Bravo to Launch as Free-to-Air Channel in New Zealand, Orders 'Real Housewives of Auckland'

Courtesy of Tommy Garcia/Bravo

THE REAL HOUSEWIVES OF POTOMAC -- Season:1 -- Pictured: (l-r) Charrisse Jackson Jordan, Robyn Dixon, Karen Huger, Gizelle Bryant, Katie Rost, Ashley Boalch Darby.

It's the first time anywhere in the world that Bravo will be available for free.

Reality TV channel Bravo is to launch in New Zealand as a free-to-air channel in July under a joint venture between Bravo owner NBCUniversal and Kiwi broadcaster MediaWorks, the partners said Tuesday.

It 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.

Part of the deal includes commissioning 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, set to premiere in August.

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

Bravo, which will replace local youth channel FOUR, will be programmed for New Zealand and will feature shows such as Million Dollar ListingTop Chef, Shahs of Sunset, Flipping Out 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 of MediaWorks.

Mediaworks operates two free-to-air TV channels, commercial services TV3 and FOUR. New Zealand'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,” said Belinda Menendez, president of NBCUniversal International Distribution & Networks.