Property Virgins Gets a Refresh

Following the experiences of first-time homebuyers, Property Virgins hit the scene more than a decade and a half ago and proved a staple with 12 seasons in the library. Now, the show is getting a reboot, courtesy of Cineflix Productions.

Property Virgins is one of those evergreen lifestyle formats that remains relevant no matter what decade, so I kept an eye out for the right moment to take it back out,” says J.C. Mills, president and head of content at Cineflix Productions and executive producer on Property Virgins.

“Back in the day, the market conditions allowed production studios, like Cineflix, to own their IP, which in turn helped them grow,” he continues. “The original deal with HGTV was done as a license, so we knew exactly when the episodes would come back to us if they weren’t relicensed. When they weren’t relicensed, that became the moment to push for a reboot. We had produced over 200 episodes for HGTV in the U.S. and Canada since the show first aired in 2006, so it proved itself to be a very bankable IP.”

After doing a quick scan of the market, A&E’s Home.Made.Nation lifestyle block was identified as the perfect place for a reboot. Cineflix also saw the potential to relicense the library episodes as a way to build brand awareness in advance of the new episodes. “The entire team at A&E’s Home.Made.Nation—from Mark Apter on the programming side to Teri Kennedy and Jordan Harman on the development and production side—instantly recognized the value in that strategy,” Mills says. “Once all the deals were locked in, we started the search for our new host.”

Wendy Wolfe, a celebrated radio and TV personality and one of Toronto’s top realtors, has assumed the mantle of host for the reboot, which debuts March 30.

There are several keys to rebooting a format, explains Mills. “You have to ask yourself, Is now the right time? We all know how difficult it is to get a project greenlit at this point, and it gets infinitely more difficult to take something back out once you were unsuccessful the first time around. You need to nail the timing. That’s easy to say, but how exactly do you do that? I look at the buying patterns in the content market, the types and genres of shows that are getting traction, talent-led versus story-led, what’s in the zeitgeist, etc. For Property Virgins specifically, we constantly keep hearing that the state of the housing market is preventing generations from becoming homeowners. Rising interest rates, an unstable economy and a lack of inventory all play a role in the inability of those looking to buy their first home. If you’re fortunate enough to be in a position to get into the home-buying market, the road is littered with first-time home buyers who got in over their heads. This is where Property Virgins comes in. Our goal is not only to entertain but to leave the viewer feeling more prepared for their home-buying journey than when they started watching.”

“Host-driven formats, like Property Virgins, live and die based on the host that’s chosen,” Mills says. This is even trickier when you are rebooting a format that had different hosts throughout its history, like Egypt Sherrod. “We did a large casting process that canvassed the greater Toronto area for a few months before we felt like we had a short list to run by Teri and Jordan,” he adds. “I was adamant that we needed to shoot run-throughs with each potential short-listed host to see them in action, and the network was fully on board—we had one chance to get this right.”

Tanya Blake, executive producer, and Mills quickly locked on to Wolfe during the run-throughs, and so did the network. “After that, we modernized the graphics package, removed the host stand-up that began previous versions and made sure that the look and feel was as current as anything else in the space while catering to the takeaway-hungry A&E’s Home.Made.Nation audience,” Mills says.

The property genre is perennially popular, but in terms of what’s trending now in this space, Mills says it’s as wide-open as it ever has been. “You have the streamers, which do well with shows [like] Selling Sunset and Luxe Listings, that are more focused on ensemble casts in escapist worlds, [which] Bravo has done so well for so long with titles like Million Dollar Listing. HGTV has long been the standard bearer for shows in the home category, which is why we’re thrilled to be in production on season one of Building Paradise (w.t.) for the network. It’s going to have more of a documentary feel than what you’d expect from HGTV in years past, but that’s why we’re all excited by it.”

He adds that A&E’s Home.Made.Nation seems to be carving out its own place in the market by leaning into the takeaway for the audience. “The beauty of the property genre is that it can be dialed up and tweaked such that it can fit anywhere: broadcast, linear (prime or access prime), SVOD, AVOD, etc. It’s extremely versatile.”

The current state of the marketplace, Mills says, is, “to put it mildly, challenging. The pure streamers—Netflix, Amazon, Apple TV+ and, to a lesser extent, Disney+—realized that reducing churn is as important, if not more important, than getting new subscribers. That means that you can commission less and license more, especially when only a small percentage of your catalog is viewed by a substantial number of your subscribers. Spend less on commissions and license shows from cable only after that show has become a hit. You have very little risk and get a hit show that your younger audience will think is a streaming original—kind of genius.

“As for linear cable, if the dollars into the system are diminishing and the business is contracting, the fact is that the networks simply have fewer dollars to take bets,” he continues. “That is good news for production companies with long-running hits. As long as the train stays on the track and the ratings are in a nice place, you’re likely getting renewed with a big order. Why? Known quantity equals less risk; unknown quantity equals more risk. What that means, however, is that the ‘real estate’ has shrunk for new shows to enter the schedule. So, how do you buy ‘new’ shows and limit risk? You take a timely bet on an established brand, cast awesome talent at the front and modernize the look and feel of the finished product. What do you get…? Property Virgins coming soon to A&E’s Home.Made.Nation!”