Chip and Joanna Gaines step up to help lead a new TV network

NEW YORK — Chip and Joanna Gaines made a name for themselves thanks to their knack for renovating homes. Now they’re ready to put their skills to work on building an entire TV network.

The couple known for restoring old homes and buildings into styles varying from industrial to farmhouse are making the transition to TV executives with Thursday’s launch of the first steps toward their Magnolia Network. It will feature dozens of hours of new unscripted content and archive shows.

“It’s become this passion project for us and we’re just so excited about it. And now we’re finally here, and we can’t wait to show the world what we’ve been working on,” said Joanna Gaines.

The shows will vary from Atlanta-based farmer Jamila Norman helping families transform their outdoor spaces to designer Brian Patrick Flynn beautifying interior spaces. Motels get makeovers in one show, and vans get remade into tiny homes in another.

Joanna Gaines stresses that what Magnolia Network will offer mainly is not scripted shows as much as “real people doing real things.”

“The thing that I think wakes us up in the morning and gets us to work is the idea that we get to tell people’s stories,” she added.

Andrew Zimmern, an Emmy and four-time James Beard Award winning TV chef, signed on to host “Family Dinner,” in which he visits families across America to hear their stories and explore their food history. He’s known the Gaines for many years.

“They’re very genuine. They are who they are. They are consistent. They are reliable. They believe in taking risks and they believe in vulnerability,” he said. “They did not put any boundaries about what kind of show I was going to make. They essentially let me make the show I felt was important.”

Another host they tapped was Clint Harp, a carpenter who had been featured on the couple’s influential show “Fixer Upper.” Harp will debut “Restoration Road with Clint Harp,” following his trip across the country searching for items to fix.

“Joanna didn’t have to call me to keep making furniture for ‘Fixer Upper.’ She didn’t have to. They were fine on their own,” he said. “But she kept giving me opportunities. And I’ve told her this to her face and in front of other people before, just how grateful I am… And of course, whenever that phone rang and I saw her name on there, it was like, ‘Yes, what’s up? Let’s go!’”

The lifestyle channel will make its digital debut first, on discovery+ and the Magnolia app. Viewing requires a discovery+ streaming subscription, which starts at $5 per month and includes the app. Magnolia Network will then take over Discovery’s DIY network when it arrives on cable in January 2022. Chip and Joanna Gaines promise not the same old programming.

“I think it’s kind of good that we didn’t come from a background that understands television, honestly, because then we’d get kind of stuck in our minds about, ’OK, we need a formula, we need a format,’” said Joanna Gaines. “For us, it was just like, ‘No, we want to find people who are authentically doing this. We want to tell their story. We’re not going to shape their story.’”

The launch comes at an interesting time in the lifestyle ecosystem, when many people cooped up during the pandemic are itching to get out of their homes and travel.

“I think the timing is actually pretty fortuitous and coming right at the moment when people are looking for inspiration of where to go,” said Allison Page, the president of Discovery, Inc.’s joint venture with Magnolia.

The couple also found encouragement from another figure who has built a TV empire — Oprah Winfrey. Chip and Joanna Gaines met virtually recently with Winfrey and came away inspired: “Something about that really made us believe that it was possible,” said Chip Gaines. “That she really believed in us meant a whole lot to us.”

Chip and Joanna Gaines catapulted to fame in 2013 in Waco, Texas, with their show “Fixer Upper.” It led to a magazine and lifestyle books as well as apparel, furniture and design lines, all under the Magnolia umbrella. At the beginning, they admit they felt odd.

“The first couple of seasons of ‘Fixer,’ Jo and I were like a fish out of water. We had no idea what this universe was like,” said Chip Gaines.

Their decision to end “Fixer Upper” in 2017 came at the height of its popularity, but the Gaines seemed to signal that they were fed up, chafing against production demands.

“Jo and I evolved pretty quickly in season one and two to where we had real expectations for what ‘Fixer Upper’ should be and how it should feel and what it should be about,” said Chip Gaines.

“And the production company had formats that it needed to fit us into. And those things started bumping into each other more frequently than they did in the first couple of seasons.”

As a sign of rebirth, the new Magnolia Network brand will launch with a nine-episode reboot of “Fixer Upper,” which the couple now produce, subtitled “Welcome Home.”

The biggest change the couple face now is that they are not just starring among fellow entrepreneurs from the worlds of design, food, home and garden — now they are employers. They may have to cancel shows, but Page said Magnolia Network will not operate like typical networks.

“The way Chip and Jo define success is different from probably your average media outlet in terms of, ‘Are we proud of the shows? Are the people that are watching it loving it, and what makes us well-rounded and fully realized as a brand?’ And that may wind up being some shows that are loved and some shows that are loved by fewer people and that may be OK,” Page said.

With all the changes, one thing remains: The couple won’t be watching — even their own network — on a traditional TV. They watch on mobile devices and computers at home, but they haven’t owned a TV in 18 years and don’t intend to start now.

“There is still no television in the Gaines household. And I’m proud to announce it. You stick to your guns. I stick to my guns,” said Chip Gaines.

This story corrects the Magnolia Network’s digital launch day to Thursday.

Entertainment Writer Mark Kennedy and Television Writer Lynn Elber contributed to this report.