With over two decades of experience working in television, Kathleen Finch, chief lifestyle brands officer at Discovery Inc, has a vast knowledge of the industry and what viewers want.

She is currently responsible for the oversight and management of 11 of Discovery’s channels, including HGTV, TLC, Investigation Discovery and the Food Network.

media update’s Aisling McCarthy chatted to Finch to learn about trends in TV content and what viewers really want.

What kind of trends are you seeing in television content at the moment? What are viewers looking for?

The trend right now is real, authentic storytelling that features true-to-life characters. 

For a long time the industry was flooded with ‘shiny floor competition’ shows and heavily formatted scenarios, often with over-the-top manufactured drama. 

Now we’re seeing a swing the other way — [people want to see] documentaries, fly-on-the-wall observations and real-life scenarios told in a stylish, honest and sophisticated way.

What genres are the most successful and why?

Character-driven content is what really works to build passionate audiences. Fans fall in love with characters, not programmes. So finding great characters to front our content is the most important part of any programmer’s job. 

It’s what we focus on non-stop at Discovery, and I’m happy to say that we’ve developed some of the most popular and beloved talent in the industry.

With many viewers opting to move away from traditional television and towards on-demand options, how does that affect Discovery’s offerings?

We need to remember that fans increasingly expect to watch content whenever and wherever they want. On their phones, iPads, computers and yes — on traditional TV sets. We need to be wherever they want us to be, or we’ll lose them. 

So, we create our content to live on any platform and, additionally, we create hundreds of hours of digital-first content to appeal to digital natives and expose them to our networks. Everything from design tips to inspirational photo galleries to advice for entertaining at home. 

Those digital how-to pieces do a great job [of] attracting new viewers to our networks and provide added value opportunities to our advertisers.

How do you identify when a show is the right fit — for viewers and advertisers?

Viewers come to us to be inspired, so we need our shows to provide useful, helpful information — but always in an entertaining way.

The bones of the show might be all about a home renovation, but we make sure [that] they are incredibly fun to watch — ideally for the entire family. 

Our advertisers value the large and engaged audience [that] our networks attract, and we do that by always staying true to our mission of delivering inspirational content in a fun and entertaining fashion.

What do you think the future holds for the TV industry?

This truly is the golden age of television. There are such great things to watch in so many new and innovative ways. 

The challenge is getting viewers to find it. That’s why being a focussed brand is so valuable.

Viewers have a lot of choices — too many, I think — so staying true to your brand and always delivering on the promise you have made to your viewers is crucial. 

What do you think TV stations should be doing to keep viewers coming back for more? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below.

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With so much content available to viewers, having a clearly positioned brand can make all the difference. Find out more in our article, Creating successful lifestyle TV: A Q&A with Tatiana Lagewaard.