What makes reality shows attractive?


A woman sits on her sofa on a Monday evening after work, entranced by her television screen, wondering which man JoJo will choose and if he will propose. What is she watching, and why?

Like millions of television viewers, she is watching “The Bachelorette.” She is consumed by a reality television program and following it each week until the climax, discussing episodes with her friends, and excitedly posting comments to Facebook and Twitter about the results. Not everyone prefers the reality shows where contestants try to find love, but reality television has exploded over the last 10 years and doesn’t seem to be leaving anytime soon. Who is watching these reality TV shows and what makes reality TV so popular among viewers?

Reality TV basics

In the year 2000, Survivor premiered to 27 million users, and the reality television world has grown to hundreds of shows about countless topics. There are programs about the rich women in various cities of the country, celebrity families and remote families in Alaska. For those preferring to watch transformations or designs, there are house flipping shows, remodel shows and backyard design shows. This list could go on and on encompassing cooking, animals, physical challenges and much more. So why is reality television so popular?


When quizzed about their favorite type of television shows, 68 percent of 18- to 29-year-old viewers named reality shows as their favorite. Do not think it is just the young viewers loving reality television, this same poll found that 32 percent of viewers age 65 and older also named reality TV as their favorite. Although there is a wide variety of reality television, literally something for everyone, women are more likely than men to watch reality programming. Statistics about viewer demographics vary, of course, based on the show’s topic, but women – especially young women – tend to be the major viewers.

Why watch reality TV?

TODAY.com polled 19,000 reality tv viewers and found some common characteristics:

  • They have lower self-esteem

  • They are more extroverted

  • They consider themselves neurotic

Lemi Baruh, a Turkish psychologist, also completed a study regarding predictors of reality TVwatching, and found that reality TV viewers may have various types of voyeuristic tendencies. Another theory of Baruh’s is that reality TV viewers choose that programming for the purpose of social comparison. Whether reality TV viewers are neurotic or extroverted, it has also been noted that 72 percent of women and 60 percent of men reported that they watch reality TV due to boredom.


Reality television is both easier for the networks to sell to viewers versus regular sitcoms, and costs much less to produce. Considering the popularity of reality TV and the more simple process and costs of production, it seems that reality TV is not going anywhere anytime soon. The question remains – should reality TV producers clean up the shows? A poll of 1,100 teenage girls found that reality TV shows can negatively impact the girls, resulting in them expecting and accepting more drama, bullying and aggression in their lives. Are these popular, money-making shows entertaining viewers or hurting them? Only time will tell if viewing preferences change.


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