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‘The Bachelor’: ABC Reality Boss Talks Ratings Success, Diversity Backlash

Last night, Peter Weber was unveiled, perhaps unsurprisingly, as the next Bachelor during the season finale of “Bachelor in Paradise.”

Weber’s selection coincided with a season-high rating for “Paradise,” and caps a solid ratings summer for the “Bachelor” franchise. As ratings have been in decline across the board this summer, “The Bachelorette” and “Bachelor in Paradise” have been the two shows holding firm.

The Bachelorette” was the only show to grow among adults 18-49 from last summer to this one, with a 2.1 average Nielsen rating as opposed to a 2.0 last year (those figures include a week of delayed viewing). It currently stands as the top rated broadcast series of the summer so far, a first for the show, narrowly ahead of “America’s Got Talent.”

But how has the show managed to avoid the ratings slump which has plagued almost every other network series this summer? ABC reality chief Rob Mills attributes a lot of its ratings success to the “Bachelorette” herself, Hannah Brown.

Mills and co. were initially unsure how popular Brown would be when they were selecting her, given her “fiery spirit,” but Mills says she grew as the season went on and as a result the ratings “crescendoed at the end with the finale.” Whereas previous “Bachelorettes” ended up with a man firmly fixed to their arm, Brown’s season ended in drama and uncertainty when her choice, Jed Wyatt, was revealed to have been dating another woman just prior to joining the show.

Brown tossed him aside, meaning she didn’t end up with anyone, but viewers were aware of Wyatt’s dishonesty several weeks prior to Brown, which Mills says is one of the reasons the show grew in small increments each of the final six weeks.

“People kept tuning in and screaming at the TV, ‘Hannah there’s a bomb in the room,’ and eventually it blew up,” he says.

The Bachelor in Paradise” has also performed solidly this summer, averaging a 1.22 rating on its Tuesday broadcasts and a 1.12 on Wednesdays. Weber’s unveiling provided a 15% bump in the ratings week to week.

However, Mills admits he anticipates there will be backlash to Weber’s selection, on account of the show once again selecting a white “Bachelor.” Since the franchise’s debut in 2002, there has been no black “Bachelor” and one black “Bachelorette” of color with Season 13 leading lady Rachel Lindsay.

“I think there will be backlash and you’re always going to get backlash. I frankly can’t recall a single ‘Bachelor’ or ‘Bachelorette’ choice who was universally agreed upon,” Mills says. “The backlash is always hard. We really really care about the audience and you don’t want to disappoint anyone. It’s hard to not take it personally when people say, ‘You don’t listen to us or why did you choose this person over that?’ But you just have to have faith in the choice you made. We think Peter was the strongest option, we felt he was the guy who would give us the best 22 hours of television.”
Moving back to ratings, Mills says that after the spectacular success of “The Masked Singer” for Fox (which drew a whopping 8 million total viewers per episode), ABC is also on the hunt for a “really big, different” show which would represent a “complete left turn” for the network.
“Masked Singer was either going to be a massive success of a massive debacle, there was no middle ground there and I think that’s absolutely what we’re look for,” he said. “They’re hard, you know them when you see them, but they don’t come in terribly often. That’s something we would definitely love to add to our arsenal.”

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