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Why millennials are obsessed with HGTV

Melody Hahm
Senior Writer

With home prices hitting new highs, homeownership appears increasingly unattainable for the 20- and 30-something cohort. But, that’s not stopping them from gravitating toward HGTV’s aspirational and escapist programming.

Together, Gen Z and millennials account for 55% of HGTV’s audience.

Michael Barrera, 25, spends five to six hours each week watching HGTV, allowing himself to binge on Sundays. “Fixer Upper,” a primary ratings driver for HGTV, is his favorite show. “House Hunters,” “Property Brothers,” “Flip or Flop,” and “Love it or List it” are the top shows by gross rating point.

“With all the news in the world right now, it feels like a really nice escape. The programming is aspirational, inspirational, and feels like a bit of a vacation,” he told Yahoo Finance.

The star power 

Heewon Sohn, a NYC-based 38-year-old motion graphics designer, said she also loves “Fixer Upper” because of its stars, Chip and Joanna Gaines.

“I even saw people dressing up as them for Halloween. I really like the dynamic between the two. She’s definitely in charge,” she said.

While “Fixer Upper” will end after its fifth season, it has catapulted the Gaines couple into fame — landing them two book deals and a home decor line at Target (TGT).

“Fixer Upper” stars Chip and Joanna Gaines at the BUILD studios in downtown Manhattan

Similarly, twin brothers Drew and Jonathan Scott, a.k.a. “The Property Brothers,” have become a household name.

“The episodes don’t follow a linear narrative so you can easily switch on and watch, even mid-episode. The twins are good hosts. And funny,” said Fhiwa Ndou, 26, who currently lives in Uganda.

In fact, the Scott brothers have teamed up with Chase for a marketing campaign, which may explain why you’ve likely seen their faces plastered across your local bank.  

‘A mindless escape’

HGTV marries practical tips and tricks with a bit of intrigue — like any good reality TV does.

This means that 20- and 30-somethings find themselves watching episodes on repeat, keeping it on in the background while they cook or get ready for a night out.

“The HGTV shows are a mindless escape with manufactured or really silly ‘drama.’ It’s easy to watch them while doing other things, too. Plus there are so many different episodes on demand, so I can watch them whenever and without commercials. My boyfriend and I have super different tastes in TV shows, but we both agree that we really enjoy HGTV,”  said 26-year-old Jocelyn Jezierny, a lawyer based in D.C.

Madeline Bortner, 25, who works as a media campaign manager in NYC, said she leaves HGTV on in the background whenever she works from home.

The fantasy element

But, perhaps more than anything, as many young adults, particularly urban dwellers, sign their monthly rent checks, HGTV shows allow them to imagine an alternate existence.

“It [suits] my ‘window shopper’ personality. I love seeing the houses in the same way I love TLC’s ‘Say Yes to the Dress,’ said Sally Salari, a 26-year-old medical school student in Michigan.

Sharon Pak, a New Jersey-based 28-year-old who works in real estate management, echoed this sentiment.

“I guess for millennials, it feels like a fantasy. We love to see the things that we can’t afford, given that we’re crammed into 300-square-foot apartments and have debt,” she said.

Shows like “Fixer Upper,” “Property Brothers” and “House Hunters Renovation,” in particular, let viewers witness how a dilapidated dump can become a sophisticated and enviable home.

“It allows us to fantasize about our first homes since we’re not homeowners yet. It gives me inspiration. I like seeing the transformation,” said Bortner.

“There’s something really satisfying about watching a show where they take a home that the average person would think is really a lost cause and they do a complete transformation to it,” added Jezierny.

HGTV is a bright spot

Operating revenue at HGTV remains the highest among its six properties, which include Food Network and Travel Channel. There was a 1.3% increase in revenue in the three months that ended September 30, 2017 compared to a year ago.

And though HGTV parent company Scripps’ (SNI) advertising growth has outperformed the rest of the industry in all but one quarter since 2013, that gap is closing as a result of SNI’s softer ratings.

Beyond the tube

Scripps, which Discovery (DISCA) is acquiring in a deal expected to close by early 2018, has been doubling down on online content to appeal to millennials. Scripps’ digital arm, Lifestyle Studios, just launched Genius Kitchen, a digital platform that targets 21- to 35-year-olds.

In addition, Scripps launched a brand called Handmade by HGTV, which has amassed 2.3 million Facebook followers and 320,000 YouTube subscribers.

Together, Gen Z and Millennials account for 75% of Handmade’s audience.

Primarily focused on DIY videos like fall leaf placemats and hand-painted feather pillows, Handmade focuses on more attainable, practical ways to be crafty and creative.

“People want their home to feel special and unique. The millennial generation wants more personalization and don’t want their space to feel like a catalog,” said Vikki Neil, General Manager of Scripps Lifestyle Studios.

Scripps has also developed a robust relationship with Snap (SNAP). Launching as one of Snapchat’s original publishers, HGTV is now working on original shows for the app.

Even without HGTV’s move into the online and mobile space, millennials would still likely be drawn to the network. That’s because they’re growing up and are looking for shows that can both entertain and instruct them.

“I’m at the age where I’m starting to think about homeownership. I feel like I’m on the brink of true adulthood since I’m almost done with school and my boyfriend and I talk about marriage a lot. So it’s where I’m at in life,” said Salari.

Melody Hahm is a senior writer at Yahoo Finance, covering entrepreneurship, technology and real estate. Follow her on Twitter @melodyhahm.

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