The escapist appeal of looking at other people’s beautiful homes turned Home & Garden Television into the third most-watched cable network in 2016, ahead of CNN and behind only Fox News and ESPN. Riding HGTV’s reality shows, parent company Scripps Networks Interactive Inc. has seen its shares rise more than 30 percent this year, outperforming bigger rivals like Walt Disney Co., 21st Century Fox Inc. and Viacom Inc.
I had no idea HGTV was that popular. But I’m also not that surprised. It’s almost the definition of counter-programming for a divisive and chaotic 2016. And yet:
In the cable industry, though, success is relative. Like other networks, HGTV has lost nearly 4 million subscribers in the past two years, though ESPN lost about 6 million in that time. In a note last month titled “As Good As It Gets?” Michael Nathanson, an analyst at MoffettNathanson LLC, predicted viewership at HGTV has peaked and advised clients to sell Scripps shares. “I just worry that ratings at cable networks are volatile,” he said in an interview.