The Style Network: Clear Brand + Distribution Upside, Backed by Family Revenues of $36+ Billion!

At Westdoc, DocumentaryTelevision.com caught a rewarding presentation about Mission, Filters and ‘Sweet Spots’ by Renee Simon, The Style Network’s vice president, Current Programming.

According to the Westdoc guide: Renee Simon oversees series, specials and interstitials for The Style Network, including the Emmy-nominated series Ruby, as well as the popular franchises Too Fat for 15: Fighting Back, Giuliana & Bill, Clean House, Dress My Nest and How Do I Look?  Renee is also responsible for identifying and developing on-camera talent and experts. 

Before joining Style, Renee was Director, Current Programming and Talent Relations for SOAPnet, where she managed Soap Talk and Soap Center and led casting for series and specials.

Ownership
The Style Network was founded in 1999, and is owned by Comcast Networks, comprised of:

  • E!, Versus, Golf Channel, Style, G4 and PBS Kids
  • The On Demand networks ExerciseTV and Select On Demand
  • Regional sports coverage through Comcast SportsNet, SNY, CSS and the mtn.

Mission

  • “The Style Network’s tagline is Before Meets After”
  • “For our programs to succeed,
    • “There has to be a ‘why’ before the ‘before’,
    • “And a story about what they’re going to achieve in the ‘after’
    • “Viewers want to get something positive out of our programs.”

Target Audience

  • Style’s Target demo is W18-49
  • “We do very well with middle-American mothers and upper middle-class women”
  • “Our message is: How to live your life better

Notable Shows

  • Style’s top show is Clean House
  • Other biggies are:  How Do I Look?, Whose Wedding Is It Anyway?
  • And docusoaps, notable Jerseylicious from Endemol

 Programming Filters

  • “We do lots of personal, family-type shows”
  • “We are a full lifestyle network with takeaway information.”
    •  “We don’t program runway shows, high fashion or celebrity extremes.”
    • “We are all about storytelling.”  
      • “So for a home makeover show, we want to know why a person’s house is the way it is.
      • “And for a fashion makeover, the question we want answered is: ‘Why does a person dress the way they do?’”
      • “Viewers come to Style for conflict and humor, but not for pure trainwreck.”
      • “Themes we like at Style are
        • Big personalities
        • Great stories
        • How you can live your life better.”

 Sweet Spots
At Westdoc, Renee shared several of Style’s cost benchmarks (‘$000/episode):

Docusoaps             $400+/-
Co-productions   $100+/-  (Style’s contribution to total budget)
Formats:                $2-3+/-

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DocumentaryTelevision.com ‘Sweet Spot’ Report

Purchase our original research findings about the ‘Sweet Spots’ for 25+/- U.S. channels, including Style.

The ‘Sweet Spot’ Report covers:

  • Network budget benchmarks for original commissions
  • Several levels: Signature, High, ‘Sweet Spot’ and Low
  • We cover ‘the biggies’ and diginets

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Reminder: What is DocumentaryTelevision.com’s ‘Sweet Spot’?

  • Every network is steered by an annual programming budget that establishes or implies a ‘Sweet Spot’ for an hour of original programming.
  • This benchmark is based on the network’s investment strategies, revenues, schedule, the competitive situation, contributions from co-producers and partners, and more.
  • The ‘Sweet Spot’ is the cost that the Director/VP of Development/Programming is comfortable presenting to the final decision-maker, expecting buy-in for an approved idea that meets the channel’s mission and on screen standards.
  • (Watch out for more detail on Style’s ‘Sweet Spot’ in coming weeks.)

How Many Programs Do You Order at a Time?

  • “At Style, we tend to order 8-26 episodes per series”
  • “Each episode must be a standalone”
    • “Viewers surf in, and they must understand what is going on right away”
    • “We think about what episode 150 will look like”
      • “If it doesn’t have legs, then why go with it?
      • “The longevity of a series can be determined by where a character can go
        • How can we grow a series and make it feel bigger?
        • Where else can the story go?”

 Pitch Process
 “It’s always better to come in to us with a production company if you don’t have your own credits.”

Competition
WEtv, Oxygen, HGTV, TLC, others

Style’s Hail Mary?
We ask: “What do you feel needs to be added to the mix — or ramped up — to move Style up to the next level?”

  • “We are looking for a ‘franchise’ and not a ‘program’ or even a ‘series’ “
  • “Categories that are important are:
    • A strong companion for our home makeover lineup
    • A successful personal makeover (i.e., fashion) show
    • Docusoaps: Big, interesting, loud characters that work in areas that would appeal to women (excluding cooking)”

Takeaways
Three reasons why DocumentaryTelevision.com thinks that The Style Network matters:

  • Style punches above its weight:
    • Strong branding
    • Effectively targets an under-served, upscale, Female Audience
    • Audience growth
  • Style is not fully-distributed
    • Current distribution: 65,000,000 U.S. homes
    • Another 35 million U.S. TVHH to catch the leaders
    • That’s a lot of growth potential
    • Audience growth builds morale amongst execs and producers. It permits flexibility.
  • Stryle is owned by the behemoth Comcast Corporation (NASDAQ-listed)
    • The largest cable operator
    • And the largest home internet service provider in the U.S.
    • 2009 Revenues were $36 Billion
    • Comcast’s acquisition of NBC/Universal will add further leverage across the industry’s value chain
    • And the oligarch’s leverage will inevitably flow to Style
      • For example, NBC’s broadcast network and cable channels offer new promotional and co-venture platforms for Style.

 Other Notes from Renee’s Presentation

  • “Our online presence is about unique content that viewer will not get in show.”
  • “We actively use social media to build awareness.”
  • “Style’s marketing budget usually reserved for launches of new shows.”
  • “Style enjoys a lot of magazine partnerships.”

Thanks!
Many thanks to the Westdoc Conference organizers for the quality of their presentations. And to Mike Roth for additional notes.