The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

Reality television still reigns

Junior Stephany Cramer can’t wait to turn 21.

It’s not so she can hit the bars on Water Street or gamble in Wisconsin casinos. Cramer wants to try out for TV’s “Survivor,” and 21 is the minimum age to apply.

Cramer’s boyfriend applied for the next “Survivor,” and she can’t wait to do the same.

“It’s my dream to be on ‘Survivor,'” Cramer said.

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Cramer has been a die-hard fan of the reality show, now in its sixth season, since its inception. She said she can’t get enough.

Cramer isn’t the only one, said Tom Bierbaum, director of ratings and performance information for NBC entertainment publicity. Reality TV doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, he said.

“There’s no real sign that the trend is waning,” Bierbaum said. “There’s certainly a great deal of interest in the area.”

Although NBC usually runs its reality programming during the summer, Bierbaum said many new reality concepts are in the works at the network.

The season finales of the recent Fox hit “Joe Millionaire” and ABC’s “The Bachelorette” both drew good numbers for their respective networks, Bierbaum said. This is particularly important because both finales occurred during the “sweeps” period, a time when the Nielsen ratings company assesses all 210 TV markets nationwide, said Emily Edwards, promotion and creative services manager of NBC’s Eau Claire affiliate, WEAU-TV 13.

Sweeps periods occur four times a year – in February, May, July and November, Edwards said. During non-sweeps periods, Nielsen only rates the top markets, she said.

“It’s important for local stations to do very well in prime time (during sweeps),” Bierbaum said. “It’s somewhat for bragging rights (for the network). The better we do, the better our local stations do.”

The Nielsen ratings give networks important demographic information, Bierbaum said. This can help explain, at least in part, the reality craze.

Reality TV shows are quite popular among those ages 18 to 34 and less so among those ages 35 to 49. Reality programming does not rank as well with those aged 50 and older.

Those ages 18 to 34 have grown up with MTV’s The Real World and CNN’s up-to-the-minute live coverage, Bierbaum said.

“They may be less likely to appreciate scripted programming,” he said. “To younger people, (reality TV is) more consistent to the kind of programming they’ve grown up with.”

Cramer, who also watched “Joe Millionaire” and “The Bachelorette,” can’t get into sitcoms and other types of scripted TV, she said, because they don’t involve real-life situations.

Cramer said she likes that she can relate to reality programming.

“It’s definitely interesting,” Cramer said. “Different types of people and conflict make good reality.”

Cramer and her friends go beyond simply watching “Survivor.” They’ve had “Survivor” parties and had a pool going to see who would win last season, she said. Other reality fans in the 18 to 34 age group seem to be just as enthusiastic, Bierbaum said.

“Reality TV is still relatively new,” he said. “The appetite for the audience is very strong.”

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Reality television still reigns