HGTV Adds Vritto Primetime Lineup


Adding some "reality vérité" programming to its lineup, Home & Garden Television has nine new series in the works for next season, with six of them slated for primetime, officials said last week.

In total, HGTV plans more than 1,500 hours of new original programming for the 2000-2001 season, with two-thirds of that made up of new episodes of 48 returning shows. The remainder are new series or specials, according to senior vice president and general manager Burton Jablin.

Most of the new series will premiere in the fall, during the week of Sept. 25.

"We're playing up reality-based series, reality vérité," Jablin said in describing the fall program slate. "We follow real people doing real things, with no script."

The strategy is part of HGTV's effort during the past several years to move beyond what Jablin called "hard-core," step-by-step, how-to shows to more lifestyle and story-driven programming in the evening.

"The audience's appetite for how-to series diminishes as you go into primetime," he said. "So we've been trying to grow more broad in primetime. And the strategy has paid off."

One of the new so-called vérité-style series is Going Home, which follows individuals as they return to their hometowns and former homes for special occasions and to reconnect with their roots. "It is truly a story-driven show," Jablin said.

Then there's Weekend Warriors, which follows people as they start and try to finish do-it-yourself projects. "If something goes wrong, we won't put the lens cap on," Jablin said.

He described Designers'Challenge as reality-based vérité"in a context." In the series, HGTV has three designers compete to present different solutions to a decorating challenge posed by a homeowner.

The three other new series slated for primetime are: Dream Drives, which includes visits to well-known neighborhoods such as Beacon Hill in Boston and Nob Hill in San Francisco; Fantasy Open House, an inside look at pricey homes that are on the market; and Restore & Restyle.

Jablin described Fantasy Open House as "our video voyeur show."

HGTV will spend about 40 percent more on programming this year than in 1999, according to Jablin. And although the network did an upfront dinner in Los Angeles, it is only doing lunches and informal meetings with ad agencies in New York; Chicago; Detroit; Minneapolis; Charlotte, N.C.; Atlanta; Dallas and Austin, Texas; Cleveland; and Cincinnati, he added.

In addition to its new half-hour primetime series, HGTV has three shows scheduled for daytime and weekends: HGTV's World Garden Tour, Help Around the House and Our Place.

The network is airing many of its home-improvement shows on the weekend-typically gardening in the afternoon and how-to in the morning-and its craft and decorating how-to series during weekdays, according to Jablin. For example, HGTV's World Garden Tour, narrated by actress Stockard Channing, will run weekends in the afternoon.

HGTV, which now reaches 60 million subscribers, also has 70 specials in the works. They include Homes of Frank Lloyd Wright, Homes of Wine Country, Into Closets with Kathy Ireland and Lighthouses.

And the network is freshening up some of its veteran series, giving them new openings and graphics. Some of those getting facelifts are Dream House, Country at Home and Interiors by Design, Jablin said.

HGTV posted a 0.7 rating in primetime in the first quarter, flat compared with the year-ago period, according to Nielsen Media Research.