Two weeks have passed on “Love Island” and plenty of singles have coupled and uncoupled in their bid for love and a fat $100,000 pay check. However, there’s one couple that doesn’t seem to be hitting it off: CBS and “Love Island.”
Ratings for the show have been far from paradisiacal, and with the network gambling heavily on the series by programming it five nights a week, there’s a risk that “Love Island” could soon find itself dumped and that CBS will sail away from yet another failed nonfiction franchise launch.
The numbers for “Love Island” have been unerringly stable, which would be a good thing if they weren’t stagnating at an average of 0.51 in the key 18-49 demographic across nine episodes. Viewership has been just as poor, with roughly 2.3 million tuning in to each episode, far fewer than the network would likely have been hoping for.
To better put the show’s ratings woes into context, it has lost on consecutive Thursdays to another unscripted newcomer “Holey Moley” on ABC, and “Masterchef” on Fox. Things certainly didn’t get off to an ideal start for “Love Island,” as the reality show’s debut was pitted against the 2019 MLB All Star Game and a resurgent “America’s Got Talent” on NBC. Its underwhelming 0.57 rating was dwarfed by the former’s 1.7 and the latter’s 1.4, and the premiere was also beaten in total viewership by a re-run of “The Conners” in ABC.
Since then, the show dipped to a low of 0.36 on July 12, before recovering to a 0.50 rating, which it has put up for five consecutive episodes.
Maybe it’s in delayed viewing where, like many CBS shows, “Love Island” has come to the fore? Sadly not – the show is being out-grown in Live+3 by “The Bachelorette,” “Amazing Race,” “Masterchef” and “Big Brother,” to name but a few.
CBS will likely have been hoping for a boost at some point against less stiff competition, however, “Love Island” has been consistently outperformed by re-runs and game shows on the other major networks, as well as “Big Brother” on its own, for which it acts as a lead in.
But perhaps in that last detail lies the problem for CBS, a network which skews older demographically and regularly tops the big five networks in the 25-54 demographic, as well as overall viewership.
“Love Island,” with its attractive young singles, stunning Fiji villa and beachside party games, is very much a play at attracting a younger audience, one which has worked in the past for the Eye. One need look no further than “Big Brother,” which is currently in its eye-popping 21st season, to see a successful reality franchise which has helped prove the network has the potential to turn some more youthful heads.
However, one could also infer that “Love Island”‘s proximity to “Big Brother,” both temporally and thematically, is part of the problem.
On two nights a week this summer, CBS viewers are expected to tune in to one hour of strangers trapped in a house, bickering and making out by the pool, followed by one more hour of precisely that. Clearly 120 straight minutes of such programming is proving too much for audiences to bear, as on each occasion so far “Big Brother” has virtually doubled its lead-in, posting around a 1.0 rating and 4 million viewers.
One could also argue that ratings for “Love Island” are symptomatic of the network’s larger struggle in recent years to launch a new unscripted franchise.
Earlier this year, “The World’s Best” was given the best possible chance at success with a super-sized Super Bowl lead-in. However, after an impressive 7.0 rating debut and 22 million viewers, the show plummeted to a 1.02 and 5.6 million viewers by episode 2, and just 2.5 million viewers by episode 7.
Meanwhile the LeBron James-produced “Million Dollar Mile” has shot nothing but air balls. The series premiered to a 0.89 rating and just under 4 million total viewers, and was given only two episodes before being shunted into obscurity on a Saturday time slot. It has averaged a 0.23 and around 1.3 million viewers ever since. It’s likely that its race is run.
Deciding to stay the course with “Love Island” might well pay off in the long run for CBS, as history dictates that the show exploding into the zeitgeist isn’t totally off the cards.
When “Love Island” premiered in the U.K., it was far from an immediate hit for ITV. The first two seasons performed underwhelmingly, both in terms of ratings and buzz. It wasn’t until the network, whose American arm produces the CBS iteration, threw the show a lifeline with the 2015 reboot that things started to really kick off.
“Love Island” is currently airing its fifth season on the other side of the pond and going from strength to strength. The July 3 episode was the show’s highest rated ever, and the viewership eclipsed the 6 million mark for the first time.
To call it a water cooler show in the U.K. would be doing it a disservice. For 50 episodes each summer, as opposed to the 22 ordered by CBS, the British public is captivated by whether Jordan is going to take his relationship with Anna to the next level, or whether Greg and Amber will finally be able to have their first smooch away from prying eyes.
Perhaps, given time and a few format tweaks, CBS and the younger viewers it craves will find their perfect match on “Love Island.”