NOVEMBER 2009 PRIMETIME SCHEDULE:
It's worth studying this network's primetime grid. While it looks simple, it works very nicely in both directions - across the week, so viewers get a feel for what to expect at times of night... and vertically, to provide flow, so they'll stay around, even build, through any given night.
HGTV's schedule is built entirely with half hour series. Only four titles appear more than twice a week (HOUSE HUNTERS, HOUSE HUNTERS INT'L, PROPERTY VIRGINS, AND MY FIRST PLACE. Most titles -- and remember, these are half hours -- appear only once in a week, and a handful appear twice per month.
Imagine the challenges of scheduling a home improvement network through the last year and a half. HGTV responded quickly to the imploding real estate market with recession-responsive titles such as FOR RENT and BANG FOR YOUR BUCK.
What to do now, if the real estate market really has started moving up? Competitive reality works here as well as anywhere, and it's usually served up with a softer touch. The new focus for the new year will rely more on the hosts and strong personalities that tend to drive veiwership, no matter what the subject matter.
"What you will also see next year is us adding more personality driven shows - not only with our hosts, but also our homeowners," Freddy James, HGTV SVP said. "It's not just about how the home is changing, but it's about how their lives change in those environments. By telling those stories and broadening that net of storytelling, we feel like we'll be able to serve our audiences in a much better way."
NOVEMBER 2009 PRIMETIME RATINGS ANALYSIS:
Live Primetime Ratings Comparison / November 2009 vs. November 2008 (% Change)
Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample
November 2009: HGTV ratings are basically flat from October, but are pacing well ahead of last year's numbers. The smallest increase vs. last year was 8% growth in core viewers, women 25-54, while the biggest increase was a 24% jump in the smallest audience, men 18-49.
Year over year growth stems primarily from an increase in the amount of HOUSE HUNTERS and HOUSE HUNTERS INTERNATIONAL on the air. Even with ratings that are somewhat stagnant, they remain at the top of the ratings heap. Adding more telecasts of the same program is a great short-term way to boost the numbers. The two programs dominate the schedule and the ratings, accounting for 40% of the primetime programming hours, the two best rated programs, and 16 of the top 20 telecasts of November. But, there was not any core (women 25-54) ratings growth vs. last year or last month.
The next biggest block of programming is for first-time homebuyers with an 8-9PM strip each weeknight: PROPERTY VIRGINS or MY FIRST PLACE. Among core women 25-54, these programs are down by about 10% vs. last year, and flat to slightly up vs. last month. Interestingly, we see some good percentage growth among men 18-49, particularly with MY FIRST PLACE. MEN 18-49 seem to have a small surge going on with other programming as well; RENOVATION REALITIES, BANG FOR YOUR BUCK, and even Sunday night's HOLMES ON HOLMES. show double digit growth. The younger men remain a small audience segment, but a little co-viewing never hurt anybody.
As is typically the case with HGTV, we don't see any drastic swings in audience from night to night, or program to program. The network's formulaic programming, with its neat stories wrapped up in 30 minutes (including commercial-time) is a safe, lulling haven for aspirational home designers, fixers and purchasers.
But HGTV has given itself its own challenge. Attempting to build on the moderate growth it has achieved this year (+9% according to the network), it will take the next step and start to design programs that emphasize the people over the process. Whether it be programming hosts, homebuyers or homeowners, the network will start to gain some personality.
CABLEU NEED TO KNOW:
HGTV plans to ratchet it up a notch next year. The network's top show, HGTV DESIGN STAR will be getting a make-over of its own. Mark Burnett has been brought in to bring his magic to the program in its 5th season. In the big picture, a new direction has been announced whereby programs will shift from focusing on the process of home buying to featuring big personalities.
Says HGTV senior vice president of program development and production Freddy James, "What you will also see next year is us adding more personality driven shows - not only with our hosts, but also our homeowners," James said. "It's not just about how the home is changing, but it's about how their lives change in those environments. By telling those stories and broadening that net of storytelling, we feel like we'll be able to serve our audiences in a much better way."
HGTV stays current by covering the aspects of home design and commerce that are most attractive to today's homeowners. While the HGTV viewer wants to be on top of the latest design trends, she/he is also mindful of the home's market value. This is exemplified by the popularity of HOUSE HUNTERS and sibling series HOUSE HUNTERS INTERNATIONAL. Selling one's home, owning more than one home, etc. are very real concerns for the average HGTV viewer. Successful property-related shows on HGTV feature the stories of real people finding real success (and failure) when buying, selling and improving the value of their homes.
Aspirational programs and elements are being seen more and more on HGTV. Programs like MOST EXTREME HOMES show how people live out their fantasies in the spaces where they live. Aspirationalism is also behind the concept of creating designs based on those of design professionals.
Programming's focus on real estate has shifted to the actual transaction. Details that affect home value: kitchens and bathrooms, color choices are secondary. Also, while the real estate reality genre is being exploited on competitor nets TLC and Bravo, HGTV brings in the largest audiences for these programs. It's very important to note HGTV's focus on personal stories rather than just the numbers.
Official word is that web-exclusive content is a priority - not only footage that was not seen on-air, but overall content ideas that transition easily from TV to the Internet and take advantage of each platform. However a quick look at HGTV.com shows a preference for design-oriented content while a quick look at the primetime line-up shows the aforementioned preference for real estate.
The network prefers to think of itself as lifestyle and reality oriented, leaving traditional how-to programming for sister net DIY and the HGTV.com website.