Mazel? Bravo bigwig Andy Cohen is stepping down from his post as Executive Vice President of Development and Talent for the channel, RadarOnline.com has learned, to focus on his struggling talk show, Watch What Happens Live.
In a two-year deal announced Wednesday, Cohen agreed to stay on at WWHL for the next two years and remain executive producer on all the Housewives franchises, while losing his executive title. He also announced he is starting his own production company, Most Talkative, with which Bravo and Oxygen will have first-look privileges.
The transition from the boardroom to the talk show set was "inevitable" for Cohen, he told the New York Times. The past two years have seen WWHL grow from just one night a week to five nights a week. Through that transition, he insisted, he did not focus any less on his development duties, having a hand in such Bravo shows as Shahs of Sunset, Fashion Queens and Married to Medicine.
The President of Bravo and Oxygen, Frances Berwick, said, "Andy has influenced the course and the shape of Bravo tremendously over the past 10 years as a production and development executive, and as creator and host of our flagship late night show, becoming the face of the network. He has created legions of cultural touchstone programs and left an indelible imprint on the network. We are excited to retain him as a creative force with this new deal, which will also allow him to take Watch What Happens Live and its irreverent, brand-defining humor to the next level."
And Watch What Happens Live could certainly use a little TLC. Bravo's press release about the deal claimed that the show averages 942,000 total viewers a night, citing the industry ratings watchdog Nielsen.
This Season, however, has fallen seriously short of that target in recent weeks, according to other sites that closely monitor the numbers, which say the show racked up an average viewership so far of just 623,000 since early September. That's down from the season average of 891,000 total viewers, year-to-date, according to Nielsen.
Now, fans are speculating that he was fired from his executive role.
Simon Van Kempen, an alum of Real Housewives of New York, claimed on his blog that just fifteen days ago, Cohen insisted he was still running development at Bravo. "Anyone who studies Bravo Media as I do could see that hosting a talk show five nights each week AND heading up Bravo Media's programming development was always going to be too much for one man," he wrote. TVFishbowl.com goes even further, alleging that sources close to Bravo did indeed fire Cohen, but have framed it in a way that he can save face.
For his part, Cohen has decided to frame his new role as a decision, not a demotion. "In my 23 years as a television producer, my time at Bravo has been the most rewarding and his next phase of my career is the perfect marriage of everything I love doing: producing and broadcasting," he said.
A source at Bravo told Radar: “It was Simon who was actually fired from Bravo, Andy on the other hand, signed a major deal with Bravo – 2 years on-air for WWHL, continuing as host of reunions and specials, Executive Producing all the Housewives and a first look deal for his new Production Company – Most Talkative.”