HGTV Analysis - October 2010

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OCTOBER 2010 PRIMETIME SCHEDULE:

* Bold denotes programming change

SCHEDULING STRATEGIES:

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.

OCTOBER 2010 PRIMETIME RATINGS ANALYSIS:

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

HH

W18-49

W25-54

Monday 8-11pm

-10%

-19%

-18%

Tuesday 8-11pm

0%

0%

0%

Wednesday 8-11pm

-2%

-2%

-14%

Thursday 8-11pm

-2%

-18%

-19%

Friday 8-11pm

-13%

-23%

-21%

Saturday 8-11pm

-14%

-16%

-18%

Sunday 8-11pm

-4%

-15%

-12%

MTWTFSS 8-11pm

-6%

-14%

-13%

Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample

OCTOBER 2010: No matter how you look at it, October was not a good month for HGTV. Coming off a strong September, this October was HGTV's worst performing month of 2010.  Women 25-54 ratings were at their lowest level since December 2008. All sixteen returning programs experienced declines on that core demo compared to last month, and all nine returning programs vs. last year eight experienced declines on the demo and REAL ESTATE INVERVENTION was exactly the same.

HGTV has one of the most cohesive schedules on TV. The HOUSE HUNTERS franchise reins supreme, giving the network its identity. HOUSE HUNTERS and HOUSE HUNTERS INTERNATIONAL together account for over one-third of the primetime schedule. The two programs are nearly always the top two ratings performers. But a picture is worth a thousand words. Here are the top 20 telecasts of the month, based on women 25-54 ratings:

1) HOUSE HUNTERS INTL
2) HOUSE HUNTERS
3) HOUSE HUNTERS INTL
4) HOUSE HUNTERS
5) HOUSE HUNTERS
6) HOUSE HUNTERS
7) HOUSE HUNTERS INTL
8) HOUSE HUNTERS
9) HOUSE HUNTERS INTL
10) HOUSE HUNTERS INTL
11) HOUSE HUNTERS INTL
12) HOUSE HUNTERS
13) PROPERTY VIRGINS
14) HOUSE HUNTERS INTL
15) HOUSE HUNTERS INTL
16) HOUSE HUNTERS
17) HOUSE HUNTERS INTL
18) HOUSE HUNTERS
19) PROPERTY VIRGINS
20) HOUSE HUNTERS INTL

So, as HOUSE HUNTERS goes, so goes HGTV. Unfortunately, this month the direction was down. Compared to last month they were off by 18% and 23%. Compared to last year they were off by 17% and 10%. The lack of new episodes accounts for some of the decline, but not all of it. There is increased competition in the 10PM slot this October (no more Leno, and more year-round scheduling from the cable nets), which also might account for some of the drop-off. Viewer burnout is most likely a big part of the equation as well.

There were three primetime specials this month, and one of them, ENDLESS YARD SALE showed promise. Airing on a Sunday night, it pulled in strong ratings. This seems like a natural cash-in on the PAWN STAR craze, with a yard sale twist that is a good fit for HGTV.

Another highlight in October was Mike Holmes, who was back with HOLMES ON HOMES and HOLMES INSPECTION, which continue to help draw men to the network.

The worst hit to the schedule was the Friday and Saturday night design-time line-ups. The genre performs in a tier below the real-estate themed programming. YARD CRASHERS was the second worst performing program, and the worst performer was a special, YARD CRASHERS TOP 10. Backyard gardening programs never seem to catch on with HGTV viewers, especially in October.

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. And when HOUSE HUNTERS stumbles, as it did this month, the rest of the line-up stumbles as well.

This year the network tried to pad out its line up with programs that emphasize strong personalities, but steps away from the real estate genre were generally missteps. The standouts of the year were Mike Holmes and SELLING NEW YORK.

While there is no set formula for success, programs that play well with network staple HOUSE HUNTERS, have a somewhat familiar feel and are hosted by personalities that are strong, but not obnoxious seem to play the best in HGTV's ever-growing yard.

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