MTV bowed the 29th season of “Real World” last week with an overhauled format emphasizing the exes of the housemates, who will eventually join the cast members in the house further into the season. The Jan. 8 premiere drew 950,000 viewers, rising to 1.26 million viewers with L+3 data — a 33% lift. (Many young MTV viewers will catch the net’s programming on MTV.com or other digital platforms after the initial episode premieres on-air.)
The debut marked a gain over “Real World Portland’s” record-low ratings (36% growth from season 28 to 29), yet the “Real World Ex-Plosion” premiere still ranked as one of the franchise’s most modest audience turnouts in series history. The tweaked format — featuring breakups, hookups and a whole ‘lot of tears — attracted a strong showing from female teens, though adults 18-49 did not flock to the refreshed version of the venerable reality show.
Whether these numbers will be able to carry the franchise beyond season 29 is unclear. The “Ex-Plosion” element was integrated in order to revive the program, whose ratings had slid since powerhouse seasons like the return to Las Vegas. Series co-creator Jonathan Murray told journos during a screening of San Fran-set “Ex-Plosion” that he has several other format changes in mind for the 21-year-old program. With such a strong emphasis on sudsy relationships and the turnout of young femmes to the premiere (often doubling male demographic counterpart numbers in live viewership data), “Ex-Plosion” may lead “Real World” to begin skewing heavily female for the remainder of the franchise.
“Real World” airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. on MTV.