Reality TV: Can the Popularity Remain?

by at . Comments

If you thought reality programming already had taken over TV, there's even more in store.

An article in USA Today talks about the combination of earlier success, cost pressures and the threat of strikes by Hollywood writers and actors as having sparked the biggest appetite yet among networks for new "unscripted" series.

But will viewers remain hungry?

Reality TV ABC has nine reality shows due this summer, starting with Bingo Night in America May 18. CBS is filming five game-show pilots this month, part of its busiest reality push yet, and Pirate Master from Survivor producer Mark Burnett is due May 31.

CW's limited success rests largely with series such as America's Next Top Model, so look for Crowned, a mother-daughter beauty pageant. NBC plans series about former Spice Girl Victoria Beckham and another in which teenage couples care for borrowed babies.

Grey's Anatomy notwithstanding, 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.

"Some of the biggest game-changers tend to be on the alternative side," says Ghen Maynard, reality chief at CBS and CW.

"Reality programming is doing so well at the networks," says Carolyn Finger, vice president at TV Tracker, which monitors trends. "The No. 1 and No. 2 shows this season are American Idol and Dancing With the Stars," while struggling NBC's top show is Deal or No Deal. "It's just simple economics."

TV Tracker says 56 network reality series will air this season, up from 51 last year, and pilot orders are up 50%. Entire cable networks, including MTV and Bravo, build their original lineups exclusively with the genre. "We're looking for shows that can be expanded that night if need be or the next day with a results show," NBC's Craig Plestis says.

Games are the flavor of the moment, thanks to the success of Deal and the low upfront cost. Though they tend to burn out more quickly, even with lower ratings they remain enormously profitable. "Other than clip shows, it's pretty much the least expensive thing you can do," Fox reality chief Mike Darnell says.

But overall, networks seem more willing to make reality a permanent fixture.

"In the past, a lot of reality shows have been fillers or replacements" for failed series or summer months, Darnell says. "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.' "

Matt Richenthal is the Editor in Chief of TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter and on Google+.

Tags:
Like Us On Facebook

Want more Reality TV?

Sign up for our daily newsletter and receive the latest tv news delivered to your inbox for free!

More From TV Fanatic

Tamra-and-vicki

The Real Housewives of Orange County Review: Pity Party, Table For One

Heather and Tamra consider making peace with Shannon on The Real Housewives of Orange County. See what went down in our TV Fanatic review!
Andi-dorfman-on-the-finale

The Bachelorette Review: Who did Andi Choose?

Andi Dorfman chooses between Nick Viall and Josh Murray. Find out who she chose now on our The Bachelorette review!
Food-network-star-reaction

Food Network Star Review: Problem Solving

Who was able to successfully problem solve on The Rachael Ray Show this week? Find out now in our review of Food Network Star.
Milania-and-co

The Real Housewives of New Jersey Review: We Don't Like to Gossip But...

What took place on The Real Housewives of New Jersey Review this week? Read our rundown to find out!