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Bravo To Launch As Free-To-Air Channel In New Zealand, MediaWorks Partners With NBCUniversal To Turn Channel FOUR Into Bravo!

It's official, Bravo Network is going international. Bravo is to launch in New Zealand as a free-to-air channel in July, under a joint venture between Bravo owner NBCUniversal International and Kiwi broadcaster MediaWorks to transform Channel FOUR into entertainment-lifestyle brand Bravo.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, this is the first time anywhere in the world that Bravo will operate as a free-to-air network, meaning it will rely solely on advertising for its revenues.

Bravo New Zealand will focus on design, food, glam and pop culture, including shows such as Million Dollar Listing, Top Chef and The Real Housewives franchise.

Part of the deal includes commissioning of a New Zealand version of Bravo’s The Real Housewives franchise, with NBCU’s Australian production company Matchbox Pictures, scouting the nation’s largest city for the last five months to find the cast for The Real Housewives of Auckland, which it set to premiere in August.

The Real Housewives franchise has proved a hit in Australia. Matchbox has made three seasons of the Real Housewives of Melbourne, which has been a ratings winner for Foxtel, and is currently casting for The Real Housewives of Sydney.

The cast of The Real Housewives of Auckland was officially announced LIVE on Tuesday, May 3 on Bravo New Zealand's Official Facebook Page.

Bravo, which will replace local youth channel FOUR, will be programmed for New Zealand and feature shows such as Vanderpump Rules, Flipping Out, Southern Charm, Shahs of Sunset, Made in Chelsea, Million Dollar Listing, Top Chef and The Real Housewives. New series to premiere in 2016 include Tour Group, Below Deck: Mediterranean, Après Ski, The Real Housewives of Potomac and The Real Housewives of Dallas.

In a statement NBCU said the “new JV is a major milestone for NBCUniversal International’s business in New Zealand as the company invests in local growth in the region to compete even more effectively and build profile with local advertisers and viewers”. Bravo New Zealand will be headquartered at MediaWorks’ Auckland offices.

The deal was announced by Chris Taylor, managing director, New Zealand & Australia, NBCUniversal International Distribution & Networks, and Mark Weldon, CEO, MediaWorks.

Mediaworks operates two free to air TV channels, commercial services TV3 and FOUR. NZ’s TV ad market is worth around $442 million (NZ$600 million) a year.

“Asia-Pacific is an important growth region for NBCUniversal International and we are extremely pleased to have the opportunity to invest further in New Zealand,” Belinda Menendez, President, NBCUniversal International Distribution & Networks said.

MediaWorks group chief executive officer Mark Weldon says the Bravo brand plays well into "the binge-watching trends of our time".

"What BRAVO has done in the US has captured engaged audiences on the female side, so we think there is a real space for it," he tells Newshub.

NBCUniversal's Chris Taylor (L) and MediaWorks' Mark Weldon (R) 
(Photo Credit: Supplied)

Weldon says FOUR's young audience is flocking to the internet and Snapchat, and targeting the demographic no longer makes sense.

"That's not the right place to be in TV anymore, so for all those reasons it's the right choice and from a partnership perspective we couldn't find a better global partner than someone with [NBC's] resources and heft.

"The fact that this is the first free-to-air partnership globally and the first new free-to-air channel that NBCU has launched outside of the US, makes this an especially ground-breaking relationship."

NBCUniversal's Chris Taylor thinks New Zealand audiences will enjoy Bravo's content.

"Unscripted reality is a hugely popular genre, its appeal is the world over and the hours of production continue to increase."

Bravo will be available on demand on 3NOW for iOS and Android when it officially launches in July.

Photo Credit: Bravo New Zealand