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The falling number of fall broadcast reality shows

There are 91 hours of programming scheduled by the big five broadcast networks this fall. Nine of those will be reality television, and that’s just six shows altogether. That’s down from 12 hours on prime-time broadcast in the fall of 2015. (These numbers do not include news (60 Minutes, 20/20) or football.)

The following shows were on last fall’s schedules but aren’t here this year:

  • The Amazing Race, CBS, which will not air until sometime midseason
  • Masterchef Junior, Fox, not on the schedule
  • World’s Funniest, Fox, fate unknown
  • America’s Next Top Model, The CW, cancelled
  • Best Time Ever with Neil Patrick Harris, NBC, cancelled

Those five absences are offset by two gains:

  • Caught on Camera with Nick Cannon, NBC
  • Hell’s Kitchen, Fox, back for its 16th season

Before anyone goes off and writes REALITY IS DEAD DING DONG headlines, let’s remember that this last week alone, four shows were unscripted. Cable is still dominated by reality television.

And we’re about to see a flood of reality television across the television this summer—including many returning powerhouses on the big networks, such as NBC’s America’s Got Talent and American Ninja Warrior; CBS’ Big Brother; and ABC’s hit lineup of nostalgia fueled series and game shows, including BattlebotsCelebrity Family Feud, and this summer’s revival of The $100,000 Pyramid and Match Game.

What’s interesting to me is that broadcast networks still seem to be viewing reality TV as filler, placeholders, replacements for failed series, and/or summer-only fare. The fall appears to be reserved for scripted series—or at least, attempts to launch new scripted series.

Here is a rundown of the fall reality TV scheduled, as announced by the networks this week during their upfront presentations.

ABC

Three hours out of 22

  • Dancing with the Stars (Mondays, 8-10)
  • Shark Tank (Fridays, 9-10)

CBS

One hour out of 22:

  • Survivor (Wednesdays, 8-9)

The CW

Zero hours out of 10

Fox

One hour out of 15:

  • Hell’s Kitchen (Fridays, 8-9)

NBC

Four hours out of 22:

  • The Voice (Mondays, 8-10; Tuesdays, 8-9)
  • Caught on Camera with Nick Cannon (Fridays, 8-9)

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About the author

  • 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. Learn more about Andy.

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