Internet, cell phones complete HGTV's picture

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HGTV debuted a new Saturday morning lineup Nov. 4, and with shows like "Don't Sweat It," "Junk Brothers" and "Hammered," it's safe to say these TV programs have a different target than some of the channel's other offerings, such as "Romantic Master Bedroom" or "Decorating Cents."

HGTV's weekend morning viewership has averaged 63 percent females so far in 2006.

"We want to branch out into a new demographic and attract some more men," HGTV.com director Charity Curley said of the new programming.

One way HGTV, Knoxville, TN, aims to do this is by marketing the half-day home improvement projects featured on "Don't Sweat It" on www.hgtv.com and via cell phones.

During the half-hour show, host Steve Watson directs viewers to the Web site to watch a video that goes into more detail about that episode's featured project. Once at the site, visitors are instructed how to send a text message from their cell phone to have a free materials list sent to their phone. The idea is to provide a shopping list of everything needed to complete a project that can be accessed easily the next time guys go into a store.

"Because the cell phone is something that is almost always with you, it makes deciding to take that first step on a project that much easier," Ms. Curley said. "You don't have to print or write out a list, remember where you've put it and then make sure it comes with you to the home improvement store. Everything is there when you need it."

The cell phone aspect of the strategy is more of an experiment at this point to see whether this reaches the male audience.

"It is commonly agreed that because of the popularity of gadgets among men that cell phones are right up their alley," Ms. Curley said. "We wanted to reach out a little by expanding onto this platform."

The company knows that cell phones can provide a strong conduit for interacting with an audience. This summer, HGTV aired a reality show called "HGTV Design Star" that gave 10 interior designers a shot at winning their own TV show. Each episode featured a poll question for the audience that they could answer either online or via their cell phone.

"We were giving them practice interacting with the show," Ms. Curley said.

On the second-to-last episode, viewers voted to determine the winner. There were nearly 67,000 mobile votes out of 630,000 total votes.

If the cell phone shopping list strategy goes well, HGTV will roll it out to other shows, especially those in the Saturday morning block, Ms. Curley said.

The online videos also are being used on HGTV.com's home page to attract visitors who may not have heard of the show. The site averages 5.2 million unique visitors monthly.

"We've found that our audience is very interested in home improvement projects," Ms. Curley said.

The three-pronged approach of TV, Internet and cell phone ties everything together nicely, she said.

"What we're doing is trying to make a really comprehensive package," she said, noting that the messaging within the show is the key to the strategy. "It is important that they say [the message about the video being on the Web site] during the show because it makes a difference when the message feels like an integrated part of the show."

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