Dream Homes and Personal Stories: Why Renovation Programs Hook | TV

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A ramshackle kitchen, gloomy living room and dated bathroom give way to sleek, sunny rooms with trendy furnishings. By throwing down a wall here and putting a piece of furniture there, everything changes. The house is like new. While the dubbing exaggerates the owners’ reaction to seeing their renovated home, the viewer imagines what it would be like to live there or how that kitchen would fit into their apartment. Television sells dreams, and reform programs make them come true. Productions about home renovations have been attracting thousands of viewers for years, but since the COVID locked half of humanity in their homes and forced them to look at the same walls day after day, their audience has grown and some networks have redoubled their bet on them.

This is the case of DKiss. The DTT channel began to program reform content in 2018 and since then it has issued 92 different titles of formats of this type. In 2021 alone, 75 different titles have passed through its grid, and it currently broadcasts 40 hours a week of formats belonging to this genre. Susana Ortega, director of Antena de DKiss, emphasizes that no other free channel has such an extensive catalog of reform programs.

“It was important to start with titles that the Spanish viewer already knew, whose presenters were already known and had appeared on other channels,” explains Ortega. They are programs like Your house to trial or the spaces of the Scott twins. They are already true stars in this genre and have starred in more than 400 hours of television, a fact that makes them the absolute kings of the genre. The American pay channel HGTV on which its spaces are broadcast is exclusively dedicated to renovation and decoration formats. In 2020 it was the most watched non-news cable channel in the United States among women aged 25 to 54 (75% of its audience is female), and it had an average audience of 1,360,000 viewers, 5% more than in 2019 .

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An image from the program 'Your house on trial'.
An image from the program ‘Your house on trial’.CATHERINE NGUUYEN

Divinity is also aimed at a mostly female audience, another of the channels that bet heavily on this genre in Spain and the first open to dedicate part of its programming to reforms. Sergio Calderón, its director, explains that these spaces provide very good audience data to the channel on weekend mornings. Your house to trial, with more than 600 broadcasts in 2021 alone, it averages 3.1% of screen share, with a 7% growth compared to its data before the pandemic, and is well above the 1.9% average of Divinity so far this year. Also improve string data spaces like The House of my dreams, Our own castle, What a pair of twins O SOS Jardines.

The formula for success

For Calderón, these programs combine different elements that are the formula for his success: on the one hand, transformation, the classic before and after; also the human stories that they tell, the common thread of each episode and that provide the identification factor for the viewer; and finally, its aspirational character. “The viewer dreams of living in those places, which have prices well above what they can afford and which flirt with the world of luxury,” says Calderón.

Although those responsible for the channels that opt ​​for this type of content emphasize that they do not exclude any public profile, they all agree that women are their majority viewers. The audience for the reform programs is very loyal. “They are products that have several ingredients that make them very palatable for a programmer. In addition to having a price that can be adjusted to the needs of the budget of the channels, they support an intense number of repetitions, which makes them especially profitable. It is the dream of a programmer, to have a product with an average of 10 passes and that you squeeze every last one with spectacular audiences ”, says Calderón.

Twins Jonathan and Drew Scott, on one of their shows.
Twins Jonathan and Drew Scott, on one of their shows.

According to Susana Ortega, the viewers of these programs, rather than a specific title, what they are faithful to is a time slot. “But if the shows reflect big mansions, high budgets, hot climates … they work better. Everything that reflects reforms to which, in principle, the viewer cannot aspire but dreams of having, increases the audience a little ”, details the director of Antena de DKiss.

After the outbreak of the pandemic, the trends in these programs have changed slightly, as Rafael Herrera, director of Antena de Ten, another of the DTT channels that bets on this content and which is currently broadcast by the British, tells House Doctor. “Before there were much bigger programs, pharaonic reforms and big changes, and now there is a lot of bet on formats of do it yourself [hazlo tú mismo], of recycling, of not having to throw away the whole house to get a change ”. Also noteworthy are the programs with a contest factor (two presenters who make two different reforms, unknown people who renovate houses and compete for who gets the most profitability …) and the spaces that give children the possibility of taking the reins of a reform, thereby instilling order and cleanliness. “Every year there is a twist, but they are always at the shopping table of the thematic chains, because they make the public come back on a recurring basis,” Herrera completes.

Spanish production

Compared to foreign products (the United States and Canada are the main countries of origin for these programs), domestic production has not been abundant due to its high costs. In 2007, Jorge Fernández presented the Spanish version of This house was a ruin, which had three seasons on Antena 3. In 2009, Cuatro took over with Surprise reform, presented by Nuria Roca and issued daily. The last attempt was the contest Masters of reform, on Antena 3, in the style MasterChef and with Manel Fuentes as presenter.

A moment from the recording of the program 'CasaTalentos', of the DeCasa channel.
A moment from the recording of the program ‘CasaTalentos’, of the DeCasa channel.

Outside of free-to-air television, the real experts in Spain in renovation programs are the DeCasa channel, specialized in decoration and renovations and with about 70% of its programming of national production. Mandi Ciriza, senior vice president of lifestyle channels at AMC Networks in Spain and Latin America, recalls “the headache” that was the first Integral reform that they launched about 12 years ago. “The production of reforms is very complex. Any television production involves many steps, a very long process with different trades and a very complex chain work. If you mix that with a work, which is awful… But it turned out very well and we said, let’s do more ”, he recalls now.

DeCasa was the channel that brought the Scott brothers’ programs to Spain and has been a pioneer in reform programming. 65-70% of its audience is female and in an age range that goes from 25 to 64 years. Regarding differences between international programs and local production, the budget is a fundamental factor that determines the result. Ciriza highlights the proximity and closeness to the viewer of those produced in Spain: “Everything is done in real houses, it is not a show. People can identify with what they see, and it is something that does not happen with US programs, which is like watching a movie. “

The before (above) and after one of the DeCasa channel's 'Reforma integral' programs.
The before (above) and after one of the DeCasa channel’s ‘Reforma integral’ programs.

Susana Álvarez, deputy director of the DeCasa channel and one of the people who works most closely on their productions, explains the process to launch these spaces. After the complicated work of coming up with an idea that differentiates the program, it is time to look for houses to reform. “Any reform in which we get involved has to have the same bases: first, that it offers us a decent space, that the house be televised; second, that the owner of the house does not mind being invaded by a television crew a lot of times; and third, that we do not run out of time. And then, fight with the inconveniences, as anyone would in a reform ”, explains Álvarez. Due to those unexpected problems that may arise, the channel usually has up to four programs in the filming process at the same time.

Finally, the question that almost everyone asks when they see a program of this type: who pays for all this? “We are a television network, we pay for everything related to television. Then there are different formulas, but the owner always has to put something in, “replies Álvarez. A report from The New Yorker On the US channel HGTV specialized in spaces for reforms, he explained that the reform is paid for with the owner’s money, but that producers usually get discounts on goods and services that make the budget stretch more than normal. “Many people write saying that they would like us to do the renovation, but not even the Scott brothers give away the renovations,” concludes Álvarez.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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