How Many Reality TV Shows Are There?




Affiliate Disclaimer

As an affiliate, we may earn a commission from qualifying purchases. We get commissions for purchases made through links on this website from Amazon and other third parties.

Before diving into the numbers, it’s essential to understand the roots of reality TV. Originating in the late 1940s, the genre has evolved significantly over the years. From docuseries and game shows to talent competitions and reality soaps, reality TV has continued to grow in popularity and diversity.

The first reality TV shows were candid camera-style programs, showcasing people’s reactions to staged situations. As television technology and viewer tastes evolved, so did the genre, leading to the creation of more sophisticated shows that chronicled people’s lives or put them in unique, challenging situations.


Pioneering Shows

  • Candid Camera (1948)
  • An American Family (1973)
  • The Real World (1992)
  • Survivor (2000)

Crunching the Numbers: Reality TV Shows Galore

Now, back to the central question: how many reality TV shows are there? As of September 2021, there were over 2,000 reality TV shows produced globally. However, this number is ever-growing, with new shows popping up left, right, and center. Moreover, it’s worth mentioning that this number doesn’t account for regional adaptations of popular formats, which can expand the count exponentially.

The landscape of reality TV is vast and varied, with shows ranging from high-stakes competitions to fly-on-the-wall documentaries. While it’s challenging to keep an exact tally, it’s clear that reality TV has become a significant force in the entertainment industry, catering to diverse tastes and audiences.

A Look at Some Popular Reality TV Subgenres

  • Talent Competitions: “American Idol,” “Dancing with the Stars,” and “RuPaul’s Drag Race”
  • Dating Shows: “The Bachelor,” “Love Island,” and “90 Day Fiancé”
  • Lifestyle Programs: “Queer Eye,” “Project Runway,” and “Hell’s Kitchen”

The Reality TV Phenomenon: Why Are There So Many Shows?

The Lure of Ordinary People

Reality TV’s success lies in its ability to showcase real-life individuals, often thrusting ordinary people into the limelight. Audiences find it easier to relate to these characters, creating an emotional connection that keeps them coming back for more.

The appeal of unscripted moments and genuine emotions makes reality TV a unique genre. With viewers able to connect with the characters on a personal level, it’s no wonder that the number of reality TV shows continues to grow.

Low Production Costs, High Profits

Another reason for the sheer number of reality TV shows is their relatively low production costs compared to scripted dramas and comedies. This cost-effectiveness allows networks to churn out new content while raking in profits from advertising and syndication.

Not only are reality TV shows less expensive to produce, but they also often generate high ratings, attracting advertisers and ensuring a steady stream of revenue. This financial advantage has undoubtedly contributed to the genre’s proliferation and longevity.

A Platform for Aspiring Stars

Reality TV has also become a stepping stone for those looking to break into the entertainment industry. Many reality TV stars have parlayed their newfound fame into successful careers, further fueling the genre’s popularity and expansion.

The opportunity to gain exposure, build a fanbase, and kickstart a career in entertainment is an attractive prospect for many aspiring stars. As more and more people see the potential of reality TV as a platform for success, the number of shows continues to rise.


  1. How many reality TV shows are there as of 2021?

There were over 2,000 reality TV shows produced globally as of September 2021, and this number continues to grow.

  1. What factors contribute to the popularity of reality TV?

The relatability of ordinary people, low production costs, and the opportunity for aspiring stars to gain exposure all contribute to the popularity and proliferation of reality TV shows.

  1. What are some popular reality TV subgenres?

Talent competitions, dating shows, and lifestyle programs are among the most popular subgenres of reality TV.

  1. How has reality TV evolved over the years?

Reality TV has evolved from candid camera-style shows to more sophisticated programs, including docuseries, talent competitions, and reality soaps, adapting to changing viewer tastes and technological advancements.

  1. What was the first reality TV show?

“Candid Camera,” which debuted in 1948, is often considered the first reality TV show. It featured hidden cameras capturing people’s reactions to staged situations. We’ve written a detailed guide on candid camera.

  1. Are reality TV shows scripted?

While reality TV shows are based on real-life situations and feature unscripted moments, some scenes may be influenced or guided by producers to create more engaging content.

  1. Why do people enjoy watching reality TV?

People enjoy watching reality TV for various reasons, including the relatability of the characters, the excitement of unscripted moments, and the escapism it provides from everyday life.  Checkout our guide on why reality Television is so popular.

  1. Has reality TV had any impact on popular culture?

Yes, reality TV has had a significant impact on popular culture, influencing fashion, social media trends, and even language. Many reality TV stars have gone on to have successful careers in various fields, further solidifying the genre’s influence on popular culture.

  1. How do reality TV shows find their participants?

Reality TV shows find participants through various methods, such as open casting calls, talent scouting, social media searches, and even referrals from previous participants.

  1. Are all reality TV shows controversial?

While some reality TV shows have garnered controversy due to their content or participants’ actions, not all reality TV shows are controversial. Many shows focus on talent, competition, or personal growth, avoiding the drama often associated with controversial shows.

  1. How do reality TV shows make money?

Reality TV shows primarily make money through advertising, sponsorships, and syndication deals. High ratings and viewer engagement make them attractive to advertisers, ensuring a steady stream of revenue.

  1. How has streaming affected the reality TV landscape?

Streaming platforms have provided a new avenue for reality TV shows to reach audiences, allowing viewers to binge-watch their favorite series and discover new shows. Some streaming services have also started producing their own reality TV content, further expanding the genre.

  1. Are there any educational or informative reality TV shows?

Yes, some reality TV shows have an educational or informative aspect, such as cooking shows, home improvement programs, or documentaries that focus on specific industries or professions.

  1. Can reality TV shows have a negative impact on participants?

Some participants may experience a negative impact from their time on reality TV, such as increased scrutiny from the public or emotional stress from being in the spotlight. However, many participants also enjoy positive outcomes, like newfound fame or personal growth.

Conclusion: An Ever-Growing World of Reality TV

In conclusion, it’s hard to pin down an exact number when asking how many reality TV shows are there, as new series continually emerge. With over 2,000 shows produced as of September 2021 and counting, reality TV has become a staple of modern entertainment. The genre’s appeal lies in its ability to connect with audiences through relatable, unscripted moments and its cost-effective production.

As the industry continues to evolve and adapt, we can expect to see even more reality TV shows gracing our screens in the coming years. So, buckle up and get ready for a wild ride as we continue to explore the fascinating world of reality TV.

About the author

Latest posts