Style Net Gets a New Look

Nov 10, 2003  •  Post A Comment

E! Networks is set to “raise the curtain” on a major revamp of Style Network, according to company president and CEO Mindy Herman.
The changes, to roll out over the next two months, will include a new programming slate and a major marketing effort. “The campaign is going to be larger than anything we’ve done in the history of E! Networks,” Ms. Herman said. “From the end of this year to first quarter next year, everything we do will be about Style. We’re going to use every resource we have.”
The plan includes a new branding campaign that will cost “well north of $10 million,” the introduction of five new programs and a revamped second season of “Style Court.”
“I always call Style the best-kept secret in television,” Ms. Herman said. “It’s not going to be anymore.”
When the Comcast- and Disney-owned E! Networks launched Style in 1998, the channel glamorized fashionistas the way sister channel E! Entertainment Television glamorized celebrities. While that approach had an upscale appeal, it did not build the kind of broad audience now envisioned for Style.
Earlier this year, new programming head Stephen Schwartz, who was brought in after being executive producer of Discovery Network’s hit “Trading Spaces,” began bringing Style’s image back down to earth with a block of lifestyle-based shows that offered beauty and fashion tips for everyday viewers.
The new slate will push Style deeper into programming genres popularized by The Learning Channel with its introduction of several decorating and makeover programs.
The new titles include “Guess Who’s Coming to Decorate,” where a person’s home is redecorated by a former significant other; and “Whose Wedding Is It Anyway?” a reality show that chronicles the trials of six wedding planners (for a complete list of Style’s new shows, see sidebar).
Executives at E! Networks emphasized that the new shows will still have a beauty-service component, but the real goal is to tell compelling stories. “I think what E! is traditionally good at is documentary storytelling,” Ms. Herman said. “We wanted to bring some of those storytelling elements to Style. We’ve moved away from incredibly thin people wearing clothes you can’t afford.”
But given the plethora of makeover and decorating shows already on cable, will the new Style programs strike viewers as too, well, trendy? “We do survey the landscape,” Ms. Herman said, pointing to E!’s “True Hollywood Story” and VH1’s “Behind the Music.” “Just like E! was interested in biographies when biographical storytelling was at its zenith, Style is sitting in categories that are hot right now-home, food, decorating and makeover.”
Cable programming consultant Ray Solley of the Solley Group called Style’s move to take advantage of the makeover trend “a smart move.”
“There’s a youthful exuberance that E! has that Style has been lacking,” Mr. Solley said. “And that may be what, in a perfect world, we can expect [from the new programming].”
Besides, he added, “Anything would be better than those endless runway shows.”
Peter Butchen, senior VP and group director for the ad-buying firm Initiative, agreed. “[Lifestyle reality shows] are certainly advertiser-friendly and have been doing well for TLC, HGTV and Turner,” he said. “They get decent ratings, they’re cheap to produce. It’s a win all around.”
To help sell the slate, E! Networks has planned a promotional campaign that includes spots on other networks, cable systems, print and radio ads as well as significant cross-premonition on E!
“We don’t want a niche network. We want one that’s as big as E! [but] in the lifestyle category,” said Senior VP of Marketing Gavin Harvey.
To that end, Mr. Harvey brainstormed the network’s new tagline: “Style Network: Where Life Gets a New Look.”
“We wanted to convey that style doesn’t just mean your clothes or your beauty or your home,” he said.
Style is currently available in more than 30 million cable households, with commitments in place to expand to 40 million homes by the end of the year. Ratings information is not available, but a representative said the network has used internal polls, surveys and focus groups to determine that “Style Court,” “Look for Less” and “Clean House” are the network’s most-watched programs.
Though only the mock-trial show “Style Court” has been officially renewed, “Look for Less” and “Clean House” are expected to continue indefinitely.
In an effort to align “Style Court” with the network’s new storytelling bent, the show is being reworked. Previously, the show featured a before-and-after transformation set in a courtroom. For the new 65-episode season, cameras will follow the subjects throughout their makeovers to show a more gradual arc as they change.