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HGTV (Home & Garden Television), domicile of addictive real estate and renovation series like House Hunters and Flip or Flop, was the first of what has grown to six robust Scripps Networks Interactive lifestyle brands, including DIY, Food Network, Cooking Channel and Travel. Another of HGTV’s sisters is Great American Country, launched in 1995 as a country music channel, acquired by Scripps in 2004, and in 2013 rebranded to include American lifestyle programming. As Jon Steinlauf, President of National Ad Sales and Marketing for Scripps Networks Interactive, and Kathleen Finch, President of Scripps Networks Interactive Home Category, prepare to showcase their brands to advertisers on the road, they offered Cynopsis a preview of the Upfront message this season. First on the tour: HGTV and Great American Country.
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What’s the pitch?
“We’ve always done well with engagement and trust and intent to purchase and retention during commercial breaks, but now there are more tools to be able to prove this,” says Steinlauf. “Data is coming to TV buying. We used to call it research and ratings, now we’re calling it data and insights and purchase behavior. We’re very excited about this world because it plays to our strengths as a company. We have a great audience, we know we can inspire them to do things, and now there’s another great metric out there that has the potential to be an alternative currency. The ads in and of themselves are content in our environment.”
HGTV, in particular, is a success story Steinlauf and Finch are excited to share. “HGTV is arguably the hottest network in the country right now on year-to-year growth,” says Steinlauf. “It’s been an inspiration for our other channels to see how well our lead channel is doing,” adds Finch. “The big question mark now is if you can grow basic traditional ratings – and we’ve shown it is possible.”
How-to’s of ratings growth
“We’ve got a remarkable stable of talent, and a face anchoring every night of the week except for Sunday, when we have destination programming taking our viewers to an amazing part of the world,” says Finch of HGTV’s programming strategy. “Every night has a superstar, and what our fans are saying is they want to spend their evenings with that superstar.”
Tweaking programming so it’s more welcoming to men has also boosted viewership at HGTV. “We’ve been trying to invite men to the network, and they’re up by 34 percent,” says Finch. “Shows are still all about design, but maybe have a male host or male counterpart. Flip or Flop has a husband and wife team, and the guys tend to like the financial aspect of the show, while the women might prefer the design and makeover aspect. Our ratings are higher because suddenly men are discovering the programs that have been their wives’ secret for so long.”
And no DVR necessary: HGTV “is binge watching at its very essence,” says Finch. “We take these hit shows and we stack them, and we get the viewers to sit and watch.”
As for Great American Country, going through major changes as it transitions from a music to lifestyle focus, “We’re very proud of the little engine that could,” says Finch. “We needed to bring it into the Scripps fold, which is speaking to an upscale audience. So we’ve pretty much taken all the music out of prime except for one night. We’ve been able to reach into the very rich library that we have at Scripps between all of our networks, and pulled out certain shows that just make sense.” Example? “We’ve taken RV programming from the Travel Channel and we’ve revamped it, recut it to make it a new RV show for Great American Country, and it’s doing great because the upscale consumers of RVs don’t have a lot of RV programming.”
“Our ratings are up by almost 10 percent, but more importantly, the viewer is suddenly a much more upscale viewer,” says Finch. “We’re making a lot of changes at Great American Country; it’s very much a work in progress, but we’re really excited with the traction we’re seeing.”
How you stand out from your competitors
“One of the things that separates us from our peers is that 40 percent of advertising on Scripps is coming from companies that are endemic to our three categories: home, food and travel,” says Steinlauf. “And we put a pretty high filter on what we treat as endemic.”
“Agencies and advertisers are looking at fewer companies, that are the right companies,” says Steinlauf, “parking more of their share with companies they want to develop closer partnerships with, that include many different types of extensions. It’s happening in automotive, it’s happening in packaged goods, in retail finance. It’s brands within corporations that feel they would like to have a full-scale relationship with Scripps.”
The Buzz for this Upfront
“I think it’s going to be a mixed bag,” says Steinlauf. “Some companies will successful and others may not be. We still think it could grow, but every year is different. TV is still very effective, and we get a lot of comments back about the power of advertising on our television services to drive purchases.”
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Jonathan and Drew Scott, HGTV’s Property Brothers, are two guys who love their jobs and giving each other grief.
What have been the most surprising/rewarding moments on your show?
Drew: The friendships that come out of it. We are very lucky that so many homeowners have let us into their homes and in their lives – creating a dream home is such a huge milestone and it’s cool that we get to be a part of that experience. We still get updates like baby photos and family parties. It’s really nice to see them grow into their homes.
Jonathan: Drew acts all professional but watch out for him – he loves to pull pranks and this puts me on edge as I never know when the next one is coming! He once swapped out my chair on set for one that was broken. I got him back by throwing him in the pool – full suit and shoes on!
What’s the most common reaction you get from fans?
Drew: Jonathan gets a dozen marriage proposals daily!
Jonathan: But it doesn’t feel so special when they follow up with an, ‘I’ll take either of you!’
Drew: Other than that, the most common question we get is “When can you come over and do our house?” I wish we had clones so that we could.
Why should people watch your show?
Drew: There’s so much to learn from every renovation. Each one brings a different experience and new surprises. And if you love watching a handsome man get his hands dirty then you should watch because Jonathan does a lot of that.
Jonathan: I think it’s apparent that we have a lot of fun doing what we do. Besides the amazing reveals, I do get to make fun of Drew quite a bit and THAT is worth watching :).
Now it’s the sisters’ turn. Great American Country’s Junk Gypsies, Amie and Jolie Sykes, are a hippie/rock and roll mash-up, with Texas twang.
What’s your go-to social media platform?
Amie and Jolie: Instagram
Guilty pleasure TV show?
Amie and Jolie: I Love Lucy
Biggest on-set mishap?
Amie and Jolie: Hands down, the resin table chemical reaction incident on Dierks Bentley’s Airstream!
What’s the job you’d most like to have but know you never will?
Amie and Jolie: Rock star. Amie’s got the hair but we sooo don’t have the moves. Heck, we can’t even karaoke.
On the Radar
“We’ve developed a good strong bench, and we have more coming along in 2015,” says Finch. “We’ve found things that work and the kinds of talent that work, like Fixer Upper and Property Brothers, so now we’re out cloning all of them.”
Quote of The Day
“Our audiences like us seven nights a week, they like us on weekends, and they go there live,” says Steinlauf. “And the key is they watch the commercials.”
Babyfirst launches a new daypart: “me-time.”
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Keep Watching & Reading,
Lynn Leahey, Editor
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