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Chip and Joanna Gaines on building Magnolia Network, even though ‘We still don’t have a television’

During the Fast Company Innovation Festival, the ‘Fixer Upper’ stars discussed recruiting a diverse slate of talent to join them in their new venture.

Chip and Joanna Gaines on building Magnolia Network, even though ‘We still don’t have a television’
Chip & Joanna Gaines [Photo: Rob Kim/Getty Images]

“The secret to good television is finding people who don’t want to be on television,” entrepreneur and Fixer Upper star Chip Gaines told Fast Company Editor-in-Chief Stephanie Mehta during a keynote panel at the magazine’s Innovation Festival.

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Gaines appeared at the festival alongside his wife and costar, Joanna Gaines. Since their HGTV debut in 2013, the Waco, Texas-based couple have leveraged their refined-farmhouse style and family-friendly brand to build a home goods and media empire. Now they’re branching out with a television network of their own, backed by HGTV parent Discovery.

It’s a surprising next step for a pair who have spent their careers anchored firmly in the physical world—remodeling older houses, creating a retail and dining destination known as the Silos, and editing a quarterly print magazine.

“You see how everyone watches television now—everyone’s in their own room, on their own device,” Joanna said. “It’s no longer a thing of bringing families together. We got excited about just that idea of getting people back around that television, and being with family, and leaving and being inspired.”

And despite their own status as reality show celebrities, she confessed that in their own home, “We still don’t have a television.”

Magnolia Network, with programming designed for family viewing, might finally change that. The lineup will feature a relaunched Fixer Upper, as well as behind-the-scenes stories of small-town business owners, musicians, and DIY dreamers. For example, the Gaineses have recruited a Maine-based restaurant owner who takes reservations via postcard and a Texas-based barbershop owner turned hotelier who finds inspiration in learning the stories of other entrepreneurs.

“We didn’t go out and do casting calls, anything like that. We just looked around,” Joanna said. “It’s what they’re doing in real life that drew us to their story. Without the cameras on them, you could see the passion, you could see the drive, the risk. And then when you’re watching, you’re like, ‘Now I want to go do that.'”

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At a time when Americans’ media viewing habits are as divided as their politics, the Gaineses are hoping to position Magnolia as a destination where all are welcome. “We do feel this new division,” Chip said. “The fact that we have people [on the network] who see things from different perspectives, or have lifestyles that are different from our own, is going to make the overall experience much richer and much better. We’re really proud of that. . . . We want your kids to feel welcome, we want your grandmother to feel welcome.”

Magnolia Network was originally scheduled to launch on October 4, but that debut has been delayed due to the coronavirus. The Gaineses, like most Americans, have been learning the ups and downs of remote work, while managing remote school for their children. Perhaps not surprisingly, America’s most aspirational homebodies have found ways to embrace their new normal.

“For me, I get most inspired when I’m at home,” Joanna said. She described working in the garden and in the kitchen as the moments where she feels anchored, while for Chip, those moments come while working outside with the family’s growing menagerie of farm animals.

“For me,” Chip said, “my mind is clearest when I’ve broken a sweat.”

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About the author

Senior Writer Ainsley Harris joined Fast Company in 2014. Follow her on Twitter at @ainsleyoc.

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