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Binge-watching is TV's new 'Wild West,' Bravo's Andy Cohen says

Bravo producer and late-night host Andy Cohen says the new media environment of cord cutting and video on demand is the "Wild West," putting mounting pressure on TV programmers to develop hits.

Cohen, Bravo's former head of development who now oversees production of its "Real Housewives" franchise — along with hosting his own program, "Watch What Happens Live" — talked exclusively to "Binge" about the challenges facing traditional cable-entertainment outlets.


"It's kind of terrifying," he said. "I mean, we're not only competing with 500 other cable channels, but Netflix and Amazon, who seem to have unending bales of money. I mean, it's like Amazon and Netflix, they just live at a bank."

Cohen also points to Bravo's role in the phenomenon we now refer to as "binge-watching," recalling efforts years ago by former network chief Lauren Zalaznick to run multiple episodes of "Project Runway" at once.

"Over Christmas break, she said, 'Let's just rerun the episodes that we have. Blanket Bravo with them for two weeks,'" Cohen said. "And that's what they did. And when the new episodes came back after the break, it was a huge hit. The marathoning had worked."

With 1.8 million Twitter followers, Cohen has been among the most nimble of late-night hosts in marrying live television with the power of social media. But even he admits to some social fatigue.

When asked if consumers will look back on the age of Twitter and think of social media the way we now think of smoking, he replied: "I hope so. ... It would be fun if it all went away. Then we could live our lives again. ... Hopefully, I don't depend on it for visibility. I think I could live without it."

For now, Cohen says his priority is to get both "Housewives" and "WWHL" in front of as many consumers as possible, using as many platforms as necessary.

Speaking to "Housewives" longevity, he said: "They have a new cast every year. ... And I think the thing that works about the 'Real Housewives' is that we freshen the pot. Every year, we take a look at the women and we say, 'Who still has a story to tell? And who's at the end of their road?' And we play God. … It's kind of a brilliant model that we backed into."

There are some elements of this year's media environment, however, where Cohen would just as soon not play. He says he probably would not have Donald Trump, for instance, on his show.

"You know what, I don't think that I could," Cohen said. "I don't think I could be the jovial person that I am. I've met him before. He hired me. I hosted a few beauty pageants for him. And he was very nice to me, and you know, he's a nice guy. I don't know. I don't think I could yuck it up with him."

Especially, he says, since the success of "WWHL" is its spontaneous energy — the feeling that nothing is scripted or prepared in advance. It's that sense of uncertainty, Cohen argues, that keeps viewers tuning in.

"The audience at home is smart. And so, they know when something's fake, or when it's a setup." He added: "That's why we don't pre-interview our guests. We just want the experience to be whatever the experience is. Good, bad or otherwise."

Disclosure: CNBC parent NBCUniversal owns Bravo.