The Music and Media Industry

The Television Industry UK - REALity TV

Seminar Paper, 2007

19 Pages, Grade: 1,1


Table of Contents

1. Executive Summary

2. Introduction

3. The Television Industry UK

4. Reality TV
4.1 Definition
4.2 History
4.3 Providers
4.4 Target demographic/Audiences
4.5 Commercial value
4.6 Models

5. Summary

6. References

7. Bibliography

8. Appendices
1. Programming regularly watched on terrestrial channels, 14 May
2. Programming regularly watched on Pay-TV channels, 15 May
3. CHAID analysis of programme genres watched on terrestrial channels, 16 May
4. Porter’s 5 forces on Reality TV
5. Interpretation/Conclusion

1. Executive Summary

In recent years the television industry has been marked by constant revolution, especially with digital transmission increasing the number of channels and ultimately creating competition between the broadcasters.

Two important current issues within broadcasting are convergence and interactivity, which both form an essential part of Reality TV. Reality TV illustrates convergence and interactivity by involving the audience through live events, telephone and online voting. The internet is used as a main platform and helps reach Reality TV’s target audience.

The history of the sector is multi-faceted with the first Reality TV show, arguably Candid Camera, dating back to 1948. Today’s popular reality shows like Big Brother and Pop Idol can be viewed on UK’s terrestrial channels ITV and Channel 4. Zone Reality is the UK’s first and only channel devoted exclusively to Reality TV. Reality TV’s main target group is that of women aged 15 to 34 years of age. Audience figures show 12 % watching reality programmes on terrestrial channels and 16 % watching them on multi-channel pay TV.

Reality TV has high commercial value partly due to it being a key site for “advertainment” - the merging of advertising and entertainment programming. Two of the most successful formats of Reality TV are Big Brother and Popstars/Pop Idol. Their massive success is demonstrated by their ratings and their market share. Furthermore, some reality shows not only generate money by advertising revenue but also by various other sources such as phone line, internet and sponsorship revenue.

2. Introduction

The following report gives a general overview of the television industry UK with the main focus on Reality TV. Reality TV is analyzed from a business perspective and illustrates it being a successful model of media convergence and interactivity.

Information for this report has been obtained through various sources including books, journals and the World Wide Web.

3. The Television Industry UK

The first regularly scheduled television programme service from the London Television Station of the BBC began on 2 November 1936. To viewers it offered broadcasts six days a week for one hour in the afternoon and one hour in the evening. (Corner, 1991: 22)

In recent years the television industry has been marked by constant revolution. The advent of first satellite transmission and later digital transmission increased the number of channels which could be delivered to viewers at an economic cost and led to a rapid proliferation of services. Market rules began to have a major effect on the television industry for the first time as competition between broadcasters intensified. (Briggs and Cobley, 2002: 135)

Current issues within broadcasting are amongst others audience fragmentation, advertising revenue, interactivity and convergence. Media convergence and interactivity play an increasingly important role within the industry. (Caston, 2006/07: 33) As illustrated on the following pages, Reality TV proves to be a prime and successful model of this development.

In addition, the television industry is also a good place to chart the changing genre of Reality TV. Television thrives on new formats, and often cannibalises itself, feeding off successful genres and formats in order to create new hybrid programmes. As Brunsdon et al. (2001) note, it is the hybridisation of successful genres that give Reality TV such a strong market value. (Hill, 2005: 42)

4. Reality TV

4.1 Definition

According to Kilburn (Kilburn, 1994: 432), Reality TV can be conceived as:

- Recording “on the wing”, and frequently with the help of lightweight video equipment, of events in the lives of individuals and groups;
- The attempt to stimulate such real-life events through various forms of dramatised reconstruction;
- The incorporation of this material in suitably edited form into an attractively packaged television programme which can be promoted on the strength of its reality credentials.

Although the first two descriptions appear to prioritise “real” crime or emergency services programming, the last is certainly broad enough to encompass the wide range of popular factual entertainment on screens today. (Holmes and Jermyn, 2004: 2)

Continuing a fast-developing trend in television practice, reality shows like for example Big Brother do not just rely on the television set to communicate its message to its audiences. It also relies on other “platforms”, like the internet, live events and telephone voting; perfectly illustrating convergence and interactivity. The internet plays a major role not just by enabling online votes but also by enabling viewers to watch clips and play related games and quizzes. By doing this, reality shows are able to reach their target audience, which is young and predominantly online. (Mathijs and Jones, 2004: 4)

Moreover, reality programmes draw from existing TV genres and formats to create novel hybrid programmes. Factual entertainment is a category commonly used within the TV industry for popular factual TV, and the category indicates the marriage of factual programming, such as game shows or soap operas. Reality TV is a catch-all category and popular examples of reality programmes such as Candid Camera, Pop Idol, and Big Brother draw on a variety of genres to create ratings winners. (Hill, 2005: 14)

4.2 History

The historical development of popular factual television is multi-faceted, yet there are three main strands that helped develop the sector: tabloid journalism, documentary TV and popular entertainment.

Production of tabloid journalism and popular entertainment increased immensely during the 1980’s, as a result of an increasingly commercial media environment where convergence between telecommunications, computers and media ensured competition amongst network, cable and satellite channels for revenue. (Hill, 2005:15)

The first “Reality TV” programme is arguably Candid Camera (1948-present), which proves to be one of US TV’s most memorable, enduring and popular shows. Candid Camera set the industry standard for capturing individuals in unguarded moments, while it also helped to reinforce and perpetuate a “poetics of the real”, an aesthetic to which recent Reality TV programming is indebted. (Holmes and Jermyn, 2004: 33)

4.3 Providers

Endemol is the market leader of independent production companies and creates various programmes which are then sold to different broadcasters. Big Brother is one of Endemol’s most successful shows and has been commissioned to Channel 4 in the UK. ITV broadcasts shows like Popstars/Pop Idol and X-Factor. (Caston, 2006/07: 33)

Furthermore, Zone Reality is the first and only channel to be devoted exclusively to Reality television in the UK. It was launched in October 2002 and has an audience share of 0.1 %. (Barb, 2006)

4.4 Target Demographic/Audiences

Mintel research in 2004 shows that Reality TV’s main target group is that of women aged 15 to 34 (see appendix 3). Deery (2004: 5) states that Reality TV is designed to deliver a specific key demographic; 18- to 34-year-olds with disposable incomes.

Appendices 1 and 2 show programmes regularly watched on terrestrial and pay TV channels. 12 % of viewers watch Reality TV on terrestrial whilst 16 % of viewers watch Reality TV on multi-channel pay TV.


Excerpt out of 19 pages


The Music and Media Industry
The Television Industry UK - REALity TV
London Metropolitan University  (London Metropolitan University)
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ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
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Reality TV, Television Industry, UK, Media Management, Medien
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Bachelor of Arts Verena Stickler (Author), 2007, The Music and Media Industry, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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