Skip to Content
reality TV reviews, news, and analysis since 2000

The number of reality shows on cable TV last year

The number of reality shows on cable TV last year
How many little spheres are in this photo? No idea. But we now know the number of cable reality TV shows that aired in 2015. (Photo by Shutterstock)

Survivor wasn’t the first reality show, but the number of reality shows have grown exponentially since it broke through and proved the ratings power of unscripted TV. But how many reality shows are there?

In December, FX announced that there were 409 scripted series in prime-time last year. Of course, my first question was about was how that compared to reality TV. Now there is an answer, thanks to the National Geographic Channel, which crunched the numbers:

  • 750 total unscripted series
  • 350 new original unscripted series

NatGeo CEO Courteney Monroe announced that during the network’s TCA session late Wednesday.

Those (surprisingly, curiously round!) numbers represent only reality TV shows to air on cable in prime-time—not broadcast shows, not daytime series, and not those that were on streaming services.

In other words, there are even more.

Also, there’s the perennial problem with reality TV: How do you define this wide-reaching genre? It’s not clear exactly how NatGeo’s show-counters defined unscripted series. Does the 750 number include talk shows? One-off specials? Wildlife series?

All reality blurred content is independently selected, including links to products or services. However, if you buy something after clicking an affiliate link, I may earn a commission, which helps support reality blurred. Learn more.

More from reality blurred

About the author

  • Andy Dehnart

    Andy Dehnart is the creator of reality blurred and a writer and teacher who obsessively and critically covers reality TV and unscripted entertainment, focusing on how it’s made and what it means.

Discussion: your turn

I think of writing about television as the start of a conversation, and I value your contributions to that conversation. We’ve created a community that connects people through open and thoughtful conversations about the TV we’re watching and the stories about it.

To share our perspectives and exchange ideas in a welcoming, supportive space, I’ve created these rules for commenting here. By commenting below, you confirm that you’ve read and agree to those rules.

Happy discussing!