Deconstructing the Cultural Phenomenon of The Bachelor

Joe Mineo
October 9, 2019

When people think of reality TV, a few shows might come to mind. COPS was one of the originals, and continues to underline society’s obsession with crime drama… if you look at the success of Gunsmoke and Law & Order, two of TV’s longest running scripted shows, this makes sense. Shows like Survivor, Big Brother, and The Real World faced people off with specific challenges that forced cast members to confront situations and develop interpersonal ties. These shows – if you remove the producers, objectives and games – are relatively harmless. However, there’s one universe of shows that plays on emotions all too well that has stood the test of time, and continues to dominate the airwaves:

ABC’s The Bachelor.

This pretty much sums it up.

A lot has changed since 2002, and despite the completely baffling concept of having 25 people vie for the affection of one person in a single-elimination romance battle royale, ratings are still pretty high, and people now flock to social media to talk about who’s going to “win.” I put that last bit in quotes, because as of 2019, only two bachelors and six bachelorettes (from the spinoff) out of a combined 38 seasons are still together with their season’s champ. I hardly call that winning.

Definitely not winning.

The Bachelor, The Bachelorette, and The Bachelor in Paradise have given millions of people way too much drama, public displays of affection and sadly, a reminder that people like Luke P still exist. The franchise is also an excellent case study in how social media and TV viewership blends, which can be a goldmine for brands and advertisers.

Let’s start with a little background in TV advertising. According to AdAge, traditional TV viewership is down across the big networks, and this is mainly due to streaming. With media outlets living and dying on Nielsen ratings, this can be strenuous on their advertising sales. Less “impact” and lower rating points on a show means a network needs to make up the lost reach, leading to less sales, and a growing problem. Streaming companies like Hulu and SlingTV are aggregating data on viewership, but leveraging those numbers for their own sales, undercutting the networks. This is why networks are selling their souls for strong franchises like The Bachelor and The Bachelorette – they’re great for the bottom line.

Lots of eyeballs = lots of dollars to advertisers.

From a social perspective, co-watching experiences have gone from watching TV together in living rooms to watching together online, streaming side by side and chatting about the shows on your favorite platform. With a show like The Bachelor, it layers on the intricate details of people’s personal lives, which can help and hurt, based on a blog we put together a few years ago. The gossip, the digging, and the curiosity of who likes who – natural instincts we’ve had since the playground – get amplified on a national scale.

The Bachelorette, airing from May to August, was the most popular of the three shows on social, and had some strong viewership nights on TV.

Combine these two behaviors, and you have yourself a flurry of activity. The three seasons that aired in 2019 ran from January 7th to September 17th. According to, an aggregator of ratings, (Bachelor, Bachelorette, Bachelor in Paradise) the universe averaged 5.5 million viewers. Over this time, about 487,000 tweets went out, delivering to a potential audience of over 14 million people. Mondays and Tuesdays were the most popular days to tweet, showing strong conversation at the start of the show, right through the next day.

From a potential audience viewpoint, The Bachelor on social reaches almost twice the amount of people. Pair that information with some quality Nielsen research that shows us the percentage of people that simultaneously use devices and watch TV, and we have some pretty compelling data for advertisers. 

73% of people watch TV and use a digital device at least some of the time. That’s huge!

If you’re wondering how you’re seeing ads for a product during a show, then getting that same ad on your phone at the same time, that’s a smart marketer taking advantage of a prime opportunity to get in front of you in context. If they’re smart, they’re weaving their message into the fabric of the show, aiming to get you to engage, watch, and check out their products in a much less intrusive way. From the brand’s perspective, this might cost a bit more, but the benefits definitely outweigh the cost, especially at scale.

As The Bachelor universe returns in January 2020, we’ll be watching to see how advertisers respond to this shift. If the contestants aren’t winning, a brand partner likely is!