Wednesday, June 3, 2009
Reality Shows Sell More Products
Scripted TV shows bring in younger and higher income viewers than reality shows, according to a new survey by the marketing research firm Experian Simmons. Reality shows, however, are cheaper to produce, and according to the web site MediaPost.com, they do a better job of engaging the viewer. For example, reality shows such as "American Idol" and "Survivor" are more "inspirational" and "life-enhancing" than scripted shows, and viewers experience a better "personal connection." Because the viewer connects on a more personal level with reality shows - "Britain's Got Talent's" Susan Boyle is an example of a reality contestant who jumped continents to inspire viewers with her unusual life story - the Experian Simmons survey notes that "advertisers that buy time on broadcast reality programs have a better opportunity of getting their products noticed and ultimately purchased than if they advertised on broadcast dramas." This is not good news for those of us with a higher education and a higher income, who like to come home from a long day at work, pop open a cold Bud Light, and watch CBS's long-running "Without a Trace" or NBC's quirky new cop show "Life". The reality of reality shows is that they are cheaper to produce, and a report showing that they are more effective at selling products, if indeed true, will only mean less scripted shows and more moves like the NBC strategy of putting Jay Leno on 5 nights a week beginning in the fall at 10 p.m. If this type of programming is effective, look for more. Primetime will become a mixture of talk shows and "Celebrities Trying to Get Out of the Jungle" shows. Cable is the last frontier, but look for more shows to get the ax like TNT's "Trust Me," which lasted a season, as opposed to shows like AMC's "Breaking Bad," which is being given time for its audience to grow. But there will always be a need for scripted shows, because if the Experian Simmons survey is accurate, people with higher incomes favor scripted shows. And these people spend more on premium cable channels, so there will always be room for shows like Showtime's "Dexter" and HBO's "Entourage" and "In Treatment." These are on pay TV, so there's no need to worry about advertisers. And as scripted shows disappear on broadcast channels, the ratings are going up on premium cable. The previously mentioned "Without a Trace" (CBS) and "Life" (NBC) were both canceled. But luckily, "Dexter" will air this fall on Showtime. Until then, I'll be watching Major League Baseball on ESPN.