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Why New Reality Dating Shows on Netflix and TLC Are Popular During Coronavirus | #facebookdating | #tinder | #pof | romancescams | #scams


It’s no secret that people are watching a lot more TV than usual right now. Netflix has seen a surge in streaming, and TV viewing as a whole is up by more than 25 percent when compared to pre-pandemic times. But there’s one genre that’s really popular these days: reality TV dating shows.

Shows like Love Is Blind, 90 Day Fiancé and The Bachelor Presents: Listen to Your Heart (LTYH) have seen solid viewership, and new dating shows like Labor of Love and The Bachelor: The Most Unforgettable—Ever! seem to be popping up more excessively than ever.

 

 

According to data from advertising and data company PeerLogix, dating show viewership has been up ever since the COVID-19 pandemic began. “The popularity of shows within the dating genre has steadily increased over the last two months,” says William Gorfein, founder and chief strategy officer of PeerLogix. Gorfein analyzed data from 20 currently airing and streaming dating shows, ranging from Love is Blind and Too Hot to Handle to The Bachelor and Married at First Sight to Ex on the Beach and Dating Naked, across 12 streaming platforms between December and May. He found that dating show viewership in the U.S. is 23 percent higher in May than it was in December, which is unusual for the genre. (It tends to peter out a little after March, Gorfein says.) The number rose in February, which is when the bulk of The Bachelor Season 24 aired, and dipped in March (which also happens to be when Peter Weber’s season ended). Viewership popped back up in April and May, outdoing the months prior. This is displayed in the infographic above.

It’s not just that people are watching more TV as a whole, and that dating shows are along for the ride—dating shows are actually grabbing viewers from other types of shows. Gorfein says, “relative to other genres, people are watching more dating shows since quarantine has gone into effect,” which is shown below.  “The uptick in viewership in dating shows comes at the expense of viewership of other shows.”

(PeerLogix)

There are some big standout shows, including 90 Day Fiancé, The Bachelor, Love Island, Ex on The Beach and Married At First Sight. These shows make up about 82 percent of all dating show viewership as of mid-May, with 90 Day Fiancé grabbing about 45 percent of the dating show share, Gorfein says.

TLC recently launched a spinoff of its hugely popular 90 Day Fiancé series called 90 Day Fiancé: Self-Quarantined—and that’s also been a massive hit. 90 Day Fiancé: Self Quarantined was the franchise’s highest-rated series premiere ever with younger women, according to TLC publicist Valeria Almada. As for why the network launched this series, Rick Holzman, SVP of programming and strategy for TLC, says that the network “decided to lean into the moment. It reinforces the important truth that TLC’s on-screen families are not characters—but real people, just like our viewers.”

Netflix has declined to share numbers, but its dating shows like Love Is Blind and Too Hot to Handle have regularly appeared on the streaming service’s “Most Popular” list.

And networks seemed poised to add more dating shows into the mix. In early summer alone, there are 10 new dating shows that will premiere across a variety of networks, according to the Los Angeles Times. Those include more Married at First SightDouble Shot at Love With DJ Pauly D & Vinny, and Love in the Time of Corona. Last summer, there were plenty of dating shows in the mix, but not this many, so quickly, in the same time frame.

What’s behind all this dating show love? There’s more to it than you’d think.

Related: 5th Time’s a Charm! What to Know About the Newly Announced Bachelorette Clare Crawley

Watching dating shows can be a mental release

Haley Grubbs, 36, says she’s been watching more “relationship-type” shows lately like LTYH, 90 Day Fiancé and Arranged. “It’s a fun mental release, especially right now, and I would even go as far to say something to look forward to every week,” she says. “I definitely miss being able to go out to restaurants or even a friend’s house and just be around people. I’m not sure if I’m watching more because of that or because I’ve got more time on my hands. Probably both.”

Bachelor fan Amanda Cothern, 40, says she views dating shows as a “fun distraction” right now. “I simultaneously think the people on them are unrelatable—in so much as ‘I’d never go on a show like this’— and yet as I watch, I constantly wonder how I’d handle the situation,” she says. “So I’m both watching for an escape and watching it as if I were in that situation.”

Dating shows “don’t require learning or other cognitive effort,” and that can be an especially good thing for many people right now, says Gail Saltz, M.D., an associate professor of psychiatry at the NY Presbyterian Hospital Weill-Cornell School of Medicine and host of the “Personology” podcast from iHeartRadio. “Many people are using so much cognitive effort in order to work from home—balancing it with the people they live with, learning to do many things differently than they were used to, and worrying and problem solving—that they long for a cognitive break,” she says. “It is also completely independent of any COVID content, like the news, so it is a break from the anxiety produced by news watching.”

Then again, shows like the Real Housewives franchises don’t require much cognitive effort either. Yet, they lack romance. The topic of dating represents new beginnings with the potential promise of finding love, lust, infatuation and excitement, Dr. Saltz says. “As we sit inside, socially distant, the fantasy of a new beginning, a chance to find love, passion, sexual excitement, intimacy, trust and a future that is happy and fulfilling is extremely enjoyable and compelling,” she says.

Related: This Data-Based Blog Post for Parents Deciding on Camp and Grandparents Meetups During Coronavirus Is Going Viral—Here’s Why

They allow for easy connection

Sarah Vaz, 23, says COVID-19 has ramped up her dating show watching “by a lot.” She’s been watching LTYH, Love Island UK (she’s already seen the Australian and U.S. verions), Married at First Sight, Too Hot to Handle, Love is Blind and 90 Day Fiancé.

Vaz says there’s a big sense of community that comes from watching The Bachelor shows in particular. “I have a Facebook group, which developed into a group chat and an Instagram group with a bunch of my sorority sisters—that’s pretty active,” she says. “We are always sending memes and updates to each other, but also catch up pretty consistently just on life from it. That’s really great, especially now that people have had to move due to the virus.” Vaz says Listen to Your Heart has been big for her and her friends during this time. When The Bachelorette was postponed due to coronavirus, it created a gaping rose-shaped hole in TV content. Luckily LTYH had already taped and it aired at a time when people really needed something to talk about besides coronavirus; it provided unification at a time when Bachelor Nation (and everyone else, of course) really needed it. “I think LTYH started a lot of conversations that otherwise wouldn’t have been had,” she says. “I always had something to look forward to on Mondays.” And we could all use something to look forward to these days.

Even though stay-at-home orders have been lifted in most areas, many people are still staying home as much as possible to try to lower their risk of contracting COVID-19—and that can leave people feeling disconnected from each other, says clinical psychologist Suzana E. Flores, Psy.D., author of Facehooked: How Facebook Affects Our Emotions, Relationships, and Lives. “Distraction or focusing on others and their dating lives—even if it’s on TV—makes us feel better emotionally,” Flores says. Watching a relationship unfold in reality TV can “give us a cognitive sense that we are going along the journey with the participants.” 

Related: Best Marriage Tips During Quarantine

They’re an easy, stress-free conversation starter

Watching these shows has helped Vaz navigate what could be potentially intense social situations. “Some people are doing really well right now and some aren’t,” she says. “’What did you do today?’ can be a bit of a loaded question, so talking about someone else’s TV life, at least for right now, is pretty safe.”

She’s not the only one doing this. “I have seen more people use dating shows as a social conduit to spur interaction, conversations, and initiate contact with others,” says clinical psychologist John Mayer, Ph.D., author of Family Fit: Find Your Balance in Life

Experts say there’s nothing wrong with watching dating shows more lately. If you’ve been diving into the genre a little more these days, just know that you’re in good company—and your habit may be helping you out more than you realize.

Need even more love on the little screen? Learn about the new TLC series, Find Love Live.

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