“The Most Dramatic Season Ever.” No, Seriously.
The Bachelorette Continues to Deliver 16 Seasons In, Channeling Emotions and Viewer Engagement
In a media landscape experiencing seismic change and claims that “Old Hollywood is dead,” traditional linear shows have had to work harder to prove that they deserve another season.
Curiously, this has not seemed to affect The Bachelor franchise, particularly The Bachelorette. The show – which will be premiering season 16 on October 13th – has seen ratings success even as linear shows have faced overall declines over the past few years. Although ratings declined 27% YOY in 2014 – the show has since rebounded and the overall franchise has remained consistently successful. The latest season in 2019 averaged a 2.1 for A18-49 – and was notably the only summer show in 2019 that went up in ratings YOY.
Simultaneously, over the past 6 years, the entire Bachelor franchise has seen its fanbase intensify. Passionate Fans (the self-described “Bachelor Nation”) span multiple generations, analyzing and discussing the show through podcasts, YouTube Series, and Reddit Threads.
Strong emotional resonance
So how have they done it? To answer this, we looked through the EmotionalDNA® database for clues. EmotionalDNA has been collecting data since 2014, assessing the emotions viewers associate with the shows they watch. As of 2020, The Bachelorette is the in top 10% for 9 emotional attributes. This means that the show’s audience views it stronger in 9 facets of emotional connection than 90% of the television shows currently airing – across Broadcast, Cable, and SVOD.
Even when narrowing the scope to a closer competitive set – Unscripted shows in 2020 – The Bachelorette’s attribute scores are among the highest in the landscape. In fact, its Dramatic score is one of the highest in all of Unscripted.
As a show that centers around relationships and romance, its high scores for Romantic and Sexy are a positive sign. It’s also one of the most Fake shows in the landscape – but that hasn’t been a deterrent. In fact, it’s an asset. Whilst that might go against current industry trends to make shows feel more authentic, it implies there is room in the landscape for contrived reality.
Among these emotional attributes, however, Dramatic and Predictable stand out the most. While the Bachelor is now more Dramatic than 96% of the television landscape, back in 2014 it barely cracked the top 25%. Additionally, Predictable, while still high, has been in decline since 2014.
Old franchise, fresh strategies
First, social media has allowed for a 360° viewing experience – and an added element of unpredictability. As Instagram took off in 2014, talent on the show began to utilize to not only increase their fanbase while on the show but to use their reality fame to pivot careers. The Ringer reported in January this phenomenon, with 2014 as the start of Bachelorette Influencer Instagram boom. Contestants have racked in millions of followers across social media, becoming influencers and media producers in their own right – all while fueling real-life drama between other contestants and the production teams before and after filming.
Bringing back fan favorites as contestants and leads allows for producers to utilize that real-life, social media-driven drama onto set as key plotlines. Every single Bachelorette lead has been a former Bachelor contestant. Many of the contestants who do not end up as leads make appearances on the season in other ways or are cast in Bachelor in Paradise. Bringing back fan favorites is a classic theme among the most Dramatic shows in Unscripted – other examples we have seen in eDNA include Survivor, Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, and RuPaul’s Drag Race. When the audience knows the contestants, there is a greater likelihood for them to be invested in the ups and downs of a cast member’s journey.
Drama, Predictability and Intentionality
To look at how they’ve increased Drama while reducing Predictability, we examined attributes most important to the EmotionalDNA metric “Intentionality,” which gauges the commitment, dedication, and engagement of viewers of all television shows.
The higher the Intentionality, the more engaged and committed your viewers are – and often, the higher your Nielsen ratings. Along with positive ratings, at the conclusion of the most recent season in 2019, The Bachelorette peaked at an Intentionality of 175 – not only the highest the show had ever been, but it had the 8th highest Intentionality among all 342 Unscripted shows airing that year.
Dramatic is the attribute most highly correlated to high Intentionality, and Predictable is among the attributes most negatively correlated. Meaning, for an Unscripted show to have a high Intentionality in 2020, it is incredibly important for a show to be perceived as Dramatic, and not perceived as Predictable. In tracking the correlation between the two to high Intentionality over the years, the correlations have strengthened.
What lies ahead
This upcoming season may be its most dramatic and least predictable ever. Not only is the show getting filmed in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, the season’s lead, Clare Crawley (a fan favorite since she appeared as a contestant in 2013), has decided to walk away from the show midway through filming, and another Bachelorette has been brought in. Through leaks, social media clues, and superfan sleuthing, Bachelor Nation has uncovered that many other fan favorites will be appearing on the season, building incredible momentum months even before the show wraps filming.
At the start of every season, Chris Harrison promises that this season will be “the most dramatic season ever.” Longtime viewers usually roll their eyes at this statement and dismiss it as cliché. However, it not only serves as powerful marketing for a drama-hungry audience, but they deliver on that promise. So long as The Bachelorette finds innovative ways to bring the drama, they will continue to affirm their slogan season after season.
Custom analysis crafted by Magid’s EmotionalDNA consulting team: Zak Shaikh, Annie Ludtke and Brett Bumgarner. For more, current Magid eDNA clients can reach out to their primary consultant or business development representative. Not familiar with eDNA? Let’s talk.