Real Simple, TLC Show Needs Ratings Makeover

Real Simple. Real Life., the lifestyle makeover show that Real Simple and Discovery Communications’ TLC jointly launched this fall in an unusual sales matchup between the magazine and cable network, seems in need of some making over itself.

Real Simple. Real Life. delivered an average of 386,000 total viewers through the first seven episodes. The latest installment, which aired on TLC on Friday, Dec. 5, at 7 p.m., averaged just 287,000 viewers, not much more than the 207,000 viewers who tuned in for the repeat later that night (at 2 a.m., no less).

For comparison’s sake, TLC’s No. 1-rated program, Jon & Kate Plus 8, averaged 3.04 million viewers Monday night (Dec. 1) at 9 p.m. Lead-in Little People, Big World delivered 2.77 million viewers.

In the seven weeks Real Simple. Real Life. has aired, TLC averaged 1.02 million total viewers, per Nielsen live-plus-same-day ratings data.

“The ratings aren’t as high as we’d like,” said Steve Sachs, who spearheaded the show while president of Real Simple. (He recently became president of Time Inc.’s newly formed Lifestyle unit, and retains responsibility for Real Simple.) Sachs said the magazine has gotten positive feedback from viewers, adding, “We have a good sense of what’s working and a good sense of what needs to be fixed.”
John Barry, senior vp, ad sales, for TLC, was unavailable for comment. Through a spokesperson, he wrote in an email, “Both brands are a terrific match and we are currently in discussions regarding next steps for TLC and Real Simple, and remain committed to bringing our clients these unique multi-platform offerings that create great value for their brands.”

Two years in the making, Real Simple. Real Life. tried to build on the success of the popular eponymous magazine and TLC’s What Not to Wear, giving the show’s subjects tips to simplify their day-to-day lives. Few if any magazines have successfully imported their brands to a commercially viable TV series, though. In another unusual element, Real Simple and TLC jointly pitched the show, which was bundled with print and online, to advertisers.

Saturn, SC Johnson, Kraft, Sears and Aveeno signed on as initial sponsors, and the first of 15 episodes premiered Oct. 18. The show was heavily promoted at launch by corporate sibling Time Warner Cable and Real Simple in print and online as well as by the cable net, Sachs said.

The show may have lost a champion when Angela Shapiro-Mathes, who greenlighted the project while president and general manager of TLC, was let go in July. Sachs maintained TLC has been a strong supporter, though. “TLC’s been a great partner in promoting and working with us in general,” he said. Real Simple and TLC haven’t decided if there will be a Season 2, he said.