“House of DVF,” E!’s new reality competition with designer Diane von Furstenberg, is a symbol of where NBCUniversal wants to take the cable channel. But after just two episodes, insiders tell TheWrap that the show’s ratings haven’t lived up to the company’s expectations.
“This was supposed to be a big, big hit for E! and [NBCUniversal Cable chairman Bonnie Hammer] is embarrassed with the results,” an individual with knowledge of the situation told TheWrap.
The Sunday at 10 p.m. series is currently averaging 519,000 total viewers with 351,000 in the advertiser-coveted 18-49 demographic in live plus same day numbers. “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” spinoff “Kourtney and Khloe Take The Hamptons,” which serves as the lead-in to “DVF,” averages 1.64 million total viewers. “House of DVF” loses 68 percent of its Kardashians lead-in.
“It doesn’t do the same numbers as the Kardashians, but nothing else on our network does,” NBCUniversal Lifestyle Networks president, Frances Berwick, told TheWrap after we reached out for comment.
The executive — who added oversight of E! to her duties, which already included purview over Bravo and Oxygen, after Suzanne Kolb’s exit from the channel — suggested that maybe what our sources characterized as internal “disappointment” over the ratings was really “surprise.”
“Thank God, it does as well as it does and it keeps doing a million in the demo,” she added, referring to the cumulative 2.3 million 18-49 viewers across all new and repeat airings of the show. Among the 18-49 ad demo, “House of DVF” has placed No. 16 in its 10 p.m. timeslot against all other cable programs.
Berwick said that the show’s median viewer age of 34, its 18-49 performance and its upscale female audience are all on point with the direction NBCU wants to take E!. She also pointed out that the upscale female viewer they’re targeting is prone to delayed viewing. At the time of this article, delayed ratings for “House of DVF” were not yet available.
The network president also referenced her experience at Bravo with reality competitions like “Top Chef” and “Project Runway” when it aired on that network.
“It’s exactly where we would expect the show to be at this time,” Berwick said. “Reality shows grow. I have some experience with that on Bravo and those shows have done extremely well for us.”
“House of DVF” pits eight young women against each other for a chance to be chosen as DVF’s global brand ambassador. They are tasked with working in different departments of the DVF offices in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District and their challenges range from planning a press lunch to working at the DVF Spring 2015 show during Fashion Week.
NBCU put a lot of marketing might behind the show, cross-promoted it on sister networks in what’s called the NBCU Symphony initiative and even pulled off a marketing stunt in which it placed six miniature versions of the Statue of Liberty around New York City — wrapped in signature DVF style.
But despite Berwick’s statements to the contrary, individuals from E!, parent company NBCUniversal and even von Furstenberg’s apparel company tell TheWrap that there’s indeed disappointment about the show’s ratings.
As a friend of von Furstenberg and her husband Barry Diller, Hammer — who oversees NBCU’s entire cable entertainment portfolio including E!, USA Network, Syfy, Bravo, Oxygen and Esquire Network, among others — has both professional and personal reasons to be “embarrassed.”
Hammer serves on the board of IAC, Diller’s media company. She also considers him to be a mentor after working for Diller when he owned USA Broadcasting in the 1990s.
“‘The House of DVF’ premiere was a huge E! priority and it tanked,” the E! insider said. “Bonnie is livid. Yes, it was greenlit in the Suzanne Kolb era, but the ratings were terrible given how much money and energy was put against the launch, including NBCU symphony synergy.”
“House of DVF” is performing worse than E!’s other 2014 series launches, which include “#RichKids of Beverly Hills” and “Botched.”
“There’s definitely disappointment in New York about the performance,” an individual at von Furstenberg’s NYC-based apparel business told TheWrap, but the staffer says that the show’s lack of success won’t tarnish the designer’s reputation.
“The thing about Diane is she bounces back. She does take risks. Let’s just say she’s good at letting the blame live somewhere else,” the individual added.
A DVF representative didn’t immediately respond to our request for comment.
One E! insider suggested that fault for the show’s low ratings will fall at the marketing department’s feet.
Despite the low ratings, many of the people attached to the marketing and production of “House of DVF” are happy to be working on the series. Another individual at E! who worked on the project told TheWrap that Hammer’s rage aside, network staffers were upbeat about the series and were pleased to work on something other than a Kardashians show.
“Despite the ratings, people internally are excited about the show,” the individual said. “Diane brought a little chic back to E!, instead of always having to talk about the Kardashians.”
“House of DVF’s” small fan base can take comfort in the fact that Berwick is dedicated to letting the entire first season air.
“I couldn’t be more happy with the production quality of the show and what it says about the E! brand,” Berwick insisted. “It looks fantastic. It’s exactly the kind of show we want on the network. And I feel it’s a little bit like a jewel in our crown.”
Matt Donnelly contributed to this report.