When it came to TV entertainment in 2018, Australians loved renovations, romance and recipes to the exclusion of almost any other shows.
Only one drama, Seven’s US series The Good Doctor, cracked the top 20 for ratings – in fact, cracked it twice with different episodes.
Even the rare lure of a royal wedding couldn’t stop the reality juggernaut, with Meghan Markle and Prince Harry’s May 19 Windsor Castle ceremony playing second fiddle to the announcement of The Block winner on Nine.
And in terms of sport, tennis, soccer – in a World Cup year – and horse racing were punted down the top-20 list by State of Origin rugby league, and the AFL and NRL grand finals.
The two lists were released by OzTam after the official ratings period finished on the weekend.
The overwhelming entertainment result shows reality TV “is the television networks’ nirvana,” media analyst Steve Allen of Fusion Strategy told The New Daily.
“It’s the golden goose, and it will keep laying.”
While Mr Allen takes umbrage at the way OzTam and the networks “slice and dice” shows into bits to be rated – for instance, reveals and winners, which makes it tough to accurately measure revenue – he agrees there are multiple reasons reality is untouchable.
One is that even though shows like The Block and Married at First Sight have specific subject matter, audiences come – ironically – for the drama.
So why don’t they watch the real thing?
“Because what the public seems to like is shows that are unscripted. They’re aware that out-takes exist and that a 78-minute MKR show takes hours to film but they still believe the words coming out of the contestants’ mouths,” Mr Allen said.
“With a lot of these shows they like to think, ‘I could do that. Why don’t I enter that?’ They relate their own lives and skills to what they see on screen.”
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The triple whammy
The appeal to networks and advertisers is a huge part of the puzzle.
“The shows can’t be stolen. Yes, they have to be popular, they have to be good but people can’t get them any other place. They can’t be pirated,” he said.
That means networks love them, but just like in the famous old Demtel TV ads – wait, there’s more. And, of course, it involves bang for buck.
The bottom line is reality shows cost less and make more in advertising dollars.
“It’s a triple whammy. First, they rate consistently higher,” Mr Allen said.
“They have very attractive demographics. They’re really strong with the 25 to 54 [age bracket], the mortgage belt, grocery buyers with children.
“They’re much cheaper and cost efficient than drama. When you’ve got 10 name people in the cast of Doctor Doctor, it’s a pretty penny but reality contestants don’t get paid much per episode.
“So production costs are down, revenue is up.”
Then there’s the bonanza: Integration of sponsors’ products, which spills over from the show into social media posts. Building on that, this year The Block rolled the dice on a Monopoly promotion with an apartment as the prize.
Certain dairy products are planted in cooking shows. Amateur renovators drive around in a particular car. The same line of beauty products appears in shots from The Bachelor mansion.
“Integration is a pre-requisite now for any show and any big advertiser to ask, ‘How can we integrate with this program? We don’t care if it’s costing five million bucks, we can get the value back’,” Mr Allen said.
“They’ve become very good at getting their message across without confected moments or clangers.”
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Stella & Jazzey are the perfect hostesses, in the MKR kitchen and at home! Let them show you how to create a mouth-watering entertaining board with @presidentaunz, perfect for any special occasion 😋 #MKR Watch the full video on MKR’s YouTube channel!
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The year ahead
The one program for 2019 that has Mr Allen “truly intrigued” isn’t reality but drama: Nine’s revamp of SeaChange with original stars Sigrid Thornton and John Howard.
“The intrigue for me is not just can they revive it, but more importantly can they revive it with the right demographics?” he said.
“Sigrid and John are the wrong demographic as stars, so it will be the other people who are in the program who will make the difference.”