Reality TV finds success on network TV, but networks risk being confused with cable

The reality shows that have debuted so far in 2008 have found great success, from American Gladiators to Dance Wars, and “have performed as well or better than the scripted shows they replaced,” The New York Times reports.

The paper notes that “the antistrike strategy of replacing scripted entertainment with so-called reality series seems inspired,” and one anonymous network executive said, “If I were a writer and I saw ratings like that for a show that costs far less than ‘Chuck,’ I’d be scared to death.”

NBC Entertainment’s co-chair Ben Silverman said, “In every other country in the world, the majority of prime-time programming is unscripted. … It also has to do with demographics. Young people like this kind of programming. … Time periods may be lost to scripted shows.”

But replacing scripted shows with reality series may cause problems for broadcast networks, primarily because they’ll become indistinguishable from reality-heavy cable channels. Horizon Media’s Brad Agate said, “The networks have always been a destination stop for viewers. What does it do to commercial pricing if you can’t distinguish between a network show and a cable show? What happens if you can’t tell the difference between ABC and HGTV?”

Reality TV Is No Lightweight in the Battle to Outlast Strikers [New York Times]

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.