The cast of Bravo’s "Most Eligible Dallas"

Savvy networks are those that build relationships with their viewers across myriad digital platforms, whether it’s through Twitter, Facebook, online extras, mobile games or apps. Add one more category to that list: online dating sites. To promote its new show “Most Eligible Dallas” (premieres Aug. 15), which follows a group of attractive singles (including a couple NFL players) as they navigate the Texas dating scene, Bravo teamed up with online dating site OkCupid to expand its marketing reach.

 
Bravo’s Search for “Smart Funny”
 
Bravo’s digital search and marketing firm 360i had been looking for opportunities to marry the dating scene with the show. What the net found in OkCupid users was its target audience, which Ellen Stone, svp marketing for Bravo, calls “smart funny.” “We felt like the audience that was going to the OkCupid site was very much aligned and like-minded to the Bravo audience. Kind of, ‘we’re on the cutting edge, we’re innovative.’”
 
So why partner with this dating site and not others, such as eHarmony or Match.com (which bought OKC in Feb)? For starters, the 7-year-old site is pretty up-and-coming and its user base is slightly younger. According to OKC director of sales Scott Matik, there’s a slight concentration of users in the 18-34 bracket. They’re also “early adopters and very web savvy,” so the partnership made a lot of sense. From a business angle, Matik said it works because OkCupid users are experts in singledom, which translates to potential viewers for the show.
 
Plus, the site offers more than just the traditional profile. There are “OK Trends” compiled by the site’s researchers, who use members’ data to report on trends (its founders happen to be Harvard-schooled mathematicians, so there’s a tendency to present findings through pie charts, graphs and percentiles). There is also a blog, quizzes and games, which keep users on the site when they’re not scoping out their next potential date. “OkCupid not only does the traditional sense of, give us your profile and we will find matches. They give more information for their audience… it gets them even more engaged,” said Stone. Part of the Dallas-themed info on the site, presented via a custom show page, includes stats compiled from the site’s users—things like, “Dallas is younger than Miami, more adventurous than Atlanta and sexier than New Jersey.” Move over, “Jersey Shore!”
 
Show Characters Get Dating Profiles
 
Bravo is not the first network OKC has partnered with. According to Matik, the site ran a promotion in July for Investigation Discovery’s “Who the Bleep Did I Marry” with custom content and first-date Q&As posed to users. But Bravo is the first to integrate characters into the search engine. Though users can’t actually date these reality star hotties, Bravo hopes the proximity (well, cyber-proximity… but in the age of celebrity Twitter accounts, that means something) will inspire more interaction, and ultimately better ratings.

 
The custom-designed “Most Eligible Dallas” show page features dating profiles for all cast members, including personal videos featuring their thoughts on single life in Dallas. The cast members aren’t planning on landing any dates from the site; it’s more about creating a unique way to interact with fans, on their own turf, says Stone. “OkCupid gave us a whole, brand new way of finding the audience that’s into the dating scene—this is exactly what they’re into at this moment.” And, it allows users to learn about the characters “on a more intimate basis.”
 
Online Dating—Stigma or No?
 
There’s also a Facebook feature, which allows you to “like” different cast members’ profiles. Some might say the downside to this would be that everyone and their grandmother would know that you’re looking for love online. Which begs the question, though online dating has become increasingly popular in recent years—especially among 20-somethings—is there still a stigma attached to it?
 
Stone believes there is none, at least from the perspective of those Bravo is trying to reach on OKC. “I think it’s become one of the top ways of meeting people these days,” says Stone. Fair enough, but not everyone would be willing to share the fact that they’re trolling for dates in cyberspace. Nevertheless, it’s got to be fun perusing the prospects, and then comparing your experience with say, NFL players and blond bombshells—despite the inevitable disparity in storylines.
 
An Untapped Younger Base
 
The partnership’s main purpose, of course, is to get more viewers. “While we can start them on OkCupid, the goal is always to eventually bring them back to bravotv.com,” said Stone. “The more people we reach through OkCupid, the more opportunity we have to bring them back to Bravo.” Without being explicit about targeting a new, younger market, Stone said, “I think “Most Eligible” will give us a nice younger audience, but it’s not an audience we’ve every tapped before.” Though they’re sticking with the more affluent, educated viewer as their core base, to be sure they won’t be turning away a younger, untapped crowd. “You can always get more of them.”
 
Bravo has enjoyed some success with another dating-themed show, “The Millionaire Matchmaker,” premiering its 5th season also on Aug. 15. So will this kind of partnership set a precedent for the network? To that Stone replied, initiatives for each program will be considered on a show-by-show basis. “We’ll definitely keep looking.”
 

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