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LA Times

Reality TV Facing Reality of Its Own Real Crisis: A Ratings Downturn

Dec 29, 2014  •  Post A Comment

Unscripted television shows are having their own crisis these days, suffering from a ratings slump after years of drawing eyeballs and fears from TV writers that reality TV was pushing scripted shows into the sidelines, reports the Los Angeles Times’ Show Tracker.

“Now the scribes are having their revenge: Unscripted programming is mired in an unexpected slump,” the story reports.

CBS’s “Survivor” and ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars” are showing their age, while Coca-Cola recently ended its 13-year sponsorship of Fox’s “American Idol” after ratings declined. “The Voice” on NBC saw its season finale lose 10 percent of its audience.

To make matters worse, no new reality shows are stepping up to replace the slumping older shows.

“Reality TV was supposed to be a long-term fix to the problems of television, but that optimism was misguided,” Jeffrey McCall, a media studies professor at DePauw University in Greencastle, Ind., told the Times. “Program executives overestimated the true value of the commodity and drove the genre into the ground.”

Cable networks are also suffering declining ratings for reality shows, with A&E’s “Duck Dynasty” among those falling off. AMC has largely dropped its three-year focus on unscripted shows, opting instead to emphasize scripted dramas such as “Mad Men.”

Multiple reasons have been cited for the drop-off in reality show ratings, including too many similar shows and too many airings of the few hit programs on air, as well as too few original ideas.

The story adds, “Of course, there are still plenty of reality series to go around. In fact, some TV executives point out that the broadcasters probably wouldn’t be able to stay in business without unscripted series. That’s because, as overall network viewership has declined in the face of competition from cable and the Internet, ad income has stagnated.”

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