Bravo Media, LLC, more commonly known as Bravo, is an American basic cable and satellite television network and flagship channel, launched on December 1, 1980. It is owned by NBCUniversal and headquartered in the Comcast Building in New York City. The channel originally focused on programming related to fine arts and film; it currently broadcasts several reality television series targeted at females ages 25 through 54 as well as the LGBT community, acquired dramas, and mainstream theatrically-released feature films.
As of July 2015, approximately 90,891,000 American households (78.1% of households with television) receive Bravo.
Bravo originally launched as a commercial-free premium channel on December 1, 1980. It was originally co-owned by Cablevision's Rainbow Media division and Warner-Amex Satellite Entertainment; the channel claimed to be "the first television service dedicated to film and the performing arts". The channel originally broadcast its programming two days a week and—like Bravo's former sister network Nickelodeon, which shared its channel space with Alpha Repertory Television Service—shared its channel space with the adult-oriented pay channel Escapade, which featured softcore pornographic films. In 1981, Bravo was available to 48,000 subscribers throughout the United States; this total increased four years later to around 350,000 subscribers. A 1985 profile of Bravo in The New York Times observed that most of its programming consisted of international, classic, and independent film. Celebrities such as E. G. Marshall and Roberta Peters provided opening and closing commentary to the films broadcast on the channel.
Performing arts programs seen on Bravo included the show Jazz Counterpoint. During the mid-1980s, Bravo converted from a premium service into a basic cable channel, although it remained a commercial-free service. Bravo signed an underwriting deal with Texaco in 1992 and within a month broadcast the first Texaco Showcase production, a stage adaptation of Romeo and Juliet. By the mid-1990s, Bravo began to incorporate more PBS-style underwriting sponsorships, and then began accepting traditional commercial advertising by 1998.
In the Encyclopedia of Television, Megan Mullen perceived certain Bravo programs as "considered too risky or eclectic for mainstream channels". Those programs were Karaoke and Cold Lazarus, the final serials by British playwright Dennis Potter shown by Bravo in June 1997, and Michael Moore's documentary series The Awful Truth from 1999.
In 1999, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer acquired a 20% stake in the channel, which it subsequently sold back to Rainbow Media in 2001. NBC bought the network in 2002 for $1.25 billion; it had owned a stake in the channel and its sister networks for several years up to that point. NBC's then-parent company General Electric merged the network and its other broadcast and cable properties with Vivendi Universal Entertainment in May 2004 to form NBC Universal.
In the early 2000s, Bravo switched its format from focusing on performing arts, drama, and independent film to being focused on pop culture such as reality shows, fashion and makeover shows, and celebrities. Bravo's "makeover" occurred in 2003 with the reality series Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, which garnered 3.5 million viewers. Entertainment Weekly put "Bravo reality shows" on its end-of-the-decade, "best-of" list, saying, "From Queer Eye for the Straight Guy's Fab Five to Project Runway's fierce fashionistas to the kvetching, perma-tanned Real Housewives, Bravo's quirky reality programming mixes high culture and low scruples to create deliciously addictive television." In more recent years, Bravo has put the spotlight on cultural, regional and relationship diversities with a few of its reality series, such as: Million Dollar Listing, Shahs of Sunset, Newlyweds the First Year, and Southern Charm. Bravo Media released its first ever scripted series Girlfriends' Guide to Divorce in the later half of 2014, which earned impressive ratings causing the green light for a second season.
A study released in May 2008 ranked Bravo as the most recognizable brand among gay consumers. Bravo's age demographic is people 18-54, according to the Cable Television Advertising Bureau's cable television profiles.
Bravo's programming schedule primarily includes originally produced programming, particularly reality content, most popularly The Real Housewives and Inside the Actors Studio, as well as the Top Chef and Flipping Out franchises. The channel also airs reruns of series from parent network NBC and occasionally other NBCUniversal-owned networks, off-network series, including those from NBCUniversal Television Distribution, and feature films, primarily from the Universal Pictures catalog. Bravo utilizes block programming for both new shows and existing ones such as its "Fashion By Bravo" block.
Following its acquisition by NBC, Bravo began to supplement NBC Sports coverage of the Olympic Games, airing live events during the overnight and morning hours during the 2004 Summer Olympics; this coverage continued with the 2006 Winter Olympics. The channel carried no coverage during the 2008 games, as NBCUniversal had acquired Oxygen, allowing Bravo to continue to carry its regular programming schedule during NBC coverage of the Games. In 2012, the network served as the near-exclusive home for the Games's tennis tournament at Wimbledon, with up to 56 hours of coverage except for the men's and women's singles finals, which aired on NBC.
Before Bravo broadcast in HD, the current Universal HD launched as Bravo HD+. It had a completely different schedule than the main Bravo channel and only aired programs produced in HD.
An Australian channel called Arena rebranded its on-air presentation in 2008 to align with Bravo as a result of an agreement with Bravo Media. Arena uses the now-former Bravo slogan "Watch What Happens" and has access to Bravo-produced programming.
A Canadian version of Bravo was launched in 1995 by CHUM Limited. The channel originally aired much of the same genres of programming aired by its American counterpart. However, since the American Bravo's shift towards reality programming, the Canadian Bravo channel began airing more dramas, and with its adoption of a new logo in 2012 with little semblance to the American Bravo's current branding, there is now essentially no connection between the two channels other than a shared name. The channel still airs the few arts-related series aired by the American Bravo (such as Inside the Actors Studio and Work of Art), but due to Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) regulations which require the channel to still air programming related to arts, Bravo Canada does not air the vast majority of the U.S. channel's reality series – most of them have been picked up by Canadian specialty channels such as Slice and HGTV Canada.
Since then, it is currently unknown if the Canadian Bravo will be given a new name. In the United Kingdom, a television channel called Bravo launched in 1985 independently of the U.S. service. The British channel, which shut down on January 1, 2011, focused on men's programming for most of its existence, and never carried an arts or pop-culture format, nor much, if any, of the U.S. channel's programming.