HGTV Analysis - August 2011

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AUGUST 2011 PRIMETIME SCHEDULE:

* Bold denotes programming change

SCHEDULING STRATEGIES:

HGTV runs all original programming, almost all in half-hour formats. The half-hour programs are usually scheduled back to back, creating one-hour blocks with a natural break in between. The programming is safe and lulling, as is the schedule, which subtly leads viewers through the night and the week with little disruption.

Mondays have become an HGTV showcase night, with new signature programming, while on Fridays, HOUSE HUNTERS INTERNATIONAL runs all the way from 8 to 11.

Tuesday through Thursday features the “First Time Homeowners” block from 8 to 9PM, with MY FIRST PLACE AND PROPERTY VIRGINS. The 9 to 10 slot mixes it up with PROPERTY VIRGINS on Tuesdays, INCOME PROPERTY and PROPERTY BROTHERS on Wednesdays and SELLING NEW YORK on Thursdays. The 10 to 11 slot remains dedicated to HOUSE HUNTERS or HOUSE HUNTERS INTERNATIONAL all week, with occasional exceptions for specials.

Saturday is home-design focused, and Sunday features specials and Mike Holmes’ programming, thereby drawing more men to Sunday nights.

AUGUST 2011 PRIMETIME RATINGS ANALYSIS:

Live Primetime Ratings Comparison / August 2011 vs August 2010  (% Change)

HH

W18-49

W25-54

Monday 8-11pm

13%

7%

20%

Tuesday 8-11pm

-10%

-7%

-2%

Wednesday 8-11pm

-2%

7%

17%

Thursday 8-11pm

-17%

-24%

-19%

Friday 8-11pm

-3%

9%

12%

Saturday 8-11pm

-9%

8%

-2%

Sunday 8-11pm

-19%

-37%

-35%

MTWTFSS 8-11pm

-8%

-11%

-5%

Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample

AUGUST 2011:  August is typically one of HGTV’s best performing months, and 2011 is no exception. The month brought in the best ratings of the year behind January. But all is not rosy; while women 25-54 ratings are up 6% from July, they are down 5% from last year. Each gain HGTV was able to make was tempered by a loss, and so the bottom line did not move very much, despite some big changes in the line-up.

The most notable change was the move of DESIGN STAR from Sunday nights last year to Monday nights this year. HGTV is establishing Mondays as a new beachhead, with marquee programming headlining the night. Last year on Sunday nights DESIGN STAR was, by far, the best-rated program on the net, and on average, it is also the best-rated program this year. But last August it dominated, with each of the four telecasts hitting the top 5 list. This year the telecasts ranked #3, 7, 8 and 11. Overall the program dropped a devastating 41% of its women 25-54 ratings from last season. Of note, the program was already slipping in the ratings, as August 2010’s DESIGN STAR V performed 13% lower than August 2009’s DESIGN STAR IV.  Compared to last year, Sunday night dropped 35% of its ratings while Mondays picked up 20%. Was it worth the trade-off to HGTV? Maybe, if Sunday night can level out. Either way, DESIGN STAR 7 has already held a casting call for next summer’s run. No word yet on which night it will air.

The programmers at HGTV decided to use heavily promoted Monday nights and the DESIGN STAR lead-in to sneak-peek some new design-based programs that are on deck for Saturday nights.  From the lowest to the highest rated, previewed programs were: DINA’S PARTY; DONNA DECORATES DALLAS; HIGH LOW PROJECT and HGTV’d. The 8/22 run of HGTV’d was the best-rated telecast of the month and it was also the best-rated episode of the program to date. There were a lot of factors at play, making it impossible to isolate exactly what spiked the numbers, but here’s our guess, in order. The show was back after a 7-week hiatus. It was an hour-long instead of the usual half-hour. It followed an episode of DESIGN STAR that featured the HGTV’d program and format. It centered on a military family in need, shortly before the 9/11 anniversary. And, it was hosted by a (non-HGTV) celebrity-- Ellen DeGeneris.

Another change in the line-up comes with the HOUSE HUNTERS franchise. HOUSE HUNTERS INTERNATIONAL now runs as a three-hour primetime stack on Fridays, boosting the night 12% from last year. But the program average is down 23% from last year, partly because so many episodes are running on low-usage Friday nights, but also because so many episodes are running! With 46 primetime telecasts, HOUSE HUNTERS INTERNATIONAL alone accounts for over one-fourth of the primetime line-up. Alternately, HOUSE HUNTERS was down to an average of 5 telecasts per week this year from 10 per week last year. Its average program ratings for core women 25-54 are down 8%.

Design Time Saturday this August featured CURB APPEAL: THE BLOCK, SECRETS FROM A STYLIST, ROOM CRASHERS, COLOR SPLASH and HOME BY NOVOGRATZ. While some of the programs showed healthy signs (NOVOGRATZ, CURB APPEAL, COLOR SPLASH), the best-rated program of the night is still HOUSE HUNTERS.

This month at HGTV felt like a room make-over where you have to use all of the same furniture. By shuffling the programming, each gain brought a loss. Mondays’ gains brought Sundays’ losses. Friday night’s gains brought HOUSE HUNTERS INTERNATIONAL losses. Fortunately, the fall looks promising. Saturday nights are getting more programming with big personalities. HGTV’d is back with new episodes. Sometimes it just takes one focus piece to turn around a room, or primetime.

CABLEU NEED TO KNOW:

HGTV continues to make small changes to its line-up. Mondays, Fridays and Saturdays have taken on more importance, and the HOUSE HUNTERS franchise is not going to make or break the bottom line (although it still has a direct impact). In the meantime, the net is navigating a course that carefully avoids the recession while steering towards renovation, redesign and re-creation. But the biggest and most successful programming element is when an on-air personality clicks with viewers, as with Mike Holmes. The Novogratz’s look like they have potential, and REAL HOUSEWIFE Dina is up next.

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