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HGTV Analysis - June 2010


* Bold denotes programming change


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 runs, and there were several new shows added at that time this spring. 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.


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

Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample

JUNE 2010: HGTV recovered from its May lull, improving bottom line core women ratings by eight percent vs. last month, but the numbers were not quite up to last year's levels. Continuing a trend we have seen this year vs. last, male ratings edged up while household and female ratings waned.

There were three positive influences on the ratings.

First, on Tuesdays the low rated HOME RULES was taken off the air. With this program, HGTV stepped out of its proverbial box, trying out a show where a life-coach rather than an interior designer tried to straighten out people's homes.  While a good attempt at trying something different, it never caught on with viewers. When it was taken off the air this month Tuesday's numbers jumped by over 50% across the board.

Next, new episodes of HOUSE HUNTERS INTERNATIONAL hit the air, spiking ratings for the 20-program average by 22% vs. last month.

And finally, DESIGN STAR V premiered, pulling in the highest average ratings of any June HGTV program, across the board.  DESIGN STAR plus HOUSE HUNTERS and HOUSE HUNTERS INTERNATIONAL helped pull up core women ratings on Sunday nights by 34% vs. last month and 19% vs. last year.

And now for the bad news. DESIGN STAR V pulled up the June ratings, but the program underdelivered vs. last year's edition. DESIGN STAR IV debuted in July 2009 and women 25-54 ratings for V were a significant 24% lower than IV. Showing future potential, DESIGN STAR V did build audience with each consecutive run this June.

With the exception of PROPERTY VIRGINS, every program that was on the air last year lost core women 25-54 ratings this year.

The design block also took a hit this month. DIVINE DESIGN, SARAH'S HOUE, DEAR GENEVIEVE and CURB APPEAL: THE BLOCK lost between one-fifth and one-third of last month's audience.

This spring's new crop of personality-driven programs had mixed results. SELLING NEW YORK lost some ground, but remained among the top half of the programs. GARDEN ROOM was back in primetime this month, and back on the bottom of the list.  COLOR SPLASH: MIAMI was close behind. Despite numerous efforts to find a break-through program, The HOUSE HUNTERS franchise performs well ahead of the programming pack, and remains the most dominant and brand-defining force on HGTV.


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 strong on-air personalities to hold audiences.

But it is the safe and lulling fare of HOUSE HUNTERS and company that continues to draw in the biggest audiences. Of all the new programs introduced this spring, only SELLING NEW YORK can be considered a hit.

HGTV's biggest growth this year has come from men. Led by HOLMES ON HOMES, male comps are growing each month. However,  the male audience is still a minority of the audience. If HGTV wants to embrace its masculine side it has a great launching pad with Mike Holmes. It just needs more programming with strong male leads and content that appeals to both sexes.