The golden age of reality TV appears to be coming to an end.
(Interview with Samantha Johnson, discovered before the America’s Got Talent.
She’s continued her career indepently.)
The Detroit Free Press reported last year that the decline had been steady with America’s Next Top Model, and new programs like Neil Patrick Harris’s Best Time Ever, being canned.
This has particularly affected the music industry as the decline in ratings for shows like The Voice hint that the reality music shows are losing their influence in the industry.
(JJ Soulx, discovered interviewed on Sounds So Beautiful before the TV show.
She’s also continued her career independently.)
At its height American Idol was the highest rating television show for seven consecutive years and considered the music event of the year.
The Atlantic said of the show: “it came to define the kind of musical career that thrived in a post-CD era.” The online magazine stated that the music took a backseat to the musician’s narratives.
One argument put forward as one of the main reasons for reality TV’s grip on the music industry lessening is that fans can easily post videos on social media. The famous example is Justin Bieber who is more successful than all 15 winners of American Idol combined.
The appeal of reality TV was that anyone can become a star. The internet has made this possible without the hassle of applying to be on TV. American Idol has been rebooted this year on ABC after Fox canceled it in 2016.
The success (or failure) of the show will be a good indicator of where reality music shows currently sit in the public conscious. It is unlikely to make the same impact its predecessor did at its peak years.
It is not just in the U.S. that music shows are losing their influence; the global reach of reality shows is also starting to wane.
Simon Cowell’s The X-Factor had a global reach that once stretched across the globe with shows in China and the Middle East. In 2011, there were 26 versions across the globe with 127 countries showing the first U.S. season. Today, that number has dropped to 14, and the U.S. version was canceled in 2013.
(Sabina Ddumba on Swedish X Factor)
The series still has a strong digital presence through with The X-Factor Games which features a line up of slot games aimed at the franchise’s loyal fans.
The digital platform shows that The X-Factor brand is still strong and carries international recognition. As the TV ratings shrink, using these online outlets could be a viable way to keep the franchise going.
Another reason The X-Factor franchise is diminishing is that it has been speculated that Simon Cowell is losing heart. The once fiery judge has notably softened in recent years. One of the big draws of reality shows is watching people fail as much as watching some succeed. As his X-Factor empire shrinks every year Simon Cowell could be close to calling it a day.
The UK show, and the franchise’s flagship version, has just started and is already down by 500,000 viewers compared to 2016. Even with a strong online platform the future doesn’t look as bright as it once was.
For many in music industry the decline will be seen as a good sign for the future. The music industry has always had an uneasy relationship with reality shows.
In 2013, NME penned an article that asked whether British pop needed saving from the “X-Factor Culture“.
In the article a chief executive of the British Arts Council said that “short-termism” was running the industry.
Reality shows are quick to drop acts (even winners) if they don’t perform well after the contest ends. For every One Direction discovered that are many singers that have been completely forgotten and abandoned.
With the influence of reality shows reducing we may now see a return to producers developing talent (caring for their career), rather than looking for the complete package.