Master of Arts (MA)


Todd Smith

Primary Subject Area

Mass Communications


reality television, common themes, audience appeal


Mass Communication


Reality television shows are increasingly appearing on network and cable outlets each sea¬son. Not only are they advancing in number, they are consistently dominating the weekly Nielsen’s Top 10 ratings as well. This study seeks to identify the reality television show viewing audience, why captivated their interest to begin watching these shows and what kept them watching week-to-week. By identifying participants who consistently watched these programs, it was believed that various themes would arise out of this study for further analysis and comparison. In-depth qualitative interviews were utilized to further explore the following areas: (1) Who are the consistent viewers of reality television programs? (2) What specific reality television shows did these viewers watch on a regular basis?, (3) Why did these viewers choose to watch these particular reality shows? and (4) What specific appeal did these reality shows have over other television formats? (such as scripted comedies or dramas). Twenty-two viewers representing six states participated in this study and collectively watched forty-three reality television programs. A total of thirteen common themes for watching reality television shows were found present among these viewers. Participants were closely divided on the appeal that reality programs had over other television formats. For roughly half of the viewers, reality television shows held a specific appeal while the remaining participants preferred dramas or sitcoms.