DECEMBER 2010 PRIMETIME SCHEDULE:
* Bold denotes programming change
HGTV sets its foundation with a Monday through Friday 8-9PM strip of first time homebuyer programming: PROPERTY VIRGINS, MY FIRST PLACE and newcomer, MY FIRST SALE. From 10 to 11 the network revisits the home purchasing process, with ratings grabbers HOUSE HUNTERS and HOUSE HUNTERS INTERNATIONAL.
The 9 to 10 slot is where new programming runs, and there were several new shows added at that time this spring, some successful (SELLING NEW YORK), some not (HOME RULES). Saturday is typically home-design focused, while Sunday features specials and top-rated programs.
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 any time of night... and vertically, to provide flow, so they'll stay around, even build, through the night. As a result, we typically don't see 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 is a safe, lulling haven for aspirational home designers, fixers and purchasers.
DECEMBER 2010 PRIMETIME RATINGS ANALYSIS:
Live Primetime Ratings Comparison / December 2010 vs. December 2009 (% Change)
Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample
December 2010: HGTV's ratings dipped slightly again this month, giving December 2010 the dubious distinction of achieving the second lowest women 25-54 ratings on our records (lowest was December 2008). Looking at the bottom-line comparisons, women 25-54 ratings were down 12% vs. last year and down 2% vs. last month. For the total year averages, women 25-54 ratings were down 6%.
HGTV started the year strong, but was not able to keep the momentum going, and ratings dropped throughout the year. 2009 was a strong year, but even taking that into account, 2010 was not a good year and December 2010 was not a good month. (2010 year-end average was 5% below the 2008 year-end average).
The network tried to improve on its 2009 momentum by featuring the hosts of its current programming, but none of those expansion efforts really took off. (The exception was Mike Holmes, who brought a lot more men and a few more women to the net.) When programs didn't do well, HOUSE HUNTERS replaced them, and by December, HOUSE HUNTERS and HOUSE HUNTERS INTERNATIONAL comprised 45% of the primetime line-up. It was more than HGTV viewers could take, and on core women 25-54's, both programs were down 6% vs. last month and down about 15% vs. last year.
The press took notice of HGTV's (and sister Food Network's) ratings descent, as The NY POST wrote about HGTV's fourth quarter declines. (Click here for the full article and commentary by CableU's president Gary Lico)
The hardest hit nights this month were Wednesdays and Fridays. On Wednesdays, its sister network's DISASTER DIY was...it's just too easy sometimes...a disaster. On Fridays it was HOUSE HUNTERS and HOUSE HUNTERS INTERNATIONAL that fell down.
Of course there were bright spots on the schedule. Compared to last December HOLMES ON HOLMES drew 60% higher men 25-54 ratings and 40% higher women 25-54 ratings. His presence was expanded to a 30-minute show and to HOLMES INSPECTION, which both do well when not in repeats. Holiday specials were at the top of the ratings charts, with WHITE HOUSE CHRISTMAS and CELEBRITY HOLIDAY HOMES ranking first and second among households. Thursday and Sunday nights continue as the network strongholds, where specials and featured programs can still make the numbers pop.
CABLEU NEED TO KNOW:
HGTV is built on safe and lulling fare, exemplified by HOUSE HUNTERS. Happy homeowners go through a painless process of purchasing and decorating their homes, without any real-life issues getting in their way. But too much HOUSE HUNTERS turned out to be a problem by the end of the year, and viewers seemed to be craving a bit more energy than the repeats of HOUSE HUNTERS could give them.
New Year's Day was again a launching pad for HGTV's new year, where previews of new fare and new seasons were showcased. Numbers were strong for the first day of 2011. The question will be, can HGTV give itself a make-over with fresh and compelling programming viewers will come back for? SELLING NEW YORK, CASH & CARI and HGTV'd are all showing strong signs that HGTV will be just fine. They each bring strong ratings or strong buzz to the line-up, and will help take the heavy load off of HOUSE HUNTERS.