After his company, the former Discovery Communications, bought Scripps Networks Interactive in March 2018, David Zaslav immediately began looking for ways to make a big splash and “supersize” the audience for HGTV and the other networks in his expanded portfolio. During an early meeting with his new management team, the Discovery Inc. president and CEO recalls, he told them, “Let’s open up the lens. There’s a lot of great characters and properties and opportunities out there. What would we do if we could do anything?”
The first answer came that July, when reports surfaced that the Brady Bunch home—i.e., the house in L.A.’s Studio City that had been used for exterior shots in the iconic ’70s sitcom about a blended family with six siblings—was on the market. During an HGTV development meeting, director of programming Robert Wimbish suggested making a bid on the property, which quickly led Kathleen Finch, Discovery’s chief lifestyle brands officer, to email Zaslav with the idea. Within moments, Zaslav—who had watched a Today segment about the house that morning with his wife, Pam (“She said to me, ‘That’s my and everyone I know’s favorite house. That’s the house we all wanted’”)—was on the phone with Finch. “I said, ‘It’s done; we’re doing it,’” recalls Zaslav, who ended up paying $3.5 million to secure the property. “We would have paid anything for this. It really wasn’t an auction, because we were buying it.” Notes Finch, “I had no idea that he would react so enthusiastically, because he wrote a big check to overpay for a house. But he wants us to think big—and that’s really fun.”
Both execs, to paraphrase The Brady Bunch’s iconic theme song, knew it was much more than a hunch that the pricey property would ultimately lead to an audience and advertiser bonanza. That split-second decision to take such a big swing—one that Finch said would have never been considered under HGTV’s previous owner, Scripps—has led to A Very Brady Renovation, which debuts Monday, Sept. 9, on HGTV. The series reunites all six Brady siblings—Barry Williams (Greg), Maureen McCormick (Marcia), Christopher Knight (Peter), Eve Plumb (Jan), Mike Lookinland (Bobby) and Susan Olsen (Cindy)—for the first time in 15 years. The actors team up with eight HGTV all-stars from shows like Property Brothers (Jonathan and Drew Scott), Hidden Potential (Jasmine Roth) and Flea Market Flip (Lara Spencer) as they renovate the property to make it an exact replica of the house featured on the sitcom, including elements like the floating staircase and the kids’ Jack and Jill bathroom. With a 130-day shoot and a 150-person production and construction crew, “it’s definitely the biggest thing we’ve ever done” at HGTV, says Finch.
And while TV’s reboot/revival craze has quieted somewhat after recent fizzles like Murphy Brown, execs and media buyers alike see A Very Brady Renovation as a slam dunk that, like Fox’s hit BH90210, offers a novel twist on a beloved TV series. “This one was a no-brainer. The Brady Bunch is one of the most iconic shows ever. HGTV is bringing it to their network in a way that’s really on-brand,” says Sharon Cullen, executive director of integrated investment, Hearts & Science. “It’s a home-renovation show at the core that just happens to have one of the most iconic casts participating.” Given that the series is likely to draw both Brady Bunch fans and the network’s core audience, Cullen adds, “I’d be very surprised if this show doesn’t do extremely well for HGTV.”
That’s because The Brady Bunch is one of the few series with devoted fans of all generations. As Discovery’s chief U.S. advertising sales officer, Jon Steinlauf, points out, “It ran for five seasons”—from 1969-1974 on ABC—”but it feels like it ran forever,” because it was heavily syndicated for decades, and even today is ubiquitous on streaming platforms like Amazon, CBS All Access and Hulu.
Advertisers and buyers, who swarmed the Brady siblings during Discovery’s New York upfront in April, have already flocked to the series. “We’re selling it really hard,” says Steinlauf, who has secured twice the amount he usual charges for a 30-second ad Monday nights on HGTV. He’s also lined up three major sponsors, including Wayfair (see sidebar), to create custom content, much of it ’70s themed, around the show. “This is doing very well with advertisers,” he said.