The Critical 'I'

Read. React. Repeat.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

REALITY CHECK: IS REALITY TV KILLING SPORTS?
This morning on NPR, I half-heard Frank Deford's weekly commentary. I wish I had heard the whole thing--it's tough to do first thing in the morning, just when you get into the office--because he was positing that the recent ratings decline for televised sports programming is directly linked to the rise of reality television:
...He says each reality show has an edge over most sports in that they have national appeal and relatively few people competing for the top prize.
I'll have to sit down and listen to the archived audio file, or (even better) buy the transcript.

Without having Deford's argument at hand, I can say that the basic premise doesn't really sound right. Sports has never been a broadbased draw on TV, even when it comes to the championship games. The Super Bowl is lone exception, and looks more and more like an abberation. Even before the dawn of the 500-channel universe, broadcasts of the World Series and NBA Championship weren't blockbuster ratings performers. They did reliably draw in the male demographic, and that's all they needed to do.

I don't have the figures, but it occurs to me that reality shows tend to be equally popular among men and women; that's what makes them such strong perfomers. I don't think the strong showing of this programming is a siphon on sports; women were never a big part of the sports equation, so it's not like there was a loss there. I doubt there's a corresponding loss among male viewers, either.

Anyway, this is all conjecture. I'll revisit this once I get Deford's transcript.