Caves are making their comeback in these modern times. More correctly, Man Caves are making their debut.
The popularized term Man Cave, referring to rooms furnished to fill men’s dreams, owes much of its recognition to the DIY Network show of the same name. Hosted by expert/host/contractor Jason Cameron and ex-NFL star Tony Siragusa, DIY’s Man Caves promotes the male-directed space idea and gives viewers the opportunity to watch the rooms being made.
Man Caves is just one of many DIY programs appealing to male viewers. DIY runs the whole gamut of home improvement-centered shows, featuring programming like BATHtastic!, King of Dirt, Desperate Landscapes and Yard Crashers.
In recent years, DIY Network has shown great success in wooing the male audience. In terms of Scripps-owned cable television networks, however, it wasn’t the first home-centered network to be a success. Ladies did come first. Cable TV network HGTV/Home & Garden Television Network launched in 1994, with DIY Network not being born until 1999.
DIY Network nicely complements HGTV. Treating home and gardening from the design perspective, as HGTV does, generally appeals to women. DIY covers similar topics with a home improvement angle. But DIY Network didn’t always have such a clear-cut focus. According to vice president of programming,Andy Singer, “DIY was a lot of things to a lot of different people.”
Determining what DIY should signify to viewers was a job for veteran network executive Kathleen Finch. Finch, now general manager and senior vice president of DIY Network, was with Food Network for seven years before she joined DIY in 2006, preceded by 12 years at CBS.
As Singer explains it, “Finch came in and said, ‘We’re going to be home improvement.’ “
DIY might have involved crafts or scrapbooking, and pinning down how the network was going to use the term “do-it-yourself” meant taking a deliberate turn toward the male audience. Shows like Man Caves typify Finch’s decision, while partnerships with media outlets like NBC’s Today and the MLB Networkhighlight the decision’s success.
Singer joined DIY from Scripps counterpart HGTV in 2008. With Singer and Finch at the helm, DIY has undergone a transformation. Not only was the DIY identity crisis resolved, but celebrity guests and media partnerships became a driving force behind DIY’s growing popularity. Actor Rainn Wilson of The Office, talk show host Jay Leno and rapper Snoop Dogg have all been featured.
Of course, DIY appeals to a niche male demographic, but it may be more important to remember that the DIY audience is young homeowners. “Extremely valuable and college educated,” Singer says.
As a result, DIY is interested in partnerships with a range of media outlets.
In the same light, partnerships aren’t limited to media outlets that have strictly male audiences.
Desperate Landscapes’ partnership with Today on NBC highlights DIY’s national visibility, and a partnership with a more general, perhaps highly female, viewership.
Making the Pitch
“As far as direct competition, we don’t really have any,” Singer explains. “The reality is we are the only people who do what we do.” This makes partnerships with DIY particularly strategic. DIY has a particular audience. If you want to reach them, reach out to DIY.
Placing products and guests on the network is done quite differently than at many other broadcast outlets. Instead of contacting a show producer, DIY prefers that all communication be sent through the network.
“Everything is farmed out to production companies,” Singer explains, “but we have very few acquisitions. Ninety-nine percent are originally commissioned programs.” While shows are produced through production companies, DIY still ushers the show idea they’ve hatched through the production process.
“The network is responsible for editorial and creative, along with the production company.” As a result, ideas sent to the network need to be considered by network producers and executives as a first step. Then they will be brought to the production table.
As for what ideas would be considered, Singer says, “Anything that relates to home improvement, whether it’s demolition, remodeling or how to save in doing your own renovation.” The idea is to take these topics, Singer explains, and make them “extremely engaging and fun and entertaining.”
DIY has done just that with shows like Disaster House, which premieres this fall. Disaster House attempts to recreate typical disasters. The program shows the impact of a given disaster and then provides viewers with tips on how to repair the damage. The result is a program that is highly visual as well as helpful.
“We want viewers to be empowered, walk away saying, ‘I can do that repair myself.’ Or if they can’t do it themselves, at least have a baseline reference and feel comfortable talking to a contractor,” says Singer.
Through empowering viewers, Singer explains, “We’re also finding out that we’re motivating people to go out and buy.”
As a result, Singer recommends that PR professionals think big, along the lines of larger marketing partnerships.
“We’re interested in anything cross-promotional,” Singer advises. “If it’s an audience or a brand that makes sense for us, we’re open.” Ideas for a marketing partnership should be directed to marketing director Kevin Chorlins. Editorial ideas go to Singer or programming director Ross Babbit, and press-related inquiries should be addressed to director of press and public relations, Brandii Toby.
DIY needs to be approached differently because its production model is unlike other programming outfits. “We’re not a daily news station,” Singer underlines, “I know that’s what a lot of PR people are looking for…to be able to get one of their experts or authors on a segment. But that’s really not us.”
But that doesn’t mean that DIY won’t consider guests—quite the opposite. Singer describes where the network’s interest lies: “Anybody who’s in the home category—that could be an architect, contractor, subcontractor, builder, interesting homeowner, or somebody who makes materials.” With marketing partnerships and guest ideas, it’s important for PR professionals to think long-term.
Guests might end up making regular appearances on DIY shows, so they should mirror what DIY looks for in its hosts. Singer offers Cameron as an example, “He’s not just a host, he’s a contractor.” DIY wants people that share his qualities, “A trustworthy source…that creates a great enriching experience for viewers.”
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