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HGTV Makes Digital Connection With Viewers

The groundwork was laid long before HGTV realized it could seize on the untapped potential of the Internet — despite not having a website.

Twenty years ago, HGTV founder Ken Lowe knew owning the network’s content would allow them to repurpose the information in other ways. He didn’t realize how valuable that content would become.

“I believed from day one if we did it correctly, we could potentially end up with this emotional connection to viewers and consumers,” says Lowe, chairman of the board, president, and CEO of Scripps Networks Interactive. “It occurred to me that as technology evolves, so does the ability to share information, ideas, and the inspiration that comes from that. And at the very beginning, we said we were going to be about the three I’s: ideas, information and inspiration.”

HGTV’s core demographic played into the digital explosion. “Because we drive such an upscale audience, they’re early adopters,” says HGTV president Kathleen Finch. “They have every electronic gadget you could name, so it’s important for us to stay within their selection set; that means staying at the forefront of technology, content and trends.”

When HGTV launched its first website in 1996, it set the bar for other networks. HGTV launched on YouTube in May 2008, Facebook in June 2008, and Twitter in February 2009.

“We were really focused, early on, about not just delivering content that comes from TV, but developing content inspired by TV,” says Vikki Neil, general manager and senior VP of digital for the home category for HGTV/DIY. “Our company is committed to content creation and it’s not limited to a TV show. It’s the biggest place where we make the largest investments; it’s prolific, and something we all think about from every angle. If you don’t look at it that way, you have a very boring and static existence online.”

HGTV fans expect to be on top of social media trends and enjoy interacting with their favorite hosts.

“We’re fairly sophisticated in trying to figure out where we should place our bets so we’re creating a good experience for people,” Neil says. “We’re choosing the platforms where we see our audience resonating. We have multiple social accounts — Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and we have a ton of inspiration boards on Pinterest. We’re also doing Google Hangouts.”

The digital team, 40 strong, tailors each platform to its particular audience. HGTV’s nearly 200,000 YouTube subscribers skew younger than the network’s core demographic. “It’s interesting to watch a very young audience become huge fans of HGTV,” Neil says.

Today’s YouTube subscribers are tomorrow’s homeowners, but have little in common with HGTV’s Pinterest followers, so content varies greatly between platforms. HGTV’s YouTube presence includes how-to crafting videos, bite-sized design inspiration from network personalities, and Web-exclusive videos. HGTV’s Pinterest boards overflow with ideas and images linking back to hgtv.com, which is getting a makeover. Stand-alone apps are also part of HGTV’s digital realm.

Lowe says portability is the keyword going forward: “Whatever the platform, whatever the delivery method, whatever the location, we want to be there.”

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