DIY Cashes In on Recession

Just because the economy is in a tailspin does not mean homeowners aren't in the mood to update their bathrooms or turn the backyard into an oasis of serenity. At least that is the hope of the DIY Network, which this week will unveil a 2009 programming slate designed to put a positive spin on the crippling recession.

New DIY programs include bathroom renovation how-to BATHtastic! as well as landscaping hour King of Dirt, hosted by Brooklyn landscaper Gino Panaro. 10 Grand in Your Hand, which debuts on tax day, April 15, shows homeowners how to shave up to $10,000 from their home improvement projects. Series host John DeSilvia, a licensed contractor, does a walk-through with homeowners who have received a contractor's bid and shows them how to keep more of their money in their wallet (and give less to his fellow contractors).

Particularly timely, given the housing crisis, are Wreck and Roll, which deconstructs demolition projects, and Operation Salvage, which picks through the detritus of abandoned homes for castoffs worth restoring such as Victorian mantels, walnut doors and antique brick.

The network hopes to generate viewer interest by focusing on how homeowners—at least the ones who can still hang onto their houses—can renovate for less.

“Regardless of what's going on in the economy, the home is still the No. 1 investment for just about any American,” says Kathleen Finch, DIY Network senior VP and general manager. “People are not moving anymore, they're not trading up. They're not flipping. But they're also not paying someone $30 an hour to do something that they can do themselves.”

Back for another year is the America's Most Desperate Landscapes contest. NBC's Today show will help promote the contest, which gives the homeowner with the gnarliest yard a landscaping makeover. Entries are being accepted through May 4 at The winning yard will be featured in a special edition of Desperate Landscapes in August.

As do-it-yourself has gone from a niche dominated by Bob Vila to a mainstream industry serviced by retail meccas like Home Depot and Lowe's, DIY Network has ridden the growth curve, approaching 50 million households. Although HGTV and Food Network remain Scripps Networks' largest revenue generators by wide margins, DIY posted double-digit revenue growth in the fourth quarter of 2008. DIY was up 28% to $16.7 million in operating revenue, the biggest quarterly increase of any Scripps network. DIY also boasts the affluent viewers coveted by advertisers; median household incomes top $75,000.

As more people are forgoing vacations for “stay-cations” and a night out for entertaining at home, DIY is well-positioned to weather the economic storm, according to Finch. “We recognize that people are spending a lot more time at home,” she says. “Something as simple as tiling your bathroom floor, which would cost you only about $100 in materials, can make a huge difference in your life.”