Reality TV is thriving on network TV and “pilot orders are up 50%”

Seven years ago on March 24, reality television made its way onto prime-time network TV when ABC debuted Making the Band; seven years ago on May 31, television changed when Survivor debuted and captivated the nation’s attention.

Despite predictions to the contrary, reality TV has not died but has instead thrived, and now “recent history shows reality series have better odds than sitcoms or dramas of becoming breakout hits, and they appeal to families and young adults, who command higher ad rates, USA TODAY reports.

“TV Tracker says 56 network reality series will air this season, up from 51 last year, and pilot orders are up 50%,” according to USA TODAY. And “[e]ntire cable networks, including MTV and Bravo, build their original lineups exclusively with the genre.”

Specifically, “ABC has nine reality shows due this summer” and “CBS is filming five game-show pilots this month.” Of course, ABC didn’t exactly find success with its reality shows last summer, and most new network reality shows this year have seemed to die quick deaths.

FOX’s Mike Darnell also says there’s been a shift in how networks look at reality TV. “In the past, a lot of reality shows have been fillers or replacements. Now they’re such a staple, networks are saying, ‘This is part of our schedule now, so we might as well plan three or four each season because we’re going to have them, anyway,’” he said.

CBS’ Ghen Maynard said, “Some of the biggest game-changers tend to be on the alternative side.” And TV Tracker VP Carolyn Finger tells the paper, “Reality programming is doing so well at the networks. … It’s just simple economics.”

‘Simple economics’: More reality TV [USA TODAY]

about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.