Bravo fashioned its biggest audience ever out of the season three finale of Project Runway Wednesday night (Oct. 18). The hour-long episode drew 5.4 million total viewers and 3.4 million adults 18-49 at 10 p.m., beating all other programming on cable for the night and breaking Bravo's previous ratings records, according to live and same-day viewing numbers from Nielsen Media Research.
The design competition show has proved itself Bravo's most popular series ever, building consistently over its three seasons. After a meager series premiere in late 2004 drew only about 350,000 viewers, the show finished season one with more than 2 million. Season two built on that to finish with 3.2 million viewers, and the 5.4 million viewers who watched last night's finale helped Bravo to its highest Wednesday prime delivery ever, with an average 2.5 million total viewers and 1.6 million viewers 18-49.
Also helping the Wednesday average was the second-season premiere of cooking competition show Top Chef. The show, from Runway producers Magical Elves, debuted at 11 p.m. and drew 1.9 million total viewers, 46% more from the series' season one debut in March and more than 50% more than the 1.2 million viewers the show averaged last season.
In addition to a heavy outdoor-marketing campaign, Bravo has promoted Chef heavily during Runway, in part trying to ensure viewers knew that the show moves next week to its regular time slot of Wednesdays at 10 p.m.
The network has also fueled the two shows' popularity online, building out each show's Website with broadband video, blogs and other features. Runway's site drew 5.1 million visitors cumulatively throughout season three, 267% more than in season two, according to the network.