DIY Gets a Tool It Needs for Growth

Oct 16, 2006  •  Post A Comment

Kathleen Finch is used to working with tools. Now she’s working with numbers.

Ms. Finch is general manager of Scripps Networks’ DIY Network, which this month began getting weekly ratings information from Nielsen Media Research, and will start getting full daily ratings reports in January.

The numbers play a big part in DIY’s growth plan, since advertisers are more comfortable buying commercials on a network’s Nielsen measures.

Ms. Finch has blueprints for making those numbers rise. Among her strategies, she hopes to rally some attention by bringing celebrities to the network. She just signed actor Burt Reynolds and football star Michael Strahan for upcoming projects, and more familiar faces are due to join DIY’s lineup of hosts.

The network in the first week of October registered a 0.1 total-day rating, which is in the same neighborhood as ratings for MTV2, WE, G4 and BBC America, according to a source who saw the numbers. As expected, the report showed the network appeals to normally hard-to-reach male viewers, especially in prime time, when the audience is 59 percent men. The new numbers backed up earlier research that showed DIY viewers were homeowners with annual incomes of more than $75,000, a desirable demographic. “Becoming a rated network makes DIY `real’ to advertisers and agencies. It opens the door for us to get business from at least half of the market that cannot or will not buy unrated networks,” said Steve Gigliotti, executive VP of ad sales and emerging networks for Scripps.

Derek Baine, senior analyst at Kagan Research said the preliminary numbers indicated that having ratings would help the network. Kagan projects that ad revenues will jump to $42.2 million in 2007 from $35.1 million in 2006. The 12-year-old network, with more than 40 million subscribers, should generate cash flow of $18.7 million in 2006 and $30.8 million in 2007, according to Kagan.

“They are in the top tier of networks which are successfully integrating traditional cable and broadband properties, which is what is driving growth in this market now,” Mr. Baine said.

DIY is taking advantage of Scripps’ Web capabilities with a show called “Blog Cabin.” In the show, DIY online users will be asked to help design a cabin that will be built on television while the host blogs about the project.

“We know we have so many online users who come to our site to learn and to get tips,” Ms. Finch said. DIY has a broadband channel dedicated to woodworking and will launch a home-improvement project channel in the first quarter.

At Home With Tools

Ms. Finch, previously with Scripps’ Food Network, is right at home with guys who love hammers and screwdrivers.

“When my husband and I first got married, we moved into an apartment in Manhattan and it had no closets and I built one and it shocked him. He could not believe that I would have any idea how to do that, or that I came to the marriage with a tool kit,” she said.

While other networks have found difficulty appealing to men, Ms. Finch said there’s a simple formula.

“They’re not hard to get to the TV if we’ve got power tools and bulldozers and we’re watching things get knocked down. The same reasons guys like to wander the aisles of a Home Depot or a Lowe’s, they like to watch our programming,” she said.

Since arriving at the network 10 months ago, Ms. Finch has focused DIY’s programming. During daytime, when women are at home, it focuses on craft projects. Nielsen numbers show DIY’s audience is 87 percent female during daytime.

At night, DIY focuses on male-driven home improvement projects.

“We’ve produced the shows in such a way that the wife wants to come along and watch them-maybe just to give the husband the list of things she wants done,” Ms. Finch said.

Weekends, when many projects get done, are also strong for DIY. Viewing on weekends is 58 percent male, according to Nielsen.

The upcoming collaborations with celebrities are designed to get more people tuning in.

Among the celebrity stunts in the works, DIY signed Mr. Reynolds to host a “Burt Builds the Bandit” special. He will restore a classic Trans Am to “Smokey and the Bandit” condition on the show. DIY plans to use the finished car in a sweepstakes.

New York Giant Mr. Strahan will host a limited series called “Home Field Advantage,” which will show how to build personal play spaces, for example, a backyard putting green.

An episode of “DIY to the Rescue” will focus on refurbishing the Detroit Tigers’ spring training complex. “That’s more interesting than rescuing my rec room,” Ms. Finch said.

DIY also plans to counter-program the Super Bowl with a knitting marathon.

DIY is rolling out several new prime-time series. The concept for one that recently premiered, “Sweat Equity,” emerged when Ms. Finch was selling her Connecticut home. While her broker was suggesting ways to improve the value of her home, “I’m thinking, `OK, I’ll redo the guest bathroom, I’ll redo this, I’ll redo that, but I have a great idea for a new series on DIY,” she said.

DIY is also working on a limited series called “Man Caves,” which shows men building fantasy rooms, be it a basement with a big-screen TV or a card room for poker night. Another limited series is called “Tech Out My House” for guys who love to buy electronics.

The network is also in the process of finalizing deals for acquired programming to go along with “This Old House,” which is now stripped at 7 p.m. and 11 p.m. (ET/PT).