April 19, 2014

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The "Reality" About Prime Time TV

Reality TV is everywhere...and maybe that's the problem.
Whether I love it or not (and I don't), the fact is, everyone does reality TV these days.

Some outlets, however, rely on it more than others.

But there's an interesting trend, and, once again this year, it shows up in the recently-completed television season.

CBS, the network which, for most of the past ten years, has led the prime-time ratings, appears to have the least reliance on reality shows.

Yes, CBS still has the venerable "Survivor", although, like many of the other reality shows, that series has declined ratings-wise, its meat and potatoes series are drawbacks to the types of series which used to drive network ratings: scripted dramas and comedies.

CBS's top series this year include "NCIS", the number one prime time show, and TV's top comedy series, "The Big Bang Theory". The network's continued success comes as the series which used to drive those numbers, "CSI", has fallen. Of the two spin-offs "CSI" spawned, "CSI: Miami" was cancelled after last year and "CSI: NY" won't be on next year's schedule.

(It should be noted that one factor in CBS's ratings this year is that it was the network which aired the Super Bowl, the number one show of this or any TV season.)

Of the other networks, FOX was the only network to break CBS's string of first-place finishes a few years ago, at the height of "American Idol"'s success. "Idol" this year had its worst ratings in its 11-year history. ABC's "Dancing With The Stars", which has also driven that network's ratings, also declined. The hottest reality competition show appears to be NBC's "The Voice", which actually had the peacock network in first place in the fall. NBC's numbers went into the abyss when "Voice" was off.

Bottom line: reality TV series might be less expensive to produce (also some of the "name" talent might be a little pricey), but when it comes to producing ratings numbers, scripted series are still the shows which drive networks in prime time.
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