Bringing the world inside

Channel HGTV (Knoxville, U.S.) Viewer Mostly female, ages 25 to 54 (followed by adults 25 to 54). Average primetime audiences climb as high as 1.15 million viewers Reach 85.4 million U.S. households Who Mary Ellen Iwata VP of program ...
August 1, 2004


HGTV (Knoxville, U.S.)


Mostly female, ages 25 to 54 (followed by adults 25 to 54).
Average primetime audiences climb as high as 1.15 million viewers


85.4 million U.S. households


Mary Ellen Iwata

VP of program development


With even non-lifestyle players jumping on the genre’s bandwagon, HGTV needs to keep one step ahead of the game. Iwata was poached from TLC one year ago to do just that. She immediately set about attracting new production partners and broadening the meaning of ‘home’ in the programming slate.


HGTV describes itself as the net that ‘brings real people, real places and real life, home.’ Entertaining, story-driven programs with lots of actionable info and hosts who are recognized experts in their fields.

Need it

‘We’re really trying to become a little more entertaining while we inform,’ explains Iwata. ‘We don’t want to lose our core [female] viewers, but we want to bring in younger viewers as well.’

And that means new blood. Many of the shows currently in development/production are produced by people with no track record with the network. Many are from the U.K., which has proven fertile ground for successful formats. ‘I think BBC America is proving that people in America will watch British shows,’ notes Iwata.

While she hasn’t commissioned a U.K. format yet, thanks to her experience working with many British producers over the years, Iwata says she’s actively looking overseas to either buy format rights or acquire a British version to air on the U.S. net. ‘I don’t think we’ll ever totally get away from the idea of the home,’ she adds. ‘I just think we have to find new ways to make it entertaining to people.’

Don’t Need it

Anything with a red and a blue team, a competition to win money, and a two-day deadline. In other words, anything resembling TLC’s ubiquitous and wildly popular Trading Spaces. ‘I hear a lot of: ‘It’s Curb Appeal-meets-Queer Eye-meets-Extreme Makeover,’ or something like that,’ says Iwata. ‘I don’t want any other recycled ideas.’

New This Year

Color Czars, a one-hour by New York Times Television, looks at the people who divine which colors will be big next year, such as the dreaded Barbie pink or the retro avocado green.

Elvis Slept Here (w/t), a one-hour by Philadelphia’s Stage 3 Productions, casts an eye at the homes of famous political and entertainment figures before they became famous.

Extreme Homes of Europe (w/t), a one-hour special by London-based Pioneer Productions, is based on the popular hgtv program Extreme Homes. The new version takes the show on the road to unusual dwellings overseas, and is being shot in splashy HD. ‘It’s a perfect topic for high definition because of the unique, visual subject matter,’ observes Iwata.

Mainstays such as Designer’s Challenge and House Hunters are still ratings winners. In fact, Challenge host Kenneth Brown is getting his own spin-off series, Redesign, produced by Hollywood’s Pie Town Productions.

The HGTV home design and renovation informational show is also given a new twist on Kitchen Trends 2005, a one-hour by L.A.’s 10 by 10 Entertainment. The latest in stylish accoutrements for the kitchen will be covered in a program Iwata admits is a little risky due to its short shelf-life. ‘Our viewers get really excited over anything having to do with kitchens or baths. Those are the two most difficult rooms to work on, and the most expensive… We’re going into it knowing it won’t live forever, but we think it’ll be a big hit. And if it is, we can do Kitchen Trends 2006.’

About The Author
Barry Walsh is editor and content director for realscreen, and has served as editor of the publication since 2009. With a career in entertainment media that spans two decades, prior to realscreen, he held the associate editor post for now defunct sister publication Boards, which focused on the advertising and commercial production industries. Before Boards, he served as editor of Canadian Music Network, a weekly music industry trade, and as music editor for As content director, he also oversees the development of content for the brand's market-leading events, the Realscreen Summit and Realscreen West, as well as new content initiatives.