburger Inc., the Seattle company that operates Icanhascheezburger, FailBlog and other whacky sites fueled by millions of users who upload an estimated half a million pictures and videos a month.

The sites' irreverent vibe is expected to appeal to the younger viewers that Bravo is eager to attract in increasing numbers. "Bravo delivered its sixth consecutive record-breaking and youngest-skewing year in 2011, ranking No. 11 in prime time among all cable entertainment networks with adults 18-49," the network breathlessly boasted in a news release announcing its push into programs that click into digital culture.

With "Silicon Valley," Bravo is bringing in Randi Zuckerberg, the sister of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, as executive editor. According to the handouts Bravo gave advertising executives, the show "captures the intertwining lives of young professionals on the path to becoming Silicon Valley’s next great success stories."

Will one of those be Zuckerberg, who left her post as director of marketing at Facebook in August to start her own media company? Tune in this season to find out!


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-- Alex Pham and Joe Flint

Photo courtesy of Cheezburger Inc.

NBCUniversal names Beth Roberts to key cable post

One of NBCUniversal's high-powered and well-respected business executives -- Beth Roberts -- has joined Team Hammer.

Roberts on Wednesday was named chief operating officer of Universal Cable Productions, reporting to Bonnie Hammer, chairman of NBCUniversal's Cable Entertainment and Cable Studios unit. Hammer has oversight of several of the media giant's cable channels including USA, Syfy and E!

Beth Roberts - COO Universal Cable Productions The company said in a statement that Roberts will spearhead "the strategic and financial growth of Universal Cable Productions," in addition to overseeing business affairs for the cable channels controlled by Hammer.

Universal Cable Productions has been managed by a committee that includes Mark Stern and Jeff Wachtel, who share the title of co-head of original content; and Jerry DiCanio, head of production, and Roberts. Now she will be in charge of the studio's day-to-day operations.

"As a business affairs executive, Beth has always struck a perfect balance between strategic vision and fiscal discipline," Hammer said in the statement.  "That's exactly what we need to take UCP to the next level, so Beth's new role is an ideal expansion of her responsibilities."

Previously, Roberts served as executive vice president of business affairs for NBCUniversal's large cable portfolio.  Comcast, which took over NBCUniversal in late January, divided the cable properties into two groups, one overseen by Hammer, the longtime head of USA Network and Syfy, and the other group managed by Lauren Zalaznick, who has been responsible for Bravo. Zalaznick was given the more eclectic group, which includes Comcast's digital properties like Fandango and Daily Candy, and Spanish-language network Telemundo.

-- Meg James

Photo of Beth Roberts courtesy of NBCUniversal


Univision to launch three new television channels

Univision4 Spanish-language media giant Univision Communications Inc. plans to launch three new cable television channels next year in a bid to tighten its grip on the growing Latino market and diversify its revenues.

Univision is expected to announce Thursday that one of the channels will offer soccer and other sports, one will be devoted to news and information, and a third will showcase the spicy Spanish-language soap operas, or telenovelas, that fuel Univision Network’s prime-time ratings.

The new channels are part of an increasing trend by media companies to increase their investments in Spanish-language TV. Recently released census findings show that Latinos make up the nation's fastest growing population. Univision already controls nearly 70% of the Spanish-language television market.

New York-based Univision is making an extra effort to flex its market muscle. Major broadcasting groups, including Fox, ABC, NBC, CBS, Turner Broadcasting this week have been pitching their fall lineups to hundreds of advertisers in New York in an effort to grab slices of the more than $9 billion  “upfront” advertising market.

Univision will unveil its lineup Thursday.

On some nights, Univision -- the nation's fifth largest television network -- glides past fourth-place NBC and other established broadcast networks among younger demographic groups in the ratings. And unlike the major broadcasters, which are struggling to hold onto their audiences in an increasingly fragmented media universe, Univision's prime-time viewership has increased about 8% from last season.

“The recent census findings has been waking up a lot of our competitors, and advertisers, to the power and the organic growth of the Hispanic marketplace,” Randy Falco, Univision's chief operating officer, said in an interview. “We are actually at a tipping point where advertisers cannot ignore this market any longer.”

The 2010 Census revealed that more than 50 million Latinos live in the U.S., making up 16% of the population. From 2000 to 2010, the Hispanic population grew 43%. In contrast, the segment of people who identified themselves as white, grew 1%, according to the census.

“Every 10 years we get what I call the 'wake-up call’ with the results of the census,” said Carmen Baez, president of Latin American and multicultural marketing with advertising behemoth Omnicom Group Inc. “And this time around, the numbers were so staggering that people just can't ignore it.”

Univision's chief competitor, Telemundo, does not want to get left behind. In late January, Comcast Corp. took control of Telemundo owner NBCUniversal and declared that growing Telemundo revenues was a priority. NBCUniversal Chief Executive Steve Burke unexpectedly tapped the company's marketing whiz, Lauren Zalaznick, to oversee Telemundo and the company's youth-oriented cable channel mun2.

Zalaznick, a former film producer who helped build the Bravo cable channel into a cultural force,  greeted advertisers who attended Telemundo's programming presentation Tuesday night -- in Spanish. She said she was happy to join the crowd.

“Estoy muy feliz de estar aqui con ustedes,” Zalaznick said before switching to her native tongue. “Two months ago I could not have said one of those words in Spanish. I've learned a lot since then.”

Telemundo, which is based in Miami, dubbed its Latino market awareness campaign “the shift,” acknowledging the change in the complexion of the nation as well as the cultural influence of Latinos.

“It is the shift -- the landscape is shifting right before our very eyes,” Baez said. “But while Hispanics make up 16% of the population, Hispanic media only captures 4% of the advertising dollars spent in the U.S. We need to do a better job.”

For Univision, expanding its share of the advertising pie and its portfolio of Spanish-language channels is a corporate mandate. In 2007, Los Angeles billionaire A. Jerrold Perenchio sold Univision to a group of private investors, including another L.A. billionaire, Haim Saban, for nearly $14 billion. The transaction -- at the top of the market -- left Univision burdened with debt. Within a few months, the recession hit and advertising spending plummeted.

With the new cable channels, Univision's goal is to establish a more stable source of revenue -- cable affiliate fees -- to reduce its reliance on advertising. Univision already has two broadcast networks, Univision and TeleFutura; a popular cable channel, Galavision; and a vibrant chain of TV and radio stations.

Univision has dramatically improved its fortunes over the last year, restructuring its debt and resolving a long-running feud with its Mexican programming partner, Grupo Televisa. Televisa produces the popular Mexican telenovelas that have been key to Univision's prime-time success. About 65% of the U.S. Latino population is made up of people of Mexican descent. The new agreement gives Televisa equity in Univision and guarantees Univision its pipeline of soaps.

Univision, in addition to expanding its own in-house production studio, plans to dip into Televisa's vast library to fill the proposed telenovela channel.

“The beauty of the Televisa library is that it is big and deep,” said Cesar Conde, president of the Univision networks. “And we are going to continue to develop our own original programs to complement the Televisa brand.”


News on Fall television schedules, renewals and cancellations

 -- Meg James

Photo: The exterior of Univision's Los Angeles headquarters. Credit: Reed Saxon / Associated Press

Bravo ranks highest in product placement effectiveness

Bravo, home of the "Real Housewives" franchise as well as "Bethenny Ever After" and "Pregnant in Heels," is also the best place to go for subliminal advertising messages.

The cable channel, which is owned by Comcast Corp.'s NBC Universal, was declared by Nielsen to be the highest-ranked network for product placement effectiveness in broadcast and cable television.

Now, that doesn't mean Bravo has the most product placement of any network. It just means it's the best at it.

In a nutshell, Nielsen measures the recall of product placement and integrations. Apparently viewers remember the Toyotas in "The Real Housewives of Miami" and the Nikes in "The Real Housewives of Atlanta."

Other networks getting high marks include TNT for the inclusion of Chevrolet in "Men of a Certain Age," in which the character Owen operates a dealership.

-- Joe Flint

NBC Universal's Zalaznick to oversee Telemundo

La Revolución Cultural Comienza!

NBC Universal's Spanish-language television network Telemundo is about to get a jolt as Lauren Zalaznick -- the company's high priestess of marketing who has demonstrated a knack for turning tawdry reality shows into high culture -- will be tapped to take over the network. Zalaznick currently shepherds Bravo -- home to such splashy shows as "Top Chef," "The Millionaire Matchmaker" and "The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills" -- as well as the younger-skewing Oxygen channel and website iVillage.

Zalaznick's official title is President of NBC Universal Women & Lifestyle Entertainment Networks, which includes Bravo and Oxygen as well as NBC's Green is Universal initiative.

LaurenzalaznickIt would seem that the steamy Spanish-language telenovelas would be slightly out of step with the call for a carbon neutral footprint. Maybe Zalaznick will work on that.

Zalaznick's new role is expected as part of a new management structure being designed by Comcast Chief Operating Officer Steve Burke. Burke, who will become chief executive of NBC Universal when the Philadelphia based cable company takes control of General Electric's media company, is expected to unveil his organizational plan later this week.

Miami-based Telemundo has long presented enormous challenges and opportunities for NBC Universal, particularly as the U.S. Latino population grows. Telemundo has been the No. 2 Spanish-language network behind Univision Communications for nearly two decades. Recently, Telemundo has been looking over its shoulder as it faces a challenge in the ratings by Univision's secondary network, TeleFutura. Burke's plan could be to recast Telemundo as the Bravo of Spanish-language television.

NBC acquired the unit in 2002 for more than $2 billion, figuring it could channel its prime-time programming prowess into higher ratings.  But things didn't follow NBC's script, and the Spanish-language operation has become a bit of an island within the vast NBC Universal enterprise.

Don Browne, a former NBC News producer, has been president of Telemundo since 2005, managing its day-to-day operations. For the last three years, NBC Universal television Chairman Jeff Gaspin has been overseeing Telemundo on the corporate level, putting renewed emphasis on Telemundo's youth-oriented cable channel mun2. 

Gaspin said Monday that he would be leaving the company soon after Comcast takes charge. That means another shuffle for Telemundo. Since NBC took over the operation, three ranking executives have been in charge: Jeff Zucker, Randy Falco and Jeff Gaspin. Falco left the company in 2006 and the two Jeffs are losing their jobs as part of the Comcast takeover and reorganization.

Comcast is awaiting federal approval for its acquisition of controlling interest of NBC Universal. Once the deal closes, Comcast will own 51% and GE will retain 49%.

-- Meg James

Photo: Lauren Zalaznick. Credit: Derick E. Hingle, Bloomberg News


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