Are the current reality television shows format successful?
Reality television. A guilty pleasure loved by many, and scorned by just the same. But is it really that successful? And if it is, why?
The aim of this research is to discover whether or not the current reality television shows formats are successful. There are two shows being used in this research, X Factor Australia and Big Brother Australia. These two have been chosen as their both reality television shows, they are both Australian and they both use a voter based constant elimination system. The main difference between the two is that Big Brother is an extremely up close and personal show. The contestants are filmed 24/7 allowing for no privacy. In the true sense it is raw, reality television. Meanwhile X Factor is much more a traditional entertainment type program. The lives of the contestants isn’t really shown to the public, apart from the occasional hard luck story run at the auditions. The voting is based off each weeks performance. The show is designed to be talent based. Though some may argue that it is in fact a popularity contest. Regardless of the winner of each show, they are created for entertainment. As reality television is designed to do so.
Big Brother Australia is currently in its 11th season in Australia, having a break between 2008 until 2012. It’s cancellation was due to a release from Channel Ten saying that it was a decrease in viewers resulting in it’s contract not be renewed. But the Nine Network picked up Big Brother again in 2011 for a 2012 comeback. It is interesting to note that Big Brother Australia was continued to be filmed at the same location at Dreamworld on the Gold Coast Queensland. So the location did not change, but the producers did.
So did the format alter that much?
Well no not really. Big Brother across all of its countries that it is aired in, is different in certain ways to be situated to suit the culture it inhabits. For example the Australian Big Brother is much different to its European cousin. And then again across the continent there are a variety of different formats yet again. It may be obvious to state that there is a different format for each country due to the geographical locations. But the real reason is the cultural difference. Much like changes in preference in relation to food, humour is also different across countries. An obvious one is the Australian verses the American sense of humour.
X Factor Australia is produced by FreemantleMedia and aired on Channel 7. It’s just finished its 6th season. Coming from the brain of Simon Cowell, the show is adapted in 45 countries (Freemantle), originally based off the British show Pop Idol. A controversial move made by the Australian X Factor in 2011was the minimum age for a contestant to audition was lowered to 14. The winner at the end of each series is signed with Sony for a recording contract. Some contestants who are not winners are also signed.
For all of this research there needs to be a potential stakeholder who could use it to benefit them and their business profit. Therefore, the potential stakeholder for this type of research are companies that produce reality style shows. Being FreemantleMedia Australia for X Factor and Big Brother is an in house production being done by Channel 9.
The success of this research could possibly determine the future outcome of Australian reality television. Due to most reality television shows are not just isolated to one country, yet they are all unique to their home country, if the format changes in one country it could possibly happen in another also. The geographical location that would be most likely to be affected by these changes though would be the Asian market.
So far research conducted on this topic is more so done as to whether people watch reality shows, not if how they are produced is contributing to their success. Also a lot of research is conducted on the effects of the shows themselves (Potter). Something that I have covered in my survey with the question “Do you believe that reality television is impacting on society? Why?” Big Brother’s main pull is being controversial and using token contestants. Such as in 2006 with the alleged turkey slap incident or the use of unique contestants who are supposedly meant to represent the real Australia.
In a recent survey conducted by myself over half of the respondents said they watched reality T.V shows. With three quarters saying that there are too many reality television shows on Australian television. Almost 90% of respondents agreed that the use of controversial stunts to gain viewers is not an ethical thing to do in television. This can especially be applied to Big Brother. And in relation to the lowering of the age of contestants on X Factor, it was split directly down the middle, with 50% agreeing to their should be an age restriction on who should be allowed to compete.
When respondents were asked “Do you believe reality television is impacting on society? Why?” there were a variety of responses but mainly they were negative. Negative in the way that people can believe it is normal human behaviour when it’s really not. A positive of it raised though is that especially shows such as Big Brother they allow incidents that are considered to be socially taboo to be spoke about and bought to the publics attention. Such as a contestant cheating on his girlfriend in the current season of Big Brother Australia.
Another question asked to the respondents was “What are your favourite reality television shows?” There was a wide variety of responses, but that main ones were formatted to be less like that of X Factor and more like Big Brother. The ones such as Dance moms, Toddlers and Tiaras, When Love Comes to Town, The Bachelor and The Real House Wives series which involve people either living a ridlicious life or dating. Dating in the loosest sense here.
From this research alone it can be seen that a huge variety of reality television shows follow basically the same formula. There’s lots of drama and tears, a sad story or a miraculous finding of ‘true love’. People love drama, although they might not always admit it.
Something that is incredibly interesting and just shows the power of television is the discussion it creates. “It’s better to be spoken about then not at all” applies directly to Big Brother and X Factor.
For Big Brother along there are probably more people that dislike than do, but it does not matter. People are still talking about it. It would be a true failure if it was just being aired, but nothing exciting ever happened on it to create discussion.
A talking point for X Factor is that A. contestants aged 14 years are too young to be on the show (but what about The Voice Kids?), and B. the show is rigged. There is a quote from Dave Grohl of Foo Fighters fame, “When I think about kids watching a TV show like American Idol or The Voice, then they think, ‘Oh, OK, that’s how you become a musician, you stand in line for eight fucking hours with 800 people at a convention center and… then you sing your heart out for someone and then they tell you it’s not fuckin’ good enough….You don’t need a fucking computer or the internet or The Voice or American Idol.”
That’s easy for a man to say who has what all of the contestants on X Factor want, a career in music. It’s modern times to use social media and now television to get ahead. There are a million people singing in their homes across Australian wanting to be famous. Those who go out there to become one are closer than those who don’t.
From this small amount of research conducted, it can be seen that reality television shows formatting is working so far. They may not be the most popular shows aired on television, but they do attract attention and discussion, which with a show like Big Brother is half the reason it is produced. With over 50% of participants in the survey saying they watch reality television and giving a wide variety of shows as their favourites, reality television has a strong hold in the Australian television market. FreemantleMedia Australia and Channel 9 have both taken a show that was failing in its old format and giving it a face lift. Reality shows are designed to give consumers light entertainment, which is what Big Brother and X Factor do. Whether people like them or not is an entirely different issue but the audience that does watch them proves that the format is successful.