It’s an imposing task, one that might suggest Oprah, God or Disney: Create an entire network, built around one force.
That’s what the Magnolia Network is trying. On July 15, it becomes a streaming network inside Discovery+, fashioned around the design and renovation sensibilities of Chip and Joanna Gaines; a half-year later, it will also be cable channel, replacing DIY.
Such mega-projects have been tried before – the Oprah Winfrey Network, the Disney Channel, the Christian Broadcast Network – but they demand a lot. “It feels like an unquenchable amount of content, that you have to provide that machine,” Chip told the Television Critics Association.
And this isn’t emerging from some maxi-media center. Chip, 46, and Joanna, 43, live in Waco, Texas, where they raise five kids (from age 3 to teens) while creating books, businesses, magazines and more.
The July 15 start will have new episodes of her “Magnolia Table” and their “Fixer Upper: Welcome Home,” plus all 80 previous “Fixer Upper” episodes. It has 15 other series – some with newcomers, others with familiar people (Andrew Zimmern, Clint Harp), with more coming quickly.
That’s a lot to expect from two amiable Texans who started doing TV eight years ago, in the time-consuming field of home renovation.
“You’re trading a year of your life for, essentially, 13 to 18 episodes,” Chip said. Then a viewer might stream them all in a weekend. It’s “frustrating for me to know that I traded my year for (that).”
And now they’ll need much more – not 13 or 18, but 1,500 hours of content. They need to make new shows, rerun their past ones, commission lots of other people and get a head start.
This fits Chip, who has said he’s been a “serial entrepreneur,” starting four business as a Baylor University student. But it’s a big change for Joanna, who had pictured herself anchoring CBS News.
“I was always inspired by Connie Chung. I thought, just as an Asian woman seeing her, she was so professional, so well-poised,” said Joanna, whose mother is from Korea. “I also loved Dan Rather; so I got to have this amazing internship on (CBS’) ‘48 Hours.’”
This fit someone who’d been on TV since high school, doing commercials for her dad’s auto shop. She got a communications degree from Baylor (where Chip got a marketing degree) and the internship.
“It was like my dream,” she said. “But … I missed home so much that I found myself going into these little boutiques, just trying to figure out how do I find that sense of home here in the big city.”
After the internship, she was back at her dad’s shop. Chip has insisted he saw her photo there, kept returning until he met her in person, and blurted out, “You’re the girl in the commercials.”
The former football captain started dating the former gymnast. She was shy; he wasn’t. They’ve been married for 18 busy years.
She became a self-taught designer. “It took me years to really start trusting my gut when it came to design,” she said. She had to “say, ‘I’m going to go for it and I’ll probably make some mistakes.’”
He was working things out, too. One “Fixer Upper” question was how to reveal the renovated house to the owners. “(We) debated blindfolding these poor people,” Chip said. “We thought about dropping them out of a helicopter, like black ops might do.”
Instead, they “got our cowboy ingenuity together,” spent a few hundred dollars at a hardware store and created a rolling billboard. It was supposed to be a temporary solution, “but people really kind of fell in love with that idea.”
And then people loved the couple, whose makeshift lives have veered into Oprah/Disney territory.