Reality TV is turning viewers off during the pandemic
Reality TV ratings are down across the board this week as more viewers tune in to news and current affairs programs during the pandemic.
Channel 9's ratings juggernaut The Block premiered to lower than expected ratings on Sunday, with figures down 9 per cent compared with the same time last year.
Monday's episode had 738,000 metro viewers while Tuesday saw 762,000 tune in, down 20 per cent from Sunday night's launch (947,000).
In comparison, Channel 10's The Masked Singer reveal had slightly more viewers - 786,000 on Monday and 810,000 the following night, while the main show had 692,000 and 717,000.
Channel 7's Farmer Wants a Wife finale won its slot on Monday night with 923,000, while the network's Inside The Crown: Secrets of The Royals had just 425,000 people watching on Tuesday.
Last night, The Bachelor had 582,000 viewers, down 25 per cent from last year. The August 12 premiere had more viewers (681,000), although this figure was also down (17 per cent) compared with 2019 despite one of the five cities being in lockdown.
Even beloved cooking shows such as Seven's My Kitchen Rules are struggling, with the latest season premiering to its lowest ever ratings earlier this year.
The season 11 premiere debuted to 498,000 viewers in February, down 39 per cent after last year's launch attracted 819,000 and it's unclear if the show will return.
However, it's not all bad news for Seven News and Nine News, which have both had viewers exceeding the one million mark this week.
One media expert told Confidential that the contrived drama often seen on reality TV has far less appeal during a crisis.
"While digital and TV consumption has skyrocketed (as more people remain in the home with time spent on news digital sites and apps up 29 per cent), reality TV numbers are dwindling," said Nicole Reaney of InsideOut PR.
"There is a sense of viewer fatigue from staged drama to series repetition.
"The public are consumed by news and social media as the pandemic evolves, while also seeking escapism through any new and lighthearted series."
MediaWeek's Deputy Editor Trent Thomas said the shows need more time.
"The launch numbers were close to the same as previous years, and tried and true franchises like The Block, and The Bachelor should be given more of a sample size than a week before being judged," said Thomas.
"A series like Masked Singer would be expected to have some second season decline but is still performing quite well for a crowded 7.30pm slot.
"It is also part of a continued drift away from live viewing to on demand, which will probably skew performance numbers moving forward with the rise of BVOD. With viewers not necessarily leaving but shifting."
A Network Nine spokesman said the standard industry method of reporting five city metro figures for TV is not sufficient.
"Any journalist who simply looks at overnight linear viewing, without including digital viewing figures, is not reporting correctly, particularly as digital viewing for The Block is up by a staggering 66 per cent, easily offsetting any modest declines in linear broadcast viewing," he said.
Originally published as Why reality TV is turning viewers off during the pandemic