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The paper is an analysis of ‘The Real World’, a popular American TV reality show that is aired on MTV. It also measures its success by identifying its market, and how the program reaches its audience other than on TV. The marketing strategies used to make the show the success it is are also analyzed, with its financial sources included. The show has maintained its quality and content since its almost ten years and counting by now. The paper aims at giving a comprehensive analysis on the reality show giving a deeper insight on how it operates. It also compares the program to other similar reality shows to show its success.
The Real World reality show is considered to be the first ever reality show to be aired on TV with its premier being in 1992. Since then, the show has continued its success currently having 26 seasons and almost 520 episodes. The show was first started produced by Mary Bunim and her co-producer Jonathan Murray. The writers of the scripts used in the first episode said that the idea of the show was inspired by An American Family, which is the longest showing documentary series in the history of MTV. The latter was viewed as the founder of the modern reality shows on TV. The series received a good reception and people praised it for highlighting issues affecting the society in a real way. The main focus of the series was on young adults highlighting issues like AIDS, prejudice, and substance abuse.
The series is about a group of strangers who are auditioned by the directors involved to live in a house for some months under surveillance by cameras. The aim is mainly to monitor their behavior and relationships for the time they are in the house. Each season moves to a different city, and the footage is taken while the housemates are together. The footage is then edited into episodes lasting for 44 minutes. The show mainly involves people with an influence in the society, so as to gain a wider audience. It has also been used by participants as a boost on their careers and further success, especially those in entertainment industry. 7-8 people are chosen for the cast after auditioning thousands of applicants. The chosen people have to represent diverse political beliefs, races, sexual experiences, gender, and religious beliefs. This gives the show a wider audience as almost everyone can associate with a character in the show.
The diversity in the show makes the show a success, and also its ability to tackle issues affecting the society. The show looks real, and not scripted like other reality series that has also played a major role to its success. This is despite some claims that the first shows in the show were scripted, a fact that has been disputed by its cast. The diversity can be in several ways; first, the participants chosen by the judges after the audition are from different races, gender, and political beliefs making their living together hard. The diversity in The Real World is also highlighted by the filming of the show in different states and location for each season. This is unlike other common reality shows at the same location for years, causing monotony. Ever since it was started, it has been moving to different locations gathering different participants who bring a fresh attitude to the series every season. As a result, the show has been a success, being aired in different stations, and being discussed in other shows and magazines. It has also earned many promoters who bring commercials as the program is being aired. I am defining success in terms of the audience base and the level of acceptance in America and beyond. Its success can also be determined by the show’s consistency over the years, being able to survive in the entertainment industry for almost 10 years. This is what many reality shows have failed to have, consistency.
The show mainly appeals to a youthful audience from teenagers to young adults. However, some adults are also interested in watching the series, although they are not the show’s main target. This can be determined by the topics and themes handled in the reality show. It tackles sexuality, relationships, sexual experiences, political stands, and also religious matters. The participants chosen for its filming are chosen between 18-25 years of age, further showing its target market. The show also has some themes that appeal to people of all ages like AIDS, Family relationships, and management of resources. The show is aired on MTV, which is a music channel, mainly targeting young adults who find much pleasure in music. Most of the shows on the channel are intended for the same target audience, showing that The Real World was intended for the same audience too.
MTV (Music Television) mostly hosts music videos and shows that are music related. For example they have MTV cribs, where they show houses owned by popular musicians, Punk’d show, where they punk popular artists too, MTV base where they play and interview artists with exclusive songs, and more music related shows. However, The Real World breaks the monotony by airing a show that tackles real issues in the society, with people in real situations. This attracts audiences who maybe are not interested in the music, but are willing to follow the reality show. The show gives the network a fresh and different feel, giving a break to its audience from full time music. Since it has an audience world wide, the show is also important to the network in acquiring more sponsors and advertisers during and off the show. Since the network mainly airs songs, the show also gets to educate the audience of various issues, and not only entertaining them.
The show mainly borrowed its ideas and concepts from a TV documentary made in 1971 called An American Family. The documentary was aired on PBS (Public Broadcasting Service) in the United States, with one season only containing 12 episodes. Initially, the show was designed to show the daily life that an American family lives. It highlighted how the members of a given family live, interact, and handle their businesses on a daily basis. It once highlighted a break up involving the Loud Family between the parents named Bill and Pat. This brought controversies on the documentary with the Louds claiming the aired version only focused on the negative side of the family. It was also noted that in situations like divorce, the presence of cameras only enhance the subjects emotional display. The documentary was produced by Craig Gilbert WNET New York, Production Company. The original version was only run until March 29th the same year having produced only 12 episodes. The concept of filming the lives of people living together under one roof has been heavily borrowed from this documentary.
Since the production of The Real World, several series and TV programs have emerged as a result, and with almost similar settings. Among them is Road Rules, by the creators of The Real World which is also aired on MTV. The show was debuted in 1995 following the success of The Real World, and was set on six strangers who set on a journey being guided by clues, and competing to reach a certain location. The participants chosen were between 18-24 years, which is another similarity to The Real World. The only difference was that the new shore was mainly an adventure show, but with similar themes. The setting of the different seasons was recorded and set in different geographical locations. After the death of the producer, Mary Bunim, the show was not aired for three years consecutive. A mini series was aired in 1998, which included previous all stars from the other series. Participants of The Real World were also included in the mini series, further showing their similarities. However, the miniseries was viewed as a separate show from The Real World, being allocated its own time on MTV.
Another reality show similar to The Real World is The Challenge that is a game show created by Mary Bunim and Jonathan Murray also. The show is also aired on MTV since 1998 and is still showing to the present. The show is independent from the other two related reality shows by the same creators. It was previously involving all stars from the previous shows by the two creators, but the name changed after 19 seasons to The Challenge. At the start the show had no hosts but only an anonymous person who provided the clues. As the 19th season was close to the end, they revealed the anonymous man as David Edwards, who had participated in Road Rules. This further showed the relationship between the two reality shows. The participants are divided into two groups using certain criteria, competing for prizes and progress to the next stages. Two members from each group are left after elimination and they compete against one another to determine the overall winner.
The reality series uses the internet and online magazines to reach a larger audience, and also market itself. The show uploads most of its episodes on You Tube and airs live on TV.com, and MTV.com. Online magazines like Time.com, Realitytvmagazine.sheknows.com are also involved in showing and distributing the show. In recent times, the internet has been used as an avenue to market products as it is accessed by everyone around the world. The reality show has capitalized on this with most of its viewers from outside the United States watching it online. The online shows on the MTV websites and several others sometimes show raw footage of the show that is not aired in the normal TV show. This may include explicit content or scenes edited from the aired episode, maybe due to time constraints. The shows on the internet unlike the TV show have comments from the viewers, and they can also interact with the cast.
The presence of the show on the internet plays a major role in the marketing of the program, as it is able to reach an audience who cannot see MTV on their channel. It also enables people who missed the live airing of the show to see it online by just checking its history in the website. Adverts on the show are also run on different websites as a means of advertisement suggesting what is to be expected in the next show.
The shows fan base has mainly been created by airing it on a hip channel like MTV, which has large audience especially young adults. The show experienced a huge audience especially from 1995, when it started using celebrities and famous personalities on it. Ever since, due to its consistency, it has been able to maintain a large audience, gaining new fans every time it airs. The show also has a heavy online presence, which also contributes to increase in fans. On websites like TV.com, it has a whole page where The Real Life fans interact and exchange opinions on various episodes of the show. The cast involved in the show, including the directors interact with fans on MTV.com, with the fans being given a chance to nominate anyone they would like to see in the show, either as a host or as a participant.
The money made on the show is divided between the television network, MTV, and the producers of the show. The participants in the show are also given a considerable amount of money, although not as in other reality series. Their expenses are catered for using the proceeds from the show, and small prize money given at the end of the show. The location and maintenance of the show is also funded by the money earned from airing it. The money is got from sponsors and advertisers who wish to place their adverts on or during the show. Adverts on the networks website on The Real World’s page are also divided as agreed between the TV network, and the producers of the show.
The reality show has had a close connection with MTV for almost ten years now, being very close business partners. Some participants of the show have also landed jobs in MTV, which further shows the cordial relationship between the show and the television network. The ability of the show to capture its audience for long has been a major cause of its success. It has also been consistent, bringing fresh topics and participants each time. The show has also been able to tackle real issues, another concept of a good show. By including people with different backgrounds the element of uncertainty in the show has played a part in its success. The cast of the show have had a heavy participation on the internet, a factor that has led to its success especially to the audience outside the United States. The name, The Real World also interests the audience as one is eager to know what the show says about the real world.
The reality show is not only entertaining, but also educative as one gets to celebrate the cultural diversity in and out of the country. It is also seen as a platform for the American youth to express themselves.