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HGTV Bumps Up Giveaway Buzz

Apr 3, 2006  •  Post A Comment

Scripps Networks-owned HGTV is looking to add excitement to its annual Dream Home Giveaway by picking the winners live on cable, then continuing live on broadband video.

Scripps has been aggressively moving how-to and instructional programming online and urging viewers to flip from its cable channel to its Web sites-and vice versa-to find additional information on subjects that interest them.

“With Dream Home, every year we experiment some and play around with new ideas. It’s a good incubator,” said Jim Sexton, senior VP of interactive for HGTV.

With its home and lifestyle format, HGTV rarely does live programming. But when its biggest promotion climaxes April 29, the network will announce the winner live on cable. The program will then move to HGTV.com for the site’s first live webcast. The winner will tour his new home and look at other prizes. The 10-minute online special will also reveal the location of the next Dream Home.

“When you’re giving away a house that’s worth more than a million dollars, people want to experience it in a lot of different ways. We feel it’s a place where we can really use our creative juices,” Mr. Sexton said. “We’re always looking for a way to push the envelope with our sites and our brand. This is our way of doing it this year.”

The network is setting up capacity to handle a half-million simultaneous video streams. It doesn’t expect to get nearly as many as CBS’s recent March Madness on Demand, which attracted 268,000 simultaneous users at one point-nor would HGTV need that many to consider the effort a success.

“We want to overprepare for it” to ensure users don’t have a negative experience, Mr. Sexton said. “There have been times when a special airs and the site practically ground to a halt.”

The network is also upping its broadband firepower to make Dream Home more potent for advertisers.

“We know that with our TV network if there’s a compelling reason to go to the Web, and you mention it on the air, it works,” Mr. Sexton said. “This is the way to make that convergent connection work and create a broader connection for advertisers.”

Scripps plans to sell two 15-second spots during the live webcast and is offering the positions to current advertisers on Dream Home, such as GMC Truck, the longtime lead sponsor.

Scripps executives said GMC challenged the network to pump up the promotion this year. The truck maker plans to launch a new vehicle and wants to be more integrated into the contest. And it wants to see bigger results, with more entries and more leads flowing in from the Web site.

HGTV generated more programming around the promotion, including a themed week and the live special, more cross-promotional activity across Scripps media properties in cable, newspapers and Web sites, a print partnership with In Style magazine and more online elements, including a virtual tour and secondary prizes in addition to the Dream Home.

The result was an increase in entries to 54 million from about 40 million last year, and twice as many viewers responding to GMC marketing messages.

“HGTV’s Dream Home is one of many innovative promotions that GM sponsors on Scripps,” said Jon Steinlauf, senior VP of ad sales for Scripps Networks. “As a result, GM’s spending with us corporately, not just GMC, has grown significantly over the past few years on all of our nets and sites. We attribute a lot of the growth to our brands’ unique ability to engage their key lifestyle/psychographic targets and deliver qualified leads for GM through online activation.”

The Web has long been a key component of Dream Home, with about 80 percent of the 54 million entries for the sweepstakes coming in via the Internet. And Scripps said its broadband video views have been rising sharply, from a few hundred thousand three years ago to 7 million a month so far this year.