Property Bros. Interview: Building a Billion Dollar Empire in 10 Years

Drew and Jonathan Scott, the siblings better known as HGTV’s “Property Brothers,” have built, rebuilt, renovated, redesigned and reimagined hundreds of spaces since their TV careers took off in 2011.

But the property they’re most proud to have built is their own Scott Brothers Global empire. The company, based in Los Angeles, is home to a bustling production entity, Scott Brothers Entertainment, as well as retail and e-commerce home-furnishing product lines that seemingly go on forever. The brothers have mastered the flywheel approach of using their vast TV presence to burnish their personal brand, which in turn drives retail and e-commerce sales, endorsement deals and advocacy in areas the brothers feel passionate about, such as sustainability and affordable housing.

The 44-year-old identical twins from Vancouver have become towering figures in the world of lifestyle media — and not just because Jonathan is 6 feet 5 inches tall and Drew, 6-foot-4. The pair have deftly used their serial entrepreneurial skills, drive and Canadian charm to become four-quadrant crowd-pleasers.

They’re also adventurous, seizing the Peak TV moment to produce (and sell) a series about a drag queen renovating a seven-room motel in Palm Springs: Scott Brothers Entertainment delivered “Trixie Motel,” starring “RuPaul’s Drag Race All-Stars” winner Trixie Mattel, to Discovery+ in June. “As a drag queen, I’m used to having to explain a great opportunity to people because it’s a little wacky,” Mattel says. “The brothers loved ‘Trixie Motel’ from the first pitch.”

“Trixie Motel” is a prime example of how the Scott brothers aim to expand the scope of their production activity with TV and digital content. They have equally expansive plans for their other business ventures, so much so that Drew just completed an 11-month leadership development program at Harvard Business School.

And they are forging ahead at this trans formative time for media and business with a company that they own outright. They have no private equity money, no silent partners. And they own all rights to their signature “Property Brothers” TV brand, thanks to a savvy deal they struck about two years into their run. “It was so important for us to take it in-house and figure out our growth strategy,” Drew says.

“At some point in the future, some aspects of our business will be partnering with the right people to help things continue to grow. But it’s been exciting for us to be able to be the ones to hold the control, to be able to make the decisions, because at the end of the day, I trust Jonathan through and through. He’s not some stranger that I brought in with money to do something or vice versa. We know we have the same values.”

Jonathan nods and says, “I have one partner.” “And he’s pretty good-looking,” Drew adds.

Drew and Jonathan Scott
Dan Doperalski for Variety

THE SCOTT BROTHERS Entertainment production arm is in active production on 13 unscripted TV series, from cornerstones “Property Brothers: Forever Home,” “Brother vs. Brother” and “Celebrity IOU” to a growing lineup of shows that do not feature the brothers on camera.

In retail, the pair are so ubiquitous that their presence becomes a form of promotion — and product integration — for the TV shows. There’s the Drew & Jonathan line for retailer Living Spaces, selling furniture, mattresses and wall art. There’s the man-cave collection for Macy’s — barware, serve ware, rugs and tabletop games. And there are upwards of 10,000 Scott Living-branded items sold through brick-and-mortar and online retailers such as Home Depot, Lowe’s, Wayfair and Amazon, from wallpaper to window treatments to electronic fireplace consoles to bathroom vanities. In less than 10 years, the Scotts are nearing more than $2 billion in retail sales.

The brothers also have a healthy endorsement business, which has helped make Drew and Jonathan household names even for viewers who don’t have HGTV as a preset on the remote. In recent years, the twins have served as pitchmen for the ADT security firm, Chase Bank, Dish Network and American Family Insurance. ADT capitalized on the brothers’ honest-broker reputation with the launch of a huge ad campaign during the Super Bowl. “The personal brand the Scott brothers have created aligns with ADT’s brand in terms of quality and trust,” says Casey Blair, senior marketing manager for ADT. She adds that the brothers “helped with recognizability of the new campaign and signaled something new.”

As they settle into their second decade as TV stars, the brothers are focused on growing Scott Brothers Global with fresh content and ventures such as mobile games. In conversation, the two are as excited and competitive about their new product line with Lowe’s as they are about spreading their wings as TV producers for other talent. “The quality of the kitchen cabinet line that we’re putting out, the price point for people to enter — it’s going to piss off everyone else in the cabinet business,” Drew says. “It’s going to be revolutionary for people.”

The profit-making potential for the brothers’ retail dwarfs the TV content business. But there’s no question that the Scott brothers didn’t become household names until Canada — and, shortly after, the United States — got a look at them pounding nails and picking out paint colors in their well-fitting jeans.

The “Property Brothers” concept of a home renovation show hosted by siblings — one a contractor, one a real estate pro — debuted in 2011 on Canada’s Corus. Three years later, the brothers were an overnight sensation in their U.S. debut on HGTV. Today, “Property Brothers” and other of theirshows air in more than 160 countries and are a pillar of the soon-to-merge HBO Max and Discovery+ streaming platform. As the scope of their activities has grown, the brothers have leaned hard on Scott Brothers Global president David Dembroski, a prominent Toronto entertainment attorney who represented them for years before joining the company in 2018.

Matt Horowitz, the Scotts’ longtime representative at CAA, has also been instrumental in guiding their career for more than a decade. Drew is more closely involved with the development and production of TV series; Jonathan is more into product development and design. “We divide and conquer everything in the company,” Jonathan says. He also describes their efforts as consciously “data driven.” Feedback from fans and customers is a valuable loop if you know how to use it. Jonathan points to the kernels of insight about consumer preferences they gathered from the 20 billion games that fans have played on the “Property Brothers Home Design” mobile app that debuted in 2019 in partnership with publisher Storm8.

“We get all of these analytics in, and then the team uses that to create direction for where we want to focus,” Jonathan says. “Because we can do a million things out there, but it all dilutes the brand. Our mattress program is one of the most successful things we’ve ever approached. [Partner] Restonic has been incredible. They let us design mattresses the way we feel is right from all the connections we’ve had with people in real life and with our clients. They let us design mattresses that actually fix the problems that people have, and keep it at a price point …” Drew interrupts Jonathan’s earnest analysis with a facepalm. “There’s the quote,” he says. “‘Property Brothers: We fix problems in the bedroom.’” Jonathan immediately offers an alternative: “‘We partner with the best of the best for our product line and for making sure that we’re staying with that commitment to quality.’” He tops that off with a salesman’s smile.

Drew and Jonathan Scott
Dan Doperalski for Variety

All kidding aside, Lowe’s and other retailers have rolled out the red carpet in stores for Scott Living products. For Lowe’s, it’s “a brand that customers know and trust,” says Bill Boltz, the retailer’s executive VP of merchandising. The larger collection of furniture and fixtures also makes for a turnkey approach for those seeking “cost-efficient ways to upgrade their rooms without a big-time commitment.” Jonathan’s competitive streak comes out when he notes how hard it is to make it in home furnishings, which are a bigger investment than, say, a pair of jeans or a T-shirt. “There are tons of celebrities who put out home furniture lines and all these different products,” he says. “I remember one fella — and he’s probably one of the biggest celebrities on the planet — his home products line failed. He couldn’t sell anything. And I think ours works because people invite us into their living rooms every single day. Or at least, for the 48 new episodes a year that we do.”

Jonathan and Drew Scott flank Lisa Kudrow on HGTV’s “Celebrity IOU”
Dennys Ilic

THE STORY OF STARTING their first business around age 7 looms large in the Scott brothers’ mythology. Their father was a stuntman and an actor, while their mother worked as a paralegal for a law firm that gave the brothers good, and often free, legal advice in their early years. “We were born that way — serial entrepreneurs,” Drew confesses. The first Scott brothers contribution to British Columbia’s economic output grew out of a craft project they both loved. “We made these decorative hangers,” Drew says. “We were selling them door to door, and we ended up finding a woman with a chain of American paraphernalia stores in Japan, and she started buying them by the thousands.” Needless to say, scaling the operation was an issue for the grade-school CEOs. But they took important lessons from the experience and never looked back at their balance sheet.

The growth of Scott Brothers Entertainment is a priority for the pair in the coming year. The two aim to nurture talent that, just as they did, come into television as business owners with existing companies that still need attention. Drew and Jonathan struggled with balancing their TV work with other responsibilities early in their TV run — until they took the reins and adapted the production schedule to their needs. “Our goal is to make our production company the best production company anyone’s ever worked with,” Jonathan says. He knows well the grind of unscripted TV. Early on, he says, “there were years I had only six days off [from] filming all year, and I started getting sick. And so we just said we want to be producing these shows in a way that we think is more efficient, so we can keep the quality high but we can also maintain our quality of life.”

Once they took charge, “Property Brothers” and other shows shifted to a block-shooting model in which producers collect material for various episodes at one time rather than finishing off one episode at a time. That makes it trickier to piece together in post-production but has benefits for the final product. “It doesn’t make any sense to shoot each episode in sequence; maybe it makes it a little easier for production, but it makes it 10 times harder for construction,” Jonathan says. “It actually caught on, and now almost every producer [of home design shows] uses some of the changes we implemented.”

Another business tenet for the brothers is: Jerks need not apply. “You know how some producers yell at their crews? You’ll never find that on our shows, because there’s no need for it,” Jonathan says. “Everyone’s working their butts off to make something. We maintain our core values: quality, respect, families.” Over the course of a long conversation, both brothers make repeated references to those core principles inculcated by their parents, and both repeatedly mention their desire to help homeowners from all walks of life feather a comfortable nest. One expression of that is through their work, since 2017, as ambassadors for Habitat for Humanity. The brothers help serve “as a rallying voice for the support we need to carry out our mission,” says Jonathan Reckford, CEO of the Atlanta-based nonprofit that advocates for affordable housing. “They have volunteered on build sites, supported our team as we sat before Congress and participated in numerous fundraising activities. We are honored by their commitment and look forward to many more years of partnership.”

Trixie Mattel, with Jonathan Scott and Zooey Deschanel from Discovery+’s “Trixie Motel”
Erik Voake / Getty Images

Drew acknowledges the weight of their success as he reflects on the position he wants to see Scott Brothers Global occupy in another 10 years. “For us, it’s not just that we want to make a whole bunch of money and be famous. We love helping families,” he says. When Drew is told that he was observed walking into Variety’s photo shoot carrying his own stack of suits in dry cleaning bags — the kind of chore that assistants usually grapple with — he grins sheepishly. Jonathan rolls his eyes and invokes their parents again. “Mom and Dad would kick our butts if we got big egos,” he says.

The brothers also have a strong point of view on their growing fame and how to keep it from overwhelming the brand and their lives. Jonathan is in a long-term relationship with actor Zooey Deschanel, making them a Hollywood power couple no matter how much he tries to downplay it. Drew and his wife, Linda Phan, have a growing profile together in the lifestyle, parenting and wellness fields: The two host the podcast “At Home With Linda & Drew Scott.”

The brothers are counting on their unusual career path to be good for their longevity in the eyes of consumers. “We’re not celebrities, we’re personalities,” Jonathan says. “We’re personalities who will never compromise on the integrity of our brand and what we actually do. And finally, after all these years of running our business, we’re at a point where, wow, we’ve actually built something that’s pretty incredible. And it gives us a platform to really expand.”

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