Unscripted TV programming is riding high at present. There are a number of reasons: an explosion of new pay TV thematic channels seeking high volumes of relatively low cost programming able to attract specific target groups; the appeal to linear TV channels of programming able to deliver high volumes of live viewers; and the expansion of factual programme brands off the TV screen.
This white paper uses a broad definition of this genre across three very different markets, taking in unscripted programming in daytime or primetime, excluding entertainment, current affairs and documentary.
The origins of today’s genre can be traced back to the earliest days of TV. The first regular BBC TV transmissions in November 1936 included a programme called Television Comes to London, featuring behind-the-scenes footage of the artists.
The strand runs right through to more recent programming, from the first “how to” cookery shows like The French Chef and The Galloping Gourmet; game shows like The $64,000 Question; fly-on-the wall docs like An American Family and The Real World; makeover shows like Ready Steady Cook and Changing Rooms and reality game shows like Big Brother (including spin-offs such as the UK’s Big Brother: Timebomb, pictured above).
This report draws on a survey of new unscripted programming in three major markets: the US, UK and China. Many key factual brands are international hits, but there are major differences between these three markets in terms of the programmes that work and the business models of the companies that commission them.