HGTV Analysis - September 2010

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SEPTEMBER 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.

SEPTEMBER 2010 PRIMETIME RATINGS ANALYSIS:

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

HH

W18-49

W25-54

Monday 8-11pm

-12%

-12%

-13%

Tuesday 8-11pm

1%

7%

9%

Wednesday 8-11pm

-2%

-14%

-7%

Thursday 8-11pm

3%

-2%

1%

Friday 8-11pm

-10%

-15%

-10%

Saturday 8-11pm

-19%

-21%

-21%

Sunday 8-11pm

-11%

-20%

-19%

MTWTFSS 8-11pm

-6%

-12%

-8%

Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample

SEPTEMBER 2010: HGTV never managed to achieve the highs it reached last summer, and this month women 25-54 ratings fell 8% short of last September's stellar performance. But, bottom-line numbers did hold vs. August, despite top-rated DESIGN STAR coming to the end of its fifth season. In fact, September tied with August as the second best performing month of the year.

HGTV has developed and aired a slew of new programs this year in an attempt to round out its line-up while balancing the volatile housing market and viewer needs and interests. This month's program slate consisted of 20 different programs running throughout the month; last year there were 15. Several successful franchises were expanded, wit spin-offs such as HOUSE HUNTERS INTERNATIONAL (more new eps. this year), COLOR SPLASH: MIAMI, HOLMES: LIEN ON ME, CURB APPEAL: THE BLOCK, HOUSE CRASHERS and MY FIRST SALE.

The network's masculine side was maybe not fully embraced, but it was certainly given a nod with HOLMES ON HOLMES, HOLMES: LIEN ON ME and ALL-AMERICAN HANDYMAN. All three of these programs placed in the top 5 among women 25-54 this month. However, they were no match for DESIGN STAR, which was on the air both last year and last month. Sunday's numbers took the biggest fall of the week; down 24% on women 24-54 ratings.

Other programs not on the air this time last year include less successful DESIGNED TO SELL, HOUSE CRASHERS, PROFESSIONAL GRADE and YARD CRASHERS.

Despite the fact that "Garden" is literally HGTV's middle name, garden-themed programming continues to falter, no matter how it is packaged. From spring's THE OUTDOOR ROOM to this month's YARD CRASHERS, if it has backyard gardening, it doesn't seem to resonate with audiences.

Another low-rated program was the SECRETS FROM A STYLIST special spawned by the winner of this year's DESIGN STAR competition. The program placed near the bottom of the ratings heap, but it has been picked up as a 26 episode series to begin airing in 2011. THE ANTONIO TREATMENT, the program that was developed from last season's DESIGN STAR, continues to struggle in the ratings department.

On the positive side, the bet HGTV placed on HOUSE HUNTERS INTERNATIONAL when it expanded production has paid off. HOUSE HUNTERS INTERNATIONAL was the top-rated women 25-54 program on the line-up this month.

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 this year the network has mixed it up. Programs explore both sides of the tracks, with programs like INCOME PROPERTY helping viewers turn unused space into rentable rooms while multimillion dollar fantasy properties are showcased on SELLING NEW YORK and HOUSE HUNTERS INTERNATIONAL. Popular personalities and successful franchises were expanded, and new genres were tested. Basically, 2010 has been a year of trial (and some error), with network execs testing what will stick in this sticky economy.

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

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