Bravo's Andy Cohen: Research Is Our Cocaine

'Biggest S***-Stirrer on the Planet' Offers Media Lessons

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Which network boasts the most affluent, educated and engaged audience in cable?

Did you guess Bravo?

Andy Cohen
Andy Cohen

Yep, it turns out that more of your friends and acquaintances are watching "Real Housewives" than care to admit it. According to Bravo, ratings for all of the NBC Universal property's franchises are on the rise, and "Watch What Happens Live" is the No. 1 late-night show among females. A surprising amount of men are also tuning into the network's reality fare.

And Bravo makes sure it knows who its viewers are. "We snort up research like fine Colombian cocaine." That was just one of the many memorable one-liners to come out of the mouth of Andy Cohen, host of "Watch What Happens Live" and exec VP-development and talent for Bravo, during a Q&A session hosted today by Deutsch, New York. Mr. Cohen, who is promoting his new autobiography, "Most Talkative: Stories from the Front Lines of Pop Culture," sat down with Deutsch New York Chief Creative Officer Greg DiNoto as part of the agency's Deutsch Commons Live series of discussions with media and creative influencers.

In an age where fewer and fewer people are tuning into TV live, Mr. Cohen has hordes of viewers doing just that on a nightly basis, with his interactive program. Fans of "Watch What Happens Live," a talk show that features a mix of Bravo talent and a wide range of non-Bravo celebrities, tweet, email and call into the show with opinions, suggestions and even requests of what to do on the show. Mr. Cohen, who worked behind the screen for many years before appearing in front of it, himself broke through because of a Bravo blog that turned into a web show that turned into "Watch What Happens."

"I love Twitter because it's a live focus group," said Mr. Cohen. In fact, three cast members from "The Real Housewives of New York" were fired from the show because of negative feedback about them on social media. That kind of engagement is shrewdly pushed along by Mr. Cohen, who says of his post, "I'm the biggest shit-stirrer on the planet and I get paid to do it."

And then there's product integration. Thursday, for example, is Bud Light Platinum night on the program, where guests famously take part in drinking many adult beverages in the Bravo Clubhouse. "Watch What Happens Live" also recently partnered with the Samsung Galaxy tablet, integrating the product into the show and rewarding viewers with Galaxy giveaways. As for all the brands that inevitably end up getting free publicity from shows such as the various "Housewives," (Skinny Girl margaritas, anyone?), Mr. Cohen said, "We don't love the product shilling, but if it's good for the story, it needs to be covered."

Asked what advice he would give to a creative organization, Mr. Cohen replied: "I'm a big believer in going with your gut. Do what you want, but if it's not what the other person wants, let go. ...Learn from your failures and at least try to study what didn't work." And most importantly, "know your audience." So go snort up that research!

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