The team from Bravo took to the stage yesterday morning at SXSW to talk about what they are doing to change the way we consume and interact with television. Just like every other business out there, television programs are having to move to a more integrated offering. 

To demonstrate this, they presented the last season of Top Chef as a case study to show what they did to breach the gap and capture our attention on our second screens.

Bravo came to connected TV out of desperation. Lisa Hsia, Executive Vice President of Bravo Digital Media, explained “All we’re doing is getting the extras but we need to have content that has impact. Content needs to be integrated.” Then she read about Tim Kring’s transmedia project two years ago and that gave her the inspiration to start doing things differently.

The last season of Top Chef was a huge experiment for them. As it was a flagship show, it was an easy place to start creating a multi platform experience as it had a built in audience there. Not only did they put live tweeting and social elements into the show itself, but they added a new web series that accompanied the program called Last Chance Kitchen. Participants that lost on air would have one more chance to cook. The winner of Last Chance Kitchen would then come back to the finale.

Hsia didn’t know what to expect but thought they would receive around one million streams. To her surprise, it surpassed eight million which meant 26% of their television audience watched the web content as well. 

What they did right is to create an experience that synergises with the brand offering. It was the competition that brought their fans to them in the first place and it carried through all of the platforms they were using. The web show was a chance for fans to back cooks trying to get back into the competition. There was also a Twitter board that ranked the cooks by their social interaction and online competitions that pitted fans of the show against each other. 

Obviously there is a worry about cost and time when you’re looking at an integrated offering. You have to consider continuity but as long as you plan thoroughly, you’ll be better able to utilize the staff you have and track the success of what you’re doing. Bravo only has one social media person on staff and their whole transmedia team is 20-25 staff members.

As for cost, the team behind Bravo made the Last Chance Kitchen with high production values, they won’t next time. It’s not necessary. The social interaction and the talent helped drive the content. Once you have the quality of content there in terms of what it contains, you will gain the community. Though this type of thinking, Bravo turned a one day a week contact into a seven day week experience.