Streaming platforms such as Netflix and Amazon Prime have beefed up their UK offerings of reality shows, moving in on a genre that traditionally has acted as a battleground for broadcasters targeting younger viewers.
The total number of hours of game, lifestyle and other types of unscripted shows on the British platforms of the two entertainment giants has quadrupled over the past two years, according to data from Ampere Analysis.
Reality shows accounted for 5 per cent of Amazon’s UK programmes in June 2019, up from one per cent in the summer of 2017. Netflix, meanwhile, increased its reality content by one percentage point to four per cent, according to Ampere.
The trend could prove a blow to terrestrial broadcasters that increasingly view reality TV — which include the likes of Netflix’s Queer Eye and Amazon’s The Grand Tour, hosted by Jeremy Clarkson — as a crucial weapon in the fight to keep younger viewers from switching to global on-demand platforms.
ITV, for instance, said last month it would add a winter edition of its hit show Love Island, which garnered average audience figures of 5.5m, and had helped the broadcaster limit sliding advertising revenues. The BBC, which has said younger viewers are increasingly difficult to reach, this year launched The Reality Tea, a podcast that discusses gossip from reality shows.
Daniel Gadher, research manager at Ampere Analysis, said streaming platforms’ growing focus on reality shows indicated they were trying to take on traditional broadcasters for a specific audience group.
“Platforms have been broadening their mix of programmes as they look to appeal to different demographics,” he said.
Almost half of all British homes now subscribe to online streaming services, which contrasts with what the UK’s media regulator Ofcom has called the “accelerating” decline of interest in traditional television.
Two in five British adults with a streaming subscription said they “can imagine not watching broadcast TV at all” in five years, according to an Ofcom report on the country’s viewing habits published earlier this month.
But viewers have diverging appetites for reality TV. Roughly a quarter of Brits surveyed by Ofcom said the quality of television had worsened over the past year, with almost half of those citing “too many reality shows” as a reason. However, alongside thrillers, the genre was nevertheless the most viewed on Amazon Prime this year, according to data cited by the regulator.
Newer short-form streaming platforms such as Snapchat and the soon-to-launch Quibi — the latest venture from DreamWorks Animation co-founder Jeffrey Katzenberg — have also been investing in the genre.
Figures from Ampere on reality shows currently in production revealed that the BBC and Channel 4 are the top commissioners. But Snapchat and Netflix follow, with Quibi, which is set to launch in 2020, close behind.
“They are capitalising on a boom in interest among youth audiences, perhaps driven by shows such as Love Island,” said Mr Gadher.
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