×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

HGTV at 20: Building for the Future While Staying True to Core

More than 20 years ago, Ken Lowe was compiling a folder of ideas he thought might make interesting home-improvement shows. Those ideas became the foundation of HGTV.

Even with the network in 96 million homes and solidly among the top 10 cable networks most months, sometimes Lowe — now chairman of the board, president and CEO of Scripps Networks Interactive, HGTV parent — is a bit taken aback by how big his baby has grown.

“Twenty years ago there were a lot of naysayers,” he says, noting that when HGTV launched in 1994 it was one of many new networks. “To my knowledge, only two made it — HGTV and History. There were a lot of good ideas in 1994, but not a lot of people who thought HGTV stood much of a chance.”

Today, HGTV is a household name thanks to hits like “Property Brothers” and the “House Hunters” franchise, and is readying an expansion into Asia.

“(Last year) was the highest-rated, most-watched year ever in HGTV history,” says Kathleen Finch, president, HGTV. For seven straight years, she says, HGTV has ranked No. 1 among women, a record she aims to keep. “That’s our core demo: home-owning, upscale, college-educated women. And men. We don’t discriminate.”

Lowe’s original vision for the network revolved around what he calls the Three I’s: ideas, information and inspiration, but the network has also done well with aspirational shows like “House Hunters International,” “Beachfront Bargain Hunt” and “Vacation House for Free.”

“Even if it is isn’t a world you’re necessarily going to live in, you still enjoy it vicariously,” Finch says. “We don’t tell a story that makes it completely unattainable, or say that you can’t ever live the lifestyle that these rich people do. Instead, we point out all the ways people live, with an emphasis that it could be you.”

Allison Page, general manager of HGTV, says the words she keeps in mind when developing new series are aspirational, attainable and fun. “If something hits all of those words, chances are it’s a potential fit for us,” Page says.

Most series are generated inhouse, but a few come from outside producers. “We’re very active in the development process, so even when things are brought to us we wind up tweaking them and co-developing them,” Page says.

Occasionally, they even obtain shows from HGTV’s male-skewing sister network DIY, like “Rehab Addict,” with Nicole Curtis, which officially moved to HGTV with its fifth-season premiere this month.

“That was an unusual case,” Finch says. “The show was an incredible hit, but when we started to look at who was watching, it was both men and women. It was an interesting opportunity. (We thought) let’s try her on HGTV and see if women like her. They did.”

Finch says the appeal of personalities like Curtis and Drew and Jonathan Scott — of “Property Brothers” fame — stems from the fact that they’re experts in their fields. Viewers trust them.

“That’s one of the reasons that, as a brand, HGTV’s been so successful,” Finch says. “We’re known for our expertise and the quality of our information. We’ve spawned a magazine. We’ve got home products. We’ve built an industry around the validity of our brand, and part of that is because we’re such sticklers when it comes to the people we put on TV to represent the network.”

“As a production company, it’s always optimal to have network partners that know exactly what they want. I don’t know of a network that understands its audience better than HGTV, which is a key reason why they have a large and loyal following,” says Chris Dorsey, president of Orion Entertainment, which produces programs such as “Living Big Sky” for the cabler.

HGTV-branded products almost sell themselves, while HGTV Magazine is a print hit. Becoming a top 10 cabler with several product lines was beyond Lowe’s wildest dreams when he conceived of the home and garden network.

“I was never sure we could get this cable network up to 25 million-30 million households,” Lowe says. “It became the little engine that could, and now we’re seeing that play out in countries around the world. That’s a little surreal.”

This summer Lowe experienced deja vu when meeting with Asian distributors at a media conference in Bali, Indonesia. “It was like a time machine — like it was 20 years ago and I was pitching to operators and distributors here in the States.”

Once again, Lowe made his case. In December, HGTV launches in Asia.

“We’re still growing,” he says. “I liken it to when someone renovates a house and adds on a room. I like to say we’re still adding rooms at HGTV. We’re going to continue to innovate and learn more about our audience, and bring them more sources of inspiration and entertainment.”

More TV

  • James Corden and Reggie Watts behind

    'The Late Late Show With James Corden' to Return to London for Third Year

    “The Late Late Show With James Corden” will return to London for a third year of specials from the host’s home city, broadcaster CBS announced Tuesday. The show will once again broadcast four special episodes from London’s historic Central Hall Westminster from June 17-20. Corden has already lined up an impressive roster of celebrity guests [...]

  • Bob Newhart Tim Conway Remembered

    Bob Newhart Remembers Tim Conway's Fearless Sense of Humor

    This is for Tim. This is so everybody will remember him. I can tell just by the mail I’ve gotten in the last couple of days that he had a huge fan base that loved him, and they wrote me because they knew I was close to him. Tim grew up in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, [...]

  • RITA FERRO Disney Upfront 2019

    Broadcast Takes a Back Seat at the 2019 Upfronts

    This may be remembered as TV’s gap year — a transitional period between the way things used to be and the way they’re going to be. That was clearly evident last week at the network upfront presentations, the annual event where execs tout their new wares to advertisers. There was something different about this year’s [...]

  • Netflix Begins Production on Part-Yiddish Series

    Netflix Begins Production on Part-Yiddish Series 'Unorthodox'

    Netflix has announced the start of production on its Yiddish- and English-language German series “Unorthodox,” which is shooting in Berlin. The streaming giant is partnering with “Deutschland 83” creator Anna Winger on the original four-part miniseries which will be directed by “Deutschland 83” and “Deutschland 86” star Maria Schrader. Based on a novel by Deborah [...]

  • Stranger Things

    Coca-Cola Will Revive New Coke in Alliance With Netflix, 'Stranger Things'

    A rush of TV watchers to streaming video has prompted Coca-Cola to test an interesting pour. Coca-Cola will bring New Coke back to market for a brief time, all part of a partnership with Netflix, which has featured Coke in its cult-favorite series “Stranger Things.” The third season of the series, set in 1985, will [...]

  • Bernard Chevry Mipcom 1985

    Mip Founder Bernard Chevry Dies at 96

    Bernard Chevry, the founder of international TV markets MipTV and Mipcom, has died at 96. A statement from Reed Midem, the company Chevry created to organize such industry events, called the French exec a “visionary.” Created by Chevry in 1963, MipTV was the first international market for TV rights-trading, becoming the key annual event of [...]

  • Editorial use only. No book cover

    China's Huanxi Media Picks Up 'Snowpiercer' TV Show From ITV Studios

    China’s Huanxi Media Group Limited has bought the exclusive broadcasting right in the mainland for the forthcoming sci-fi TV series “Snowpiercer” from ITV Studios Global Entertainment. The show is based on South Korean director Bong Joon-Ho’s film of the same name and is set to debut on TBS in the U.S. in the spring of [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content