HGTV Analysis - May 2010

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MAY 2010 PRIMETIME SCHEDULE:

* Bold denotes programming change

SCHEDULING STRATEGIES:

HGTV sets its foundation with a Monday through Friday 8-9PM strip of first time home-buyer 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 is tried out, and this spring season there are several new shows on the line-up. There are also a couple of hour-long shows (the successful HOLMES on HOMES and the not-so-successful 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.

MAY 2010 PRIMETIME RATINGS ANALYSIS:

Live Primetime Ratings Comparison / May 2010 vs. May 2009  (% Change)

HH

W18-49

W25-54

Monday 8-11pm

-8%

-7%

-8%

Tuesday 8-11pm

-18%

-12%

-15%

Wednesday 8-11pm

7%

17%

14%

Thursday 8-11pm

-11%

-2%

-3%

Friday 8-11pm

0%

10%

5%

Saturday 8-11pm

-3%

8%

09%

Sunday 8-11pm

14%

-2%

-2%

MTWTFSS 8-11pm

-1%

0%

0%

Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample

Ironically, spring is the worst season for HGTV. Perhaps it is the time of year when loyal viewers are inspired to get off their couches and do actual gardening and spring cleaning, rather than watch the HGTV hosts tell them how. Primetime household and women ratings are below the 2009 average, and are near the bottom of HGTV's ratings spectrum, down where they were back in May of 2009.  Compared to April, bottom-line numbers are flat for women and slightly down for men and households.

Even with an increasing slate of primetime programming, HOUSE HUNTERS and HOUSE HUNTERS INTERNATIONAL continue to set the pace at HGTV. With 36 hours of airtime between them (that's more than one-third of the schedule), they provide the tone of the network and bring in the most viewers. HOUSE HUNTERS continues as the top-rated program among women 25-54, holding steady on core women demo ratings vs. both last year and last month.

HOLMES ON HOMES continues to increase its importance at HGTV. Among core 25-54 viewers, HOLMES ranks as the clear favorite for men, yet it is #11 out of 14 programs for women. Male/female skew for the show is 50/50, and men are responsible for the #1 ranking among adults 25-54. In year-to-year comparisons, we continue to see that men, driven in by Mike Holmes, are the only growth demo. The question remains, will HGTV embrace this newfound audience and expand its male-oriented programming?

The other standout on the schedule was Saturday night's design block. DIVINE DESIGN, SARAH'S HOUSE and DEAR GENEVIEVE each made strong showings among women 25-54. They grew that core demo by more than 10% vs. last month, and helped Saturday nights grow by 6%.

The rest of the pack is settling into their places on the schedule. On Tuesdays the new program HOME RULES' mix of psychology and design is not resonating with women, and is driving away men. It is by far the lowest rated program on the line-up. On Thursdays SELLING NEW YORK lost some steam from last month, but continues to build audience from lead-in MY FIRST SALE.

With summer programming ready to roll, HGTV is poised to recapture its viewers; lulling them out of the yard and back to the couch.

CABLEU NEED TO KNOW:

In recent years, HGTV programmers became hostage to the housing market ebbs and flows. When housing starts and prices were at their peak, programs were geared to high-end makeovers and luxury homes. During the heart of the recession programs were more austere. So what kind of programming is recession-proof? With its onslaught of spring programming, HGTV is betting on outrageous characters and reality competition. Will the strong on-air personalities hold audiences through various economic times, or will it be a literal turn-off for the audience that was used to the safe and lulling HGTV fare of happier and more prosperous times?

So far, it is a bit of both. The network is forging new paths, and can use some companions to help its standout programming (HOLMES, SELLING NEW YORK) and replacements for its fading fare (MY FIRST PLACE, HOME RULES).

With HOLMES on HOMES drawing in strong male comps, the only growth demo vs. last year, HGTV has an opportunity to embrace its masculine side and start introducing more programming with male hosts.

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