What’s on your DVR? Seinfeld, Big Little Lies, The Daily Show
What is your all-time favorite TV show? Six Feet Under
Favorite podcasts? The Daily for news, and Dr. Death for a good story.
What book is on your nightstand? Calypso by David Sedaris
What is your bucket-list travel destination? Patagonia
HGTV is building a very strong ratings foundation in 2019, based on its focus on the home-renovation genre. It finished July as cable’s third-most-watched network in primetime, averaging 1.2 million viewers — more than the scripted content-focused USA Network, TNT, TBS or FX, according to Nielsen. Overseeing that ratings success is HGTV president Jane Latman, who recently spoke with senior content producer R. Thomas Umstead about the network’s strategy and the appeal of HGTV on-air talent such as the Property Brothers hosts, Jonathan and Drew Scott, as well as event programming like A Very Brady Renovation, which debuts Sept. 9.
What has been the secret sauce to the recent ratings success of HGTV? HGTV is a top-five network for viewers, and for women especially it ranks right up in the top three. I think consistency is part of the secret sauce of the success of HGTV. People know what they’re going to get when they come in — they’re going to get certain beats in every show that will end in a beautiful reveal or a very happy family buying a house.
What strategies are you looking to employ to keep HGTV viewers coming back to the network? We never want to alienate our large core audience, but we also have to propel ourselves into the future, so what I’m trying to do is figure out ways to stretch the brand. We’re doing more event programming, and right now we’re really amping up some really exciting events like A Very Brady Renovation, Rock the Block and next year’s Extreme Makeover Home Edition.
You mentioned A Very Brady Renovation. How does the HGTV brand benefit from being connected to a pop-culture icon like The Brady Bunch? A Very Brady Renovation was one of our big, big swings, and I think we did an amazing job. When America sees that house recreated in all of its detail, they will be so impressed. The goal is to get audiences who have never watched HGTV to the network and out of that, we market other shows that they can get addicted to. We’ve had a billion social media hits already and the show hasn’t even aired. By taking this pop-culture phenomenon and then skinning it the HGTV way, it’s helped us cut through the clutter of television programming.
What is it about the appeal of the home-renovation genre that continues to drive audiences to HGTV? There is something very aspirational about shows on HGTV. We all wish we could design and buy the perfect home. It’s more than just a house — in our shows we’re playing out a dream come true. Lately, we’ve been having success with shows that are more customized for the family, like in Property Brothers Forever Home, where Drew and Jonathan Scott work with the families to determine what is needed to make this your forever home.
What effect has Discovery’s purchase of Scripps Networks Interactive had on HGTV’s success? One of the best things about Discovery’s Scripps acquisition has been to have so many networks that we can cross-pollinate with. For example, with A Very Brady Renovation we’re going to have cross-promotional opportunities with talent through programming on Discovery’s Fast N’ Loud as well as Food Network’s Worst Cooks in America. There are so many opportunities for cross-pollinating talent and promotion across all the networks, which lifts all ships.