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Published: Thursday, 1/12/2006

HGTV looks to add emotion to re-dos

BY ROB OWEN
BLOCK NEWS ALLIANCE

PASADENA, Calif. - Got a hankering for a luxury bathroom, or just want to engage in some snooping around? HGTV has you covered with its latest I Want That! program, this time devoted to bathrooms.

I Want That! Baths premieres at 8 p.m. March 8, offering viewers the opportunity to glimpse design ideas, indulgent products, and ways to arrange a bathroom.

HGTV's panel was among the first to be presented yesterday at the Television Critics Association winter press tour, where networks preview their midseason programs.

HGTV president Judy Girard, formerly of sister-channel Food Network, said the network will broaden out from programming devoted to redecoration or real estate. She used the example of a redecoration show that was filming in New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina hit. The network turned it into a one-hour documentary after the storm.

"It was so emotional, and we're probably going to do a follow-up because [the owners] are probably going to walk away from the house," Girard said. "I think Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, which took emotion to the nth degree, showed us something. Extreme Makeover is not about makeovers. There's emotionality around the home and how you live that actually we don't tap, and that's where I think we have a great opportunity to expand."

She also introduced a term that's gaining traction among advertisers: Viewer stickiness. It means how engaged viewers are by a channel and how long they stick with a channel. Girard said the more a viewer watches a channel, the more likely they are to follow the network's brand to new delivery platforms (the Internet, mobile phones, video on demand), then return to the linear network on cable.

ABC's revamped World News Tonight with Elizabeth Vargas and Bob Woodruff as co-anchors debuted last week, and it all seemed pretty familiar. That was especially true for viewers who watch a lot of cable news, especially CNN Headline News, where news is the star, not the anchor.

Vargas was in the studio the first night while Woodruff reported from Iran, and it was all about the news. The people delivering it were secondary.

That's a fine approach to take, one employed for years now on cable networks save for the nighttime personality-driven shows but it's quite different from the long-standing tradition of building a newscast around a single anchor who becomes the brand and personality of that network's news operation. Vargas and Woodruff are fine news readers, but they're more bland than brand and don't give much definition to ABC News as a whole.

The WB's Beauty and the Geek returns at 9 tonight for its second season of matchmaking vacuous, hot girls and socially inept, nerdy guys. It looks to be more of the same as what we saw last year. Need proof? Take this direct quote from one of the female contestants: "When I see a large book, it is very intimidating to me. When I see a large menu, it's very intimidating to me."

History Channel will launch a 10-part series in April titled 10 Days That Changed America.

The Block News Alliance consists of The Blade and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Rob Owen, the TV editor for the Post-Gazette, is attending the Television Critics Association winter press tour in Los Angeles.



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