JANUARY 2010 PRIMETIME SCHEDULE:
* Bold denotes programming change
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 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.
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).
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...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."
JANUARY 2010 PRIMETIME RATINGS ANALYSIS:
Live Primetime Ratings Comparison / January 2010 vs. January 2009 (% Change)
Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample
January 2010 was quite a month for HGTV. In a bold negotiation move it went dark for 3 million potential Cablevision viewers on New Year's Day. Three weeks and priceless amounts of publicity later, it was back up on Cablevision, and its numbers were better than ever. And we mean that literally. January 2010 delivered HGTV's highest-ever January primetime rating among households (up 18% vs. last year) and men (up 26% vs. last year), while female ratings were near the top of the HGTV game (W25-54 up 11% vs. last year).
Of course all the publicity in the world will only drive tune-in. You need solid programming to keep channel-changing viewers away from that remote, and HGTV was ready for them this month. Every returning program except INCOME PROPERTY saw double-digit growth vs. both last year and last month.
The foundation of the line-up, HOUSE HUNTERS dominates primetime real-estate and audiences. With over 11 runs per week and seven of the top-ten telecasts (ranked on HH rating), HOUSE HUNTERS sets the pace for the line-up. And the pace was brisk; HOUSE HUNTERS achieved across the board double-digit growth vs. both last year and last month. HOUSE HUNTERS INTERNATIONAL had a slightly diminished presence again this January (27 this year vs. 34 last year), but the program remains healthy, with the second highest ratings among core women 25-54, growing that audience 13% vs. last year, and 21% over last month.
The other significant programs on the line-up are first-time homebuyer shows MY FIRST PLACE and PROPERTY VIRGINS. The four programs together comprise all of the top rated programs and 74% of the primetime programming slots.
HOLMES ON HOMES is getting stronger - with more primetime runs it is still the top rated program among men, with a 30% bigger following this month vs. December. As mentioned above, the whole network strengthened among men this month, but with the exception of HOLMES, they all retained a strong female skew. Looks like an opportunity awaits.
There was a lot of new programming this month, and it all ran on the weekends, the Petri dish of HGTV. The net uses the weekend as a testing ground. Those programs that make it break out on their own on the weekday line-up (HOLMES is the classic example). In order of ratings, the new programs were SARAH'S HOUSE, CURB APPEAL: THE BLOCK, OUTDOOR ROOM a preview of ANTONIO TREATMENT and DESIGN INTERNS.
CABLEU NEED TO KNOW:
HGTV plans to ratchet it up a notch this year. 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."
And so the hosts' names begin to appear in the programming. Holmes, Sarah, Antonio. Jamie.
In 2009, programming's focus on real estate shifted to the actual transaction. Successful property-related shows on HGTV focus on the personal stories of people finding real success (and failure) when buying, selling and improving the value of their homes.
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 a preference for real estate transactions.
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.