It’s the comfort food of television, says Scripps exec Kathleen Finch
Hillary Clinton licked her post-election wounds with some R&R and plenty of HGTV.
“I surrounded myself with friends and caught up on some of the shows that people have been telling me about for years, as well as a lot of HGTV,” the former Secretary of State wrote in her new memoir, “What Happened,” adding that she’d made up for lost time with her grandkids. “I believe this is what some call ‘self-care.’ It turns out, it’s pretty great.”
Clinton has previously sung the praises of HGTV, the home-and-garden cable staple that brought you shows like “House Hunters,” “The Property Brothers,” “Flip or Flop” and “Love It or List It,” one of her professed favorites: “It has a beginning, a middle and an end … most of the shows always end up happily. People buy the house that they actually end up loving; their amazing redo works out perfectly,” she said in a video last year. “Now in the real world, I know that’s not the case. It’s a little bit of a fantasy. But it relaxes me.”
Soothing, inoffensive HGTV — racking up social-media endorsements from the likes of Khloe Kardashian, Taylor Swift, Blake Lively and Hoda Kotb — is also a trusty presence in hospitals, nail salons and dentists’ waiting rooms, said Kathleen Finch, the chief programming, content and brand officer for parent company Scripps Networks Interactive. Nurses in chemotherapy wards have written to thank the network for its positive programming; parents after 9/11 wrote with gratitude for its family-friendliness.
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) January 22, 2016
“HGTV is sort of like comfort food. It warms you from the inside; it makes you feel like everything is right with the world,” Finch told Moneyish. “Now, more than ever, that’s a really nice feeling to have.” (Americans’ stress levels in January saw a statistically significant increase for the first time in a decade, according to the American Psychological Association’s “Stress in America” poll.)
Primarily targeting the 25 to 54 demo and reaching more than 91 million households, HGTV eclipsed CNN to become 2016’s third most-watched cable network, trailing only ESPN and Fox News, according to Bloomberg. Its viewers tend to be upscale, educated, home-owning and female — though the fixer-upper show “Property Brothers,” helmed by twin brothers Jonathan and Drew Scott, helped draw more male eyeballs after its 2011 debut, according to Finch.
Networks like HGTV — which hit airwaves Dec. 30, 1994 — “both created a market and then grew it, which is pretty amazing,” TV industry analyst Alan Wolk told Moneyish. The shows are inexpensive to make because they tend not to use expensive paid talent or pricey locations, added Wolk, the lead analyst at TV[R]EV.
“I think so long as they can kind of keep it fresh and come up with fresh angles, then it will have a long lifespan,” he said. “This has been going on for 20 years and shows no sign of stopping.”
HGTV’s broad appeal, said Finch, comes from its cocktail of neatly resolved conflict, a low-stress brand of non-manufactured drama, and a guilt-free viewing experience: People don’t feel like they’re wasting their time if they learn how to garden, set a pretty Thanksgiving table or renovate their bathroom, she said.
Why do people like Hillary Clinton love watching HGTV? https://t.co/H7aaaS1h83
— Moneyish (@Moneyish) September 19, 2017
“Every story has a happy ending: Every renovation ends on time and looks amazing, and every contractor is hunky … The only tears on HGTV are the tears of joy when we show a big reveal,” Finch said. People don’t necessarily flip on HGTV for a specific show, she added, but for a specific feeling. “What we deliver is consistency,” she said.
Home improvement shows also harness viewers’ imaginations as they envision how they might use a particular color or position a shelf in their own pad, media and health psychologist Nancy Mramor told Moneyish. And doing (or even imagining doing) a project of their own can give people a sense of control, freeing them from stress, she said. Mramor calls networks like HGTV, National Geographic, PBS and the History Channel — i.e., neutral, educational viewing experiences with few provocations or disturbing images — “positive media.”
“They’re beautiful, they’re powerful, there’s a creative process occurring, it’s a constructive activity,” she said. “There are so many things about it that are just nourishing.”
One HGTV show that may no longer nourish Clinton: the annual “White House Christmas” special, which Finch says the network has already arranged. “My guess is she probably won’t want to watch it this year,” Finch said.
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