I Don’t Think It’s Real: Exploring the Genres of Reality Programming: An Abstract

  • Christine M. Kowalczyk
  • Alexa K. Fox
Conference paper
Part of the Developments in Marketing Science: Proceedings of the Academy of Marketing Science book series (DMSPAMS)


Various issues regarding television viewership have been studied in the marketing literature, including media violence (i.e., Shanahan et al., 2003), children’s programming (i.e., Wright et al., 2005), and advertising regulation (i.e., Calfee & Ringold, 1994). Viewers have increasingly turned their attention to a new genre of television entertainment – reality television (“TV”). Reality TV is characterized by the concept that ordinary people, as opposed to professional actors, serve as the main characters of a television program (Reiss & Wiltz, 2004).

Although reality TV is highly contested among viewers and the media, it is unclear how viewers perceive the realism of these programs. Thus, it is imperative for the marketing and public policy literature to consider whether reality TV should be regulated for consumers’ protection. The purpose of this exploratory research is to begin to understand consumer perceptions of reality shows, with an emphasis on perceived realism and skepticism. By understanding these antecedents, marketers can better understand the implications of this programming within the nature of public policy.

Two exploratory studies (survey and experiment) addressed the following research questions:
  1. 1.

    How do consumers’ perceptions of realism and skepticism in reality programming relate to their need for potential regulations of this programming?

  2. 2.

    How do consumers view the need for broadcaster or government regulation of reality TV?

  3. 3.

    Do the subgenres of reality television effect perceptions of realism, skepticism, and need for broadcaster or government regulations?


The results of these studies shed light on the importance of consumer perceptions of reality TV programs. Study 1 examined how consumers view the role of perceived realism as it relates to skepticism, while study 2 applied this model to four subgenres of reality TV shows.

Despite their popularity, reality shows have received little attention in the marketing literature. These exploratory studies seek to better understand how the concepts of perceived realism and skepticism serve as predictors of the need for public policy. As reality shows become increasingly prevalent on network and cable television stations, the idea of scripted reality shows may become a notion of the past, and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) may consider creating regulations to control the realism of these programs. However, it appears that viewers favor broadcasters’ regulation of reality shows instead of government regulation.

Copyright information

© Academy of Marketing Science 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.East Carolina UniversityGreenvilleUSA
  2. 2.The University of AkronAkronUSA

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