HGTV's makeover series about the famed "The Brady Bunch" house airs its final episode on Sept. 30. The series delivered the network's biggest audience in two years when it debuted earlier this month.
The show features the actors who played the six siblings in the 1970s show — along with other HGTV stars including Drew and Jonathan Scott from "Property Brothers"; mother-daughter duo Karen E. Laine and Mina Starsiak from "Good Bones"; and siblings Leanne and Steve Ford from "Restored by the Fords" — as they restore the TV home.
Jillian St. Charles, SVP of digital programming and video at HGTV, told Business Insider how the network drummed up interest for the series online, over an unusually long, 13-month campaign that used social platforms like Instagram and YouTube, as well as HGTV's streaming app.
"It's been such a learning year for us and an exciting year for us on Brady," St. Charles said.
Buying the Brady house kicked off a year-long campaign for the makeover show
Buzz around the show kicked off more than a year before the Sept. 9 premiere in August 2018, when Discovery CEO David Zaslav announced that HGTV had bought the California home from the TV series and planned to restore it. (The Los Angeles Times later reported that HGTV paid $3.5 million for the property.)
Typically, St. Charles and her team have a few weeks to put together a digital campaign leading up to the premiere of a show. Big events or series may get 10 months or more of digital promotions. But the network didn't want to lose the anticipation that was already building among Brady fans.
"Our challenge at that time was to do something we'd never done before: We had some natural excitement building for a show that wasn't going to be on the air for many, many, many months," St. Charles said. "We all sat down and thought, 'How can we start a year-long conversation about "The Brady Bunch"?'"
HGTV, like other TV networks, has been using digital platforms to find new audiences for its TV properties
HGTV, like other basic-cable networks, has been turning to digital platforms to grow its audience as traditional networks lose TV subscribers to streaming services.
HGTV's US viewership declined 9% this season to date, with an average of 1.3 million live-and-same-day viewers during primetime from Sept. 24, 2018-Sept. 22, 2018, compared to the similar 2017-2018 period, Nielsen data showed.
But the network was also the fourth most-watched cable network during primetime this year to date, and the most-watched in entertainment. It trailed only news and sports channels, Fox News, MSNBC, and ESPN.
Going into the Brady renovation, the team used Instagram to find Brady fanatics and other fans of renovation shows
In the lead up to the Brady premiere, St. Charles went after fans of "The Brady Bunch" — who grew up watching the show in the '70s or caught the reruns years later on cable TV — as well as HGTV's core audience and other fans of renovation shows.
St. Charles and her team created an Instagram channel for the show to reach the hardcore Brady fans, and filled it with behind-the-scenes photos and videos of the original cast teasing the renovation.
On the main HGTV account, which has more than 3.8 million followers, the team pushed more videos featuring other popular HGTV talent, like the Scotts, at the Brady house. They didn't want to lean too heavily on nostalgia.
"Nostalgia is generally a short-lived phenomenon for any one thing," St. Charles said. "Nostalgia is maybe what made people who aren't normal HGTV fans give it a look. But I don't actually think that's what carried the show."
St. Charles put together a dedicated team of 4 to 5 staffers to keep up the digital output over the year-long campaign.
The team put out six digital series, across YouTube, Facebook Watch, and the HGTV Go streaming platform for pay-TV subscribers. One, for Brady fanatics, was a sort of where-are-they-know show on the six Brady actors that appear in the HGTV series. Another, called "Sunshine Upcycle," for renovation and DIY fans, salvaged items from the Brady House to create new home décor pieces.
The premiere of "A Very Brady Renovation" was the most-watched HGTV broadcast in more than two years
"A Very Brady Renovation" debuted to 3.36 million viewers on Sept. 9. It was the most-watched broadcast on HGTV in more than two years, The Hollywood Reporter reported.
The network has held on to about 45% of those live- and same-day viewers through the series' third episode, according to Nielsen data.
During the week of Sept. 3 ahead of the Brady premiere, HGTV also said it saw a 92% increase in video views on Facebook posts and a 25% increase on Instagram.
The digital team kept the conversation going after the premiere with new content, including videos of Lance Bass, of N'SYNC fame, touring the house. HGTV originally outbid Bass to buy the Brady home, and HGTV wanted to win over him and his fanbase.
HGTV's hope with the Brady series was to pull in new viewers not just for that series but other HGTV shows. To that end, HGTV's Instagram displays numerous examples of the network's talent, who appear on the show, sporting '70s garb or working at the Brady house.
The network plans to analyze the audience for the series after all four episodes have aired to see who watched, and if the show brought in new viewers. The average HGTV viewer is 25-54 years old and skews female, the company said.
The network also confirmed to Business Insider that it is planning a holiday episode set in the newly renovated house.
"Brady can't go on forever, sadly," St. Charles said. "But these talents are going on to lots of other things on the network that people can enjoy."