TLC and HGTV to Revive ‘While You Were Out’ as Crossover Series Tailored for Both Channels (EXCLUSIVE)

Kathleen FinchDiscovery Executive Session panel, TV show panel, TCA Summer Press Tour, Los Angeles, USA - 26 Jul 2018
David Buchan/Variety/REX/Shutterstock

Discovery is looking to capitalize on the promise of its Scripps Networks Interactive acquisition through a plan to revive the home makeover series “While You Were Out” with separate episodes of the show tailored for TLC and HGTV audiences.

The series is billed as the first crossover series among Discovery networks following its $14 billion purchase of the parent company of HGTV, Food Network, Travel Channel and other lifestyle cablers. Those brands are now being integrated into the Discovery fold alongside TLC, Animal Planet, OWN, Science, Velocity and other outlets.

“While You Were Out” will blend designer stars from past and present TLC and HGTV shows in a competition format. The series will air at the same time on both networks when it premieres next year.

“This is an idea I used to dream about, but we couldn’t do it before our companies came together,” Kathleen Finch, Discovery’s chief lifestyle brands officer, told Variety.

“While You Were Out” was a spinoff of TLC’s “Trading Spaces” that ran for four seasons starting in 2002. The series revolves around celebrity designers working on home makeovers as a surprise for the homeowner’s spouse or significant other. The revival will feature design teams competing to redo neighboring houses. The episodes produced for TLC will focus more heavily on the relationship between the homeowner and the person they aim to surprise. The HGTV version will lean more on the how-to of the makeover and rationale for the design decisions.

Both versions will be crafted from the same raw footage taken by Half Yard Productions. The goal is to keep as many viewers in the Discovery tent by tailoring episodes to appeal to the specific tastes of the viewers for each network. Finch said it’s also a way to showcase the company’s expanded talent roster in ways that will feature compelling matchups for longtime fans of design and decor programs on both cablers.

Designers from the TLC ranks to compete on “While You Were Away” include Carter Oosterhouse, Doug Wilson, Frank Bielec, Hildi Santo Tomas, Kahi Lee, Sabrina Soto, Ty Pennington and Vern Yip. The HGTV contingent will include Bristol and Aubrey Marunde, David Visentin, Hilary Farr, Karen E Laine, Mina Starsiak, Nicole Curtis and Vanilla Ice.

“While You Were Out” will be hosted by Ananda Lewis. TLC and HGTV have ordered four episodes to start. There’s also a plan for extensive digital extras that will amp up the TLC vs. HGTV competition factor more sharply than it will be presented in the linear TV episodes.

“This is an exciting moment for the newly combined Discovery Lifestyle portfolio and for our passionate, female audiences,” said Howard Lee, president and general manager of TLC. Allison Page, president and general manager of HGTV said the move allows the enlarged company to “bring back a popular series with a twist — allowing us to super-serve TLC and HGTV fans in the way they expect from those brands and collaborating as only Discovery can across two of the top three women’s networks in ad-supported cable.”

The innovative plan for “While You Were Out” stemmed from the new level of cooperation among Discovery brands. There’s a big push under Finch to build programs and specials around common threads and themes among the channels. Both channels were interested in reviving the format, and through brainstorming sessions worked out the plan to share the content.

“The natural instinct is for people to say ‘I want it’ and ‘No, I want it,’ ” Finch said. “That quickly turned into ‘We want it,’ so let’s make it as brilliant as we can.”

Finch said she hopes “While You Were Out” is the first of a wave of crossover ideas. There’s already plans for a “bakeoff” event between the stars of TLC’s “Cake Boss” and Food Network’s “Ace of Cakes.” Talent from Discovery-related shows are starting to pop up on Food Network these days.

“We’re looking for all kinds of fun ways to reach across our networks and find opportunities for those people who have huge fan bases,” Finch said. “We want to build a moat around our fans and keep giving them reasons to move back and forth across all of our networks.”

(Pictured: Kathleen Finch)