Like other cable channels that have undergone a 180-degree shift in programming from their early days, Bravo has transformed itself from a premium cable channel dedicated to classic films and performing arts to a basic cable channel that airs a slate of reality series.
Bravo launched in 1980 as a premium, commercial-free service. The channel's early programming included independent and foreign films, along with documentaries and broadcast of theatrical and musical performances. In the 1980s, Bravo became a basic cable channel, and by the end of the 90s, the channel was advertiser supported.
In 2003, Bravo followed the trend set by most other niche cable channels and underwent a format change, shifting from its arts-oriented programming to a schedule dominated by mainstream popular reality series. Early successes included the fashion makeover series "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" and cooking competition show "Top Chef." In 2006, "The Real Housewives of Orange County," a reality series that attempted to create an unscripted version of popular prime-time soap operas, debuted, and by 2014, the franchise had spawned a half dozen spin offs, as well as several international versions.
In 2004, 2006 and 2012, parent company NBCUniversal used Bravo as venue to air some of its coverage of the Olympic games.