Update: Mr. Kahl responds(and very good naturedly) in the comments which I’ve added at bottom of the post.

CBS’s head of scheduling Kelly Kahl has been pushing the angle that viewers have grown weary of two-hour long reality shows. You can probably expect to read about it from the easy-to-manipulate TV media at least until American Idol debuts in the winter. He might be right, but as they say on the internets, correlation does not mean causation.

Yes, The Biggest Loser is down more than normal, and yes, Dancing with the Stars is down too. And yes, despite boosting Fox’s fall ratings significantly, most at FOX surely expected more from The X Factor.

But is The Biggest Loser dropping faster than pounds off its contestants because viewers are tired of investing two hours on it? Or is the show just not as good this season? Show length or Jillian Michaels vs. Anna Kournikova?  Is DWTS declining because viewers are sick and tired of two-hour reality blocks, or is it just that none of the “stars” are interesting this cycle? Sadly, these questions can’t really be answered with data. But when American Idol returns, if it’s only down by the normal 10% it seems to drop season-to-season, it’ll be difficult for me to blame that on “Two-Hour Reality Show Ratings Fatigue Syndrome.”

It is certainly an interesting talking point for Kahl and CBS, and I can’t blame Kahl for throwing it out there if for no other reason than the fact CBS is the only network among the big four that doesn’t have a two-hour reality show on the air.

I’d put it to a poll, but there’s another fact: mostly under the misguided belief that two-hour reality shows mean less scripted content (that’s completely bogus since American Idol helps Fox subsidize ratings dreck like Fringe) haters of reality shows on our site are legion. They will (and perhaps should!) certainly rally behind Kahl’s mantra, whether it’s actually true or not.

Kahl can’t prove he’s right, but at least until American Idol rolls around, nobody will likely prove him wrong either.

Update: Mr. Kahl responds (and very good naturedly) in the comments below:


i don’t think i’ve ever invented anything before so, thanks for the tip of the cap.

that being said, i’ll take “reading waaaay to deeply into a quote” for $200, alex.

early in the season, tv scribes are anxious to know “what it all means.” when they call and ask why interest in comedies is way up and most long-form reality staples are down, well, it doesn’t take a PHD (and god knows i don’t have one) to theorize that comedies – especially well done ones – are simply easier to commit to. (thanks for having my back mr, mitovich.) my colleague preston beckman (whom i believe does have a PHD), also has a very valid theory that viewership of these competition shows is more related to the casting of each cycle.

all that being said, as is always the case in tv, we’ll know more in few weeks.

kelly kahl

ps…i don’t appreciate the picture. i was having a bad day.


Posted by:TV By The Numbers

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