(Updated as of August 29, 2009)
TOP PRIMETIME SHOWS:
HOUSE HUNTERS INT'L, HOUSE HUNTERS, MY FIRST PLACE, FOR RENT, UNSELLABLES, COLOR SPLASH, INCOME PROPERTY, HGTV SHOWDOWN, PROPERTY VIRGINS.
HGTV's schedule is built entirely with half hour series. In June, only four titles appeared more than twice a week (HOUSE HUNTERS , HOUSE HUNTERS INT'L , PROPERTY VIRGINS , AND MY FIRST PLACE . Eight titles -- and remember, these are half hours -- appear only once in a week, and three titles appear only twice.
Imagine the challenges of scheduling a home improvement network through the last 12 months. 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? June's two top titles may hold clues. Elimination elements in each, leading inexorably to a narrative payoff, probably help. And these elements may become central enough that they distract from the fact that at the moment, buying or fixing a place isn't possible for many of us. Watching these shows, there's a sensible, gentle entertainment quality that removes potential backlash in watching others do what you can't. Most of the people involved are sympathetic folks you can root for -- these shows are not in the LIFESTYLES OF THE RICH AND FAMOUS mold. And even if prices continue to rise, none of what's making these shows work will be any less attractive.
Live Primetime Ratings Comparison:
July 2009 vs. July 2008 (% change) Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample
In a July schedule with 16 regularly scheduled titles there was very little change from June. One change was hugely important and the network might well be thrilled, even though it caused only a HH 4% boost for its night.
Last month the special limited series HGTV $250,000 CHALLENGE ran for four Sunday nights. The heavily promoted elimination format did very well, delivering some of June's best numbers. It was gone this month and the coveted, HOUSE HUNTERS INTERNATIONAL-lead-in 10pm slot was up for grabs. Schedulers filled it with the premier of DESIGN STAR, Season Four. The results for the two episodes in July broke records for the popular series. Perhaps most impressive, Week Two beat week one. This will be a great series to catch up with next month, when four more episodes will have aired.
The other big story: HOUSE HUNTERS and HOUSE HUNTERS INTERNATIONAL. These two series accounted for 17 of the network's top 20 shows in July (11 and 6 episodes, respectively). One title or the other of the franchise ran in at least one regularly scheduled hour of primetime every day of the week, for a total of 16 regularly scheduled primetime slots. Phew! Up from 15 regular slots in June, that's nearly 40% of primetime real estate dedicated to a single franchise. The ice for this wonderful ratings skating party is smooth, but network folks surely worry how long a single layer will hold them up before cracking. Last month both versions were up considerably over the previous month. In July, they were down HH 7% and HH 13%, respectively. The numbers were slightly worse among key younger women. This is not an uncommon phenomenon in the age of nonfiction cable series. If HGTV is concerned about much of its fate resting, for the moment, on a single franchise, they have plenty of company at other networks. Producers take note: Think about what's next and pitch it to those uneasy network skaters searching for thicker ice. Skating metaphor now officially retired.
The HOUSE HUNTERS franchise and the DESIGN STAR premiers were adjacent for the latter's two July outings. On both nights HOUSE HUNTERS INTERNATIONAL gave DESIGN STAR very respectable leads, and on both nights, DESIGN STAR found about 50% more viewers. Plenty of people showed up for a very heavily used series (good news) and a lot more showed up for the fourth season return of a very popular competitive series.
No other series showed signs of offering help soon, and most had lost viewers compared to June.
ADDITIONAL SHOWS CURRENTLY AIRING:
INCOME PROPERTY, STAGERS, REAL ESTATE INTERVENTION, HGTV TOP 10, MY FIRST PLACE, PROPERTY VIRGINS, COLOR SPLASH, BANG FOR YOUR BUCK