‘The Bachelorette’: ABC Exec Talks Why the Franchise is So Successful

THE BACHELORETTE winner
Courtesy of ABC

With 19 seasons of “The Bachelor,” 11 seasons of “The Bachelorette,” three seasons of “Bachelor Pad” and a new season of “Bachelor in Paradise” debuting this summer, no one can argue with the success of ABC’s unscripted phenomenon.

Currently at the start of a new “Bachelorette” season, which after two episodes, is Monday night’s number one series in the 18-34 demo, there seems to be no slowing down for ABC’s graybeard of reality dating shows.

“When it was launched, it was brash and provocative,” Jason Sarlanis, VP of alternative series of ABC said today at RealScreen West in Santa Monica, Calif. The reality TV conference kicked off the same day Lifetime’s “UnReal” premieres — a scripted series, which paints a thinly veiled version of “The Bachelor” in an unflattering light.

Of ABC’s hit series, Sarlanis added, “It was doing something that had not been done before. It got free media from that, no matter how many billboards we could take out.”

Yes, “The Bachelor” was the first of uber successful reality dating series, but what can the long-running, continued success — and growing buzz — be attributed to?

Sarlanis says creator Mike Fleiss and his producing team have been evolving the show, in juxtaposition to the booming trend of soapy storytelling on unscripted television, seen on “Keeping Up With the Kardashians,” which Sarlanis worked on at E!, before he joined ABC’s team. “Story soaps were blowing up so they said, let’s infuse that storytelling, but ease up on the format.”

“They took what was kind of a challenged-based show, a game elimination show, and they embraced the docu-elements to them,” he added, noting that while the rose ceremony is still an integral part of the show, it’s not the only focus. “It’s great storytelling. You genuinely don’t know what is going to happen next.”

During Mark Burnett’s keynote discussion at RealScreen West, the prolific unscripted creator touched on ABC’s hit, giving a nod to its format, saying, “‘The Bachelor’ has a great format. That’s what makes it so successful.”

The current round of “The Bachelorette” raised red flags for casting two bachelorettes, Britt Nilsson and Kaitlyn Bristowe, ultimately letting the male contestants choose Bristowe as the season’s leading lady. While many were quick to criticize the choice as a ploy to raise ratings, Sarlanis says recruiting returning players in the “Bachelor nation” is a huge part of the franchise’s success, which has helped up the buzz and sustain undeniable numbers, as the shows grow older — the most recent season of the flagship series averaged nearly 10 million viewers, according Nielsen’s Live+7 estimates.

“They embraced the universe of the show and created a subculture,” he said. “That creative choice was embraced at the right time and then you saw resurgence with that show.”

However, as more and more bachelors and bachelorettes continue to look for love, ABC might consider casting new faces to avoid alienating new audiences who are not familiar with previous cast members.

“At a certain point, that becomes a universe and it’s harder to come in as a new viewers to a pre-existing universe. Are there ways to freshen up casting different people?” the exec raised, adding that bringing in new eyeballs is always a top priority.

When asked if ABC desires deviating from being a “family network,” Sarlanis was quick to position “The Bachelor” franchise as properties that qualify as quite the opposite. “‘The Bachelor’ is a show about hot tubs and hookups,” he said.

“We want to be the leader in entertainment,” Sarlanis added. “We don’t necessarily want to be the leader in family entertainment. We’re looking for things that families can watch together, but that does not mean they shouldn’t be provocative.”

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  1. Edwina Prance says:

    I was so upset about tonight’s show I had not read the other comments before I posted mine. Please let me just add that I TOTALLY AGREE with every word of the previous comments concerning last week. This show is quickly headed for the gutter with Kaitlyn and Nick at the helm. Wake up show execs we are not the only people thinking this way. You’re bachelorette and your show are disgusting and I am done with it also.

  2. Edwina Prance says:

    Kaitlyn may bring on the death knoll for this show. Imagine someone she has been sexting with suddenly shows up out of the blue and the show lets little miss hot pants let him join the show????? Are we really going to stand for this badly scripted, cheesy soap opera with a bachelorette who just wants to make out with every guy she can find to the point of actually having sex with them. This horrible little drama queen who squeals “look at me” with everything she does has me really sickened by this season. I have been a big fan but I hope the nonsense going on this year brings this nonsense to an end. The poor young men who are trying to woo Miss “I love me” Kaitlyn should have walked off the show the minute she brought Nick on, what a selfish, indulgent, rude little witch she is!!!!

  3. Sue Smith says:

    We are 70 and 73 years young and always look for to watching the Batchelor and Batchelorette programs. However, the program last night was poorly written and did not fit together smoothly. Don’t let this happen again. We want to keep watching!

  4. Sandra says:

    Regarding last night’s episode of #TheBachelorette – it was disgusting from start to finish. And the guy who left was right, what is with all the fight based dates?? And the locked room was gross. The sex education class was appalling- actors or no they were YOUNG CHILDREN- far too young for that garbage. And lastly, what’s with not ending with the rose ceremony anymore??? That alone makes me want to stop watching. Funny that an article came out in Variety today where the producers discuss what they think are the reasons for the success of the franchise. Well, there should be no doubt as to the reason for its downfall if they keep this crap up.

  5. Very upset. Ex fan says:

    After years of watching, last night was the straw that broke the camels back. Will never watch the bachelor or bachelorette again. Pure filth to the max. ABC has stooped too low this time. No class at all.

  6. Dorothy says:

    Last nights episode of the Bachlorette. Pure TRASH! I have cancelled my series recording of this show! How dare you display children in sex education conversations with men who aren’t there father! You should be ashamed of yourselves! You will loose at lot of people of people over these bad choices!!!!! No longer a fan!!!!!

  7. You have hit rock bottom with this episode. It was garbage! So proud of the guy that walked out. Have watched since day one but this show was an insult to your viewers

  8. gina price says:

    So disappointed by tonight’s show. It was crude and disgusting. Where have your morals gone, this is an 8 pm show and on ABC not Bravo where you expect this kind of low class shows !! I am so glad Tony, the healer got up and left the show, I respect him more than anyone else. We need more gentlemen like him in this world and it would be a better place to live and raise children. I would not trade places with any of you, with all your money, fancy clothes and cars I would rather have my dignity, respect and integrity, which is obviously missing in yourselves. No longer watching this trash, unless you clean it up !.

  9. ruth altizer says:

    I agree with all the others, the worst and nastiest. I could not believe that you would put 12 year old children on here and ask the questions and answers and they had to be bleeped. A 12 year old child should never say anything that was so inappropriate, that it had to be censored. It doesn’t matter if they were child actors or not. The parents and producers of the show need to have their heads examined, when you think this is funny or entertaining. Is it really worth the money when you compromise and even ignore what is the right thing to do? TV is getting so bad, that it is hard to find something decent anymore. You really missed the ball on this one and all of my friends agreed, it was tasteless and raunchy, I couldn’t believe you would go there. Chris, I have respected you and I think you let your viewers down !!!

  10. Very upset former fan says:

    I agree totally with the other comments below, this show airing is the WORST thus far. My husband has been upset with me watching this “garbage” and up until know I have ignored his comments. However this will be the LAST TIME that I tune into the Bachelor/Bachelorette program. This was the “last straw”, the language, the behavior of some of the cast, was way below what I care to spend my evening watching. There is more drama than love happening on this program and the end results of most all the last seasons’ couples gives proof to this. This is just sensationalism at it’s worse. Goodbye to the Bachelorette and future bachelors!

  11. Phyllis says:

    did not like the show tonight. It just was below par.

  12. Upset fan says:

    katline…. been watching since season one. she s the worst bachelorette in history she must get her ticks by people not only wanting her but fighting for her to the fact that black eyes hospital visits and men in diapers and men in place that if you look the back ground you can see kids of all ages and she makes the comment that she has seen everyones junk this is the first year that people are leaving on their own and its getting to be as one bachelor calls “whose got the biggest d***” as a season one fan she has tore this season up because we have seen the previous and we already know that she sleeps with someone and others want to leave because of it. i believe she is the WORST bachelorette in history which is why chris soles didnt want her… TERRIBLE CHOICE ABC…. and i feel the person that counted the roses was fixed so glad that brittney found love. and speaking of a one in fifteen group since season one this will now be deleted from my tevo…..;signed very upset and disappointed exfan

  13. Marsha Pickard says:

    Most discussing show ever! A lot of my friends are saying the same thing! It’s over the top but in a bad way. The bachelorette is a bad pick too!

  14. diana says:

    This is really the worst bacholarette show ever. Unbelievable, the script. I’m speechless and I have been watching for years!

  15. Miss Maz says:

    No offense but it seems like The Bacherlorette is trying to get ratings by appealing to the younger generation “kids” by exploiting to sex education from a bunch of strange adult men instead of using the school system to explain them. They think it is funny but it is not. Forget about censorship they threw that out of the window.

    • Sandra says:

      School system??? What about the PARENTS being allowed to choose when and how their children learn this?!!!

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