We are a nation of viewers.
In 2015, Americans spent an average of 2.8 hours a day watching television. The NFL and college football enjoys enormous viewership, but these aren’t played year-round. Political and cultural news do very well on national news networks, though their ratings rely on news cycles and on the big story of the day. The classic thirty-minute sitcom has held its own across many decades. Take a look at any computer’s recent browsing history and you are likely to run across dozens, if not hundreds of YouTube searches. The growing popularity of user-generated online content draws in viewers by the millions, thus subtracting from network programming.
One network that has maintained steady viewership is HGTV (Home & Garden Television) for their DIY and home ownership programming.
In the midst of this media chaos, an unlikely niche television channel has built a large audience for its basic cable, satellite, and streaming services. In real estate circles it is known as “flipping,” and is the model for many of their popular shows.
Don’t take it from us, though. It’s recently been reported that “…Home & Garden Television … [was]…the third most-watched cable network in 2016… [placing it]…ahead of CNN and behind only Fox News and ESPN.” The channel’s parent company, Scripps Networks Interactive, Inc., “has seen its shares rise more than 30 percent this year.”
This is largely thanks to the family-friendly shows offered by HGTV.
These shows are an attractive alternative to nightly news featuring mostly negative stories and reports.
HGTV is holding steady in its position by offering up positively entertaining shows in place of often negativity ridden news segments. Home ownership is a fundamental aspect of the American experience aspect of the American Dream. Investing time, energy, and money in upgrading one’s home represents more than the visual improvements. They symbolize a commitment to enhancing the lives of the homeowners and their communities. By honoring this way of thinking, HGTV has thrived in an increasingly competitive media environment.
This is remarkable.
And HGTV’s success indicates something significant about U.S. real estate—high viewership numbers for what might otherwise seem like narrowly-focused programming suggest that improving and owning a home is still part of the “American Dream”. Optimism has been in short supply these past few years, with economic uncertainty, evolving industries, and problems on the world stage. This contributes to a sense of worry in the hearts of many. But if the ratings consistently enjoyed by HGTV tell us anything, it is that people still harbor hope for better things to come.