More than 20 years ago, TV viewers were introduced to reality TV programming – which became a guilty pleasure for many. Since then, there has been a lack of innovation resulting in many spin-offs. What was once seen as a new and entertaining TV genre that attracted a large audience is now vying for viewers.

Since January 2013, we have been asking consumers how much reality TV they watch in an average week. After Q2 of 2013 we started seeing weekly reality TV viewing hours decline and the number of people watching reality TV has since continued to drop. In a report published by CivicScience yesterday, we take a more detailed look at this trend.

After looking at the syndicated question “How much would you say you watch reality TV in an average week?” we focused on analyzing the demographics and behaviors of two groups:

  • Analysis of “super fans” —  those who watch 5+ hours of reality TV each week.
  • A time-based comparison of “moderate viewers” – those who watched 1-5 hours of reality TV each week in Q3 2013 to those who watched in Q4 2014.

Focusing our attention on the reality super fan could enable networks and producers to see who the loyal fans are and what they enjoy. Also, by highlighting differences of the moderate viewers before and after the decline, we can see how this segment of people changed. With this information, networks and producers can create more meaningful content to hopefully keep the super fans engaged and perhaps win back some of the lost viewers.

Top-Line Analysis of Reality TV Viewers

Reality TV March 2015

Reality TV table March 2015

Reality TV Super Fans

We looked into those who are reality TV super fans – watching more than five hours of reality TV each week and compared them to the general population. Using such insights, networks can get a better idea of how to market and advertise to this segment of fans. Here are some of the highlights from the report:

  • Today’s super fans are slightly more likely to be women than the general population.
  • Super fan are more likely to be older than the general population.
  • They watch more TV each day than the general population. (We recently did a brief study into these “heavy” TV viewers, which you can view here.)
  • They are slightly more likely than the general population to say ads on TV have the most influence on their purchases.

We also compared the moderate reality TV viewers from Q3 2013 (before the decline) and Q4 2014 (after the major decline), to see what has shifted and what can be learned.

Moderate Viewers

Among this audience group, we found some note-worthy demographic and entertainment differences. So who are those who watched 1-5 hours of reality TV in Q3 of 2013 compared to those in Q4 of 2014?

  • Men were more likely to watch reality TV at a moderate level in 2014 than in 2013.
  • 2014 moderate watchers are younger than 2013 moderate watchers.
  • 2014 watchers are more likely to stream content on Netflix weekly.
  • 2014 watchers are LESS likely to say TV ads have the most influence on their purchases than 2013 watchers.


Reality TV is on the decline and has been for a while. Those who watch 1-5 hours of reality TV each week are more likely to be tuning out reality TV than those who watch 5+ hours. Although TV ratings are great to show the total number of viewers of specific shows and the basic demographics of those viewers, they don’t provide details about the psychographics of those who are watching.

The reality TV super fans, are more likely to be older women. They value TV more than the general population, so it’s not surprising to see they watch more TV each day. This segment of viewers are also more likely to be influenced by advertising on TV rather than on the Internet or social media chatter.

On the other hand, the profile of moderate viewers has changed over previous months. The moderate viewers in Q4 2014 are younger than those in Q3 2013. Today’s moderate viewers are more likely to be younger men than those in 2013. They are more likely to stream content on Netflix weekly and are less likely to be influenced by TV ads.

By focusing on the demographics and behaviors — and what’s changing over time — networks and producers can create more meaningful experiences that will keep consumers engaged and can potentially win back some lost viewers.

View the full, detailed Insight Report.