Why People Can't Stop Watching HGTV

Whoever thought that a network focused on everything for the home would become the fourth most-watched cable network just behind Fox News, ESPN, and MSNBC? Certainly not many of the TV execs whom HGTV creator Kenneth Lowe originally pitched his idea for the network to in the early '90s. Said Lowe during an interview for Architectural Digest, "I've had a lot of doors slammed in my face by cable operators who said, 'This is too small of an idea, nobody's really going to watch this, we just can't see it.'"

But for the network's many fans, they can't imagine life without their go-to shows including "House Hunters," "Love It or List It," "Home Town," and "My Lottery Dream Home" — in fact, according to the outlet, in 2018, HGTV's primetime lineups averaged 13.1 million viewers.

But why is HGTV's content so addictive? Let's find out just what it is about the network that we can't seem to get enough of.

Its predictability is comforting

It turns out there's a method to all this madness. HGTV shows are addictive because they're predictable, and that's comforting. HGTV shows are designed to be procedurals, where each episode follows a specific format, and viewers can tune in any time and understand what's going on without needing any additional context (think "Law & Order" rather than "Grey's Anatomy"). HGTV viewer Fhiwa Ndou tells Yahoo! Finance, "The episodes don't follow a linear narrative so you can easily switch on and watch, even mid-episode." In fact, an article from Pacific Standard refers to HGTV as "the new home of procedural TV."

For example, on "Flip or Flop," each episode features former married couple Tarek El Moussa and Christina Hall as they purchase a different gross house in Southern California, transform it by way of demo and design, and make a nice profit. Then there's "Love It or List It," in which designer Hilary Farr and realtor David Visentin work with dissatisfied homeowners who, at the end of each episode, decide whether to love their newly transformed home or list it and move. Is it a coincidence that with all of the show's couples, one person always wants to stay while the other wants to move?

HGTV creator Kenneth Lowe described the design of the network best, telling Architectural Digest, "I see HGTV as kind of like a utility. You turn the faucet on, and water comes out. You turn on HGTV, and HGTV comes out."

HGTV shows are mindless fun

After a long day, you want to plop yourself down on the couch in front of the TV and relax. What do you put on? HGTV, of course. When you're tired and your brain is fried, you don't want to have to think too hard. Some open-concept mid-century modern homes with stainless steel appliances and quartz countertops are just what the doctor ordered. Ali Barthwell said it best in an article for Curbed: "The appeal of watching HGTV is that you can completely shut your brain off. There is nothing challenging or difficult happening on HGTV."

Our sentiments exactly. HGTV is all about visual elements, so just put on some HGTV and see what's on the menu. "The HGTV shows are a mindless escape with manufactured or really silly 'drama,'" said Jocelyn Jezierny, a lawyer living in Washington, D.C. (per Yahoo! Finance). This is also why the network is the perfect TV channel to leave on in the background. Jezierny added, "It's easy to watch them while doing other things, too."

HGTV's airing of new and previously aired episodes of "My Lottery Dream Home" on Friday nights is an especially excellent mindless escape. In the photo above, host David Bromstad is seen getting silly with lottery winners before embarking on a home tour in an episode of the popular series.

Engaging visuals

Everyone loves a good before-and-after, right? You get a satisfying feeling seeing a dated, dark, unappealing space transform into one that's bright and aesthetically-pleasing with high-end finishes. "There's something really satisfying about watching a show where they take a home that the average person would think is really a lost cause and they do a complete transformation to it," HGTV viewer Jocelyn Jezierny shared with Yahoo! Finance. Added medical student Sally Salari, "[HGTV] [suits] my 'window shopper' personality. I love seeing the houses in the same way I love TLC's 'Say Yes to the Dress.'"

With HGTV, you get all this in half-hour and hour-long episodes of a variety of shows, from the gross-to-stunning before-and-afters of "Flip or Flop" to the incredible transformations from Hilary Farr on "Love It or List It," leading the majority of the show's homeowners to "love it." Before long, you'll find yourself glued to your TV for an afternoon marathon. As Christina Antus wrote in an article for Scary Mommy, "HGTV is the visual version of crack. Once you start watching it, you can't stop."

Likable network personalities

Apart from "House Hunters" and "House Hunters International" and the shows that follow a similar formula — from "Hawaii Life" to "Beachfront Bargain Hunt" — the majority of HGTV shows feature hosts or personalities. You've got everything from realtors, designers, and social media influencers to everyday couples who went from realtors to experienced house flippers to famous rappers and boy banders who've managed to make a name for themselves in real estate or design. The one thing they all have in common? They're likable — at least enough to the viewers who keep tuning in.

Maybe you're like us and became just as invested in Tarek El Moussa and Christina Hall's personal lives as you are the fabulous backsplashes and bathrooms they deliver on "Flip or Flop" (which is also why you've continued to watch their spinoff shows)? Maybe you'd like to spend an afternoon with Keith Bynum and Evan Thomas of "Bargain Block"? Or maybe it's the banter between Hilary Farr and David Visentin of "Love It or List It" — who, admit it, really should get married. Right?

Viewers apparently agree. One user on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter, tweeted (via Good Housekeeping), "When i'm old and gray, i'll sit in my chair and wonder why i never had a relationship like Chip and Joanna Gaines from Fixer Upper on @hgtv." Others enjoy watching the Property Brothers' Drew and Jonathan Scott. "The twins are good hosts. And funny," Uganda resident Fhiwa Ndou told Yahoo! Finance.

Lure of the American dream

You know the American dream — raising a family in a big house with a white picket fence. Well, HGTV plays into this concept, and apparently it's working. An article for Pacific Standard explains that "HGTV, as we might expect, is so watchable because it features attainably realistic ritual re-enactments of the American Dream every half-hour."

One show that really plays into the idea of the American dream is "My Lottery Dream Home." While not all of the homes the show features are elaborate, over-the-top mansions, "My Lottery Dream Home" lets viewers fantasize about what kind of home they might want if they won the lottery, too — whether a massive cliffside mansion or a sprawling rancher with a tropical backyard oasis. As Christina Antus writes for Scary Mommy, "HGTV is everything we want our homes and life to be, so why wouldn't we watch? It's great to dream ... But only if it's a dream with an open concept floor plan and a neutral calming color palate."

It's (sort of) relatable

Whether you've shopped around for your own home when you moved to a new city or you're looking to do a renovation since your place no longer works for you, it's likely you find some of the individuals, couples, and families featured on HGTV to be relatable. Then again, there are also those cases where the people featured on these shows are, well, not so relatable — whether it's that couple on "House Hunters International" looking at a glass pod house in which to start their new life in Tulun, Mexico, or a family on "Island Hunters" searching for their perfect island paradise to call their own (yes, there was a show about people purchasing their own island). How's that for relatable?

In an article for Curbed, Ali Barthwell notes an episode of "Caribbean Life" where an American couple — a yoga teacher and a diving instructor — move to Bonaire "because their life in Phoenix is getting very hectic and Bonaire is just what they need — a slower pace." In her commentary, Barthwell continues to say, "Y'all. The idea that the lives of two 50-something instructors of recreational activities have become so fast-paced that they have to drop everything and relocate to an island I had never even heard of is preposterous." Indeed.

You can play along at home

If you're a loyal viewer of HGTV, you've surely seen "House Hunters" or "House Hunters International" and have likely watched episodes where you were shocked that the homebuyers did not go with the property you thought they would. For example, watching one episode, you were absolutely certain the homebuyers would go with house #3, only to find yourself bewildered when they instead choose house #1. "Huh?" you ask yourself. "The wife complained about everything in that house, starting with the kitchen cabinets being too dark!"

You're not the only one. Christina Antus wrote for Scary Mommy that one sign you watch too much HGTV is when "you can't shake the shock that comes from the couple choosing House No. 2 when it was clearly all wrong for them." Likewise, Barbara Fredricksen detailed her "House Hunters" obsession for the Tampa Bay Times, writing, "The nervous countdown music starts and you hear host Suzanne Whang ask, 'Which house will it be?' and you start shouting, 'Choose No. 2, choose No. 2.'" You know you've done it.

The network's content is for all

You may have noticed that in waiting rooms everywhere, the channel tends to be turned to HGTV. Well, this is no coincidence. 

What's so great about HGTV is that the network presents content we all can enjoy. We can all agree that we are living in a very divided America — the aftermath of the 2016 and 2020 U.S. presidential elections are proof. "With all the news in the world right now, it feels like a really nice escape," HGTV fan Michael Barrera, who watches several hours of the network's programming each week and especially enjoys binge-watching on Sundays, told Yahoo! Finance.

People of various racial, ethnic, and religious backgrounds can enjoy HGTV. So can Democrats and Republicans alike as well as those with differing interests. "My boyfriend and I have super different tastes in TV shows, but we both agree that we really enjoy HGTV," attorney Jocelyn Jezierny shared with the outlet.

And, shows such as "Lil Jon Wants to Do What?" in which the rapper and his designer, Anitra Mecadon, transform their clients' spaces with some bold creativity, help to attract fans of the rapper who may not have tuned in to the network otherwise. Whoever thought that HGTV could unite us all?