HGTV Lists Design Star as Hot Property

HGTV is looking to spruce up Sunday nights this summer as the lifestyle network preps for the return of its hit competition series, Design Star.

Heading into its fourth season, the home-design strip has landed a wealth of new clients, including Verizon and MasterCard, while bringing back incumbents Sears and SC Johnson.

A synthesis of HGTV’s core design sensibility and the sort of reality TV elements that can bring in channel surfers, Design Star has become the network’s signature property since it premiered in July 2006.

As the series continues to draw an audience—season three’s premiere drew a record 4.3 million viewers last June—advertisers from nearly every major category have looked for ways to align their brands with the show. “This year we saw a lot of advertisers who were not necessarily endemics who wanted the rub-off of the Design Star proposition,” said Donna Stephens, senior vp, ad sales for HGTV. “We’ve brought on more than twice the number of clients than we’ve had in previous seasons.”

Sears, Lumber Liquidators and SC Johnson are all aboard for the latest incarnation of Design Star, as all three clients have signed on for integrated packages. For example, hardwood flooring from Lumber Liquidators is used as a design element in the refurbishing of the Hollywood Hills mansion in which the fourth season was taped back in March.

New advertisers include Verizon, State Farm and MasterCard, all of which represent category firsts for the series. Applebee’s and Snapple have also joined the client roster.
Given the horrific state of the housing market, HGTV may have found itself in a tight spot this year, and yet the ad dollars keep rolling in.

“They’re a smart buy because they reach a very well-defined audience of upscale female viewers,” said one national TV buyer who declined to speak for attribution. “No one’s immune to what’s going on out there, but they seem to be holding up better than nets that serve less valuable demos.”

While the housing market is showing some incipient signs of recovery, HGTV continues to tweak its programming to reflect the economic zeitgeist. The Scripps-owned network first began adding fix-’em-up shows to the mix a few years ago when the first cracks in the economic foundation appeared.

HGTV pulled in an estimated $600 million in ad revenue in 2008. The network drew 1.14 million viewers in second quarter, good for 12th place among ad-supported cable nets.