Real Estate Shows Get Makeover Amid Market Woes

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During the boom in the real estate market, there was also a boom in TV shows about real estate. Now that the real estate market has flopped, TV shows about real estate are getting canceled — or evolving.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

It wasn't that long ago that real estate prices were booming and property speculations seemed to be the national pastime. Cable TV listings were crammed with home and property shows, and even whole networks were devoted to that subject. Of course a lot has changed. And it's not just home owners adjusting to a new reality. Nate DiMeo reports.

NATE DIMEO: One day, years from now, future historians sifting through the detritus of the housing crisis, combing through the wreckage of five year interest-only ARMs and mortgage securitization, will pause to marvel that there was once a show called "Flip That House" and a whole other show called "Flip This House."

(Soundbite of TV show "Flip This House")

Unidentified Man #1: (Announcer) "Flip This House" on A&E.

Ms. NANCY DANIELS (Programming Head, TLC): "Flip That House" did well for us.

DIMEO: Nancy Daniels is the head of programming at TLC. Each episode of "Flip That House," and "Flip This House" for that matter, featured speculators purchasing property on the cheap, and renovating it to turn a quick profit. TLC's version aired for three seasons. It's ratings rising along with home prices.

Ms. DANIELS: "Flip That House" was really indicative of what was going on in the market. And so as that was becoming tougher, it was becoming tougher to actually see flips happen.

DIMEO: In the show, which thrived on feel-good stories of plucky entrepreneurs, had to adjust to a new reality with fewer happy endings.

(Soundbite of TV show "Flip This House")

Unidentified Man #1: They have decided to go where the flips are.

Unidentified Man #2: Because the sooner we wrap it up the sooner I get paid.

Unidentified Man #1: But will this new market for this experienced couple be profitable?

Unidentified Woman: Everything is not going too good.

DIMEO: The show was eventually cancelled after too many flips flopped. It's been replaced by a show called, "Deals On The Bus," which follows a tour bus full of would-be homebuyers on the prowl for bargains on foreclosures. Other networks, like HGTV, are remodeling too, launching new real estate shows and renovating old ones to focus more on how to save money rather than make it. At least one network is taking a different approach. Andy Cohen is Bravo's Programming Chief.

Mr. ANDY COHEN (Senior Vice President Production and Programming, Bravo TV): Just because the market's going to hell, doesn't mean that we're going to put a black crape over our cameras and go sit in a corner and cry. We're going to see how our characters react and respond to what's going on out there and we're going to show it.

DIMEO: He says their shows are character driven. People don't tune into the Bravo show "Flipping Out" to watch real estate transactions. They want to watch its star, Jeff Lewis.

(Soundbite of TV show "Flipping Out")

Mr. JEFF LEWIS (Real Estate Investor): I may not necessarily go after the multi-million-dollar homes. Yeah, we're gonna make some money. I gotta make up for the frickin' slow first half of the year.

DIMEO: So if the down market puts the excessive tantrum-prone Lewis or the outrageous venal realtors of million dollar listing under pressure, Andy Cohen says great, it makes for good TV. And besides...

Mr. COHEN: We're dealing with listings that were once going for 20 or 25 million dollars that are now going for, you know, $8 million. So it's still great real estate porn. We're not dealing with foreclosed trailer parks.

DIMEO: People are worrying about their mortgages and their jobs could use some escapism he says. This is real estate reality television we're talking about, not real estate reality.

For NPR News, I'm Nate DiMeo.

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