Not surprisingly, news came earlier this week that Chip and Joanna Gaines – the design power couple behind the Fixer Upper series and the Magnolia brand – are coming back to television. This time, not solely as series stars but curators of their own network.
Discovery, which absorbed Scripps Networks and their HGTV, Food, Cooking, DIY, and other channels, is behind the offer to the Gaines.
I’ll make the assumption that their new network will replace one of Discovery’s lesser channels. (I’m looking at you, American Heroes and Destination America.) As noted in my new book, “The Genius Box,” large network groups took the same strategy as CPG companies in supermarkets. They filled program guide “shelves” with little-wanted brand variations, just to prevent the competition taking that space. But this resulted in many weak networks that offer little differentiation and lots of repurposed programming.
In this respect, the move to offer the Gaines the chance to rebrand and reprogram one of these networks makes sense. It can’t help but to be an improvement on what’s already on one of these lower-tier networks. And the cross-media potential of the Magnolia brand must be very enticing.
The drawback? Tying a network to a single personality has never had a good track record. Even the Queen of Media, Oprah, has been unable to make Discovery’s own OWN much more than a niche success. Nor was she able to break Oxygen before that. The problem is that even the best-loved personalities have a certain shelf life. Cable networks almost inevitably stray from their original targeted concepts to chase larger, broader audiences. And there is also the consideration that a “Magnolia” channel will cannibalize the audience of Discovery’s existing set of ex-Scripps lifestyle channels.
It sounds like any “Magnolia” network launch or rebrand is still well in the future. Regardless of potential negatives, such a move will certainly meet one rule of the Peak TV era: a brand strong enough to support its own OTT app.
David Tice is the principal of TiceVision LLC, a media research consultancy.
Read his new book, “The Genius Box” – details here
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