The Bachelorette Pulls Lowest Ratings Ever—Is America Over Dating Shows?

Desiree Hartstock The Bachelorette

It should have been a hit—the ninth season of The Bachelorette has a formula that always rakes in viewers. But while newcomer Desiree Hartsock waited outside the famed mansion to greet her bachelors, America didn’t seem to be all that enthused. The episode was the lowest-rated Bachelorette or Bachelor premiere of all time. With just 5.8 million viewers, Hartsock’s season premiere was down 27 percent from ratings darling Emily Maynard’s Bachelorette kickoff last year according to the E! Network. So what’s the deal? Are viewers finally over the dating show?

There are a couple of factors that could explain the low numbers. First, poor Hartsock was up against The Voice—one of the highest rated shows in the nation. ABC had never pitted a dating show against the singing competition before, so there was no historical matchup to compare it with. The show also premiered on Memorial Day, a time when a lot of viewers are away or doing more traditional holiday activities, like cooking out, instead of watching TV.

Of the 26 seasons of The Bachelor and The Bachelorette, a measly four couples are still together—and that includes both the Bachelor who changed his mind during the finale, choosing his ousted girl over the woman he originally proposed to, and Sean Lowe, who has only been off the show for a few months. Viewers might be disenchanted with the show’s marriage success rates. It’s difficult to invest yourself in the relationships forged on the show when so many of them fail. The integrity of the show is questioned with each subsequent breakup.

The format itself might be in need of a shake up. When the series first began in 2002, seasons often had a theme based around the Bachelor’s history or background, like for tire magnate Andrew Firestone or naval officer Andrew Baldwin. Nowadays, it seems like the same old shtick. It’d be cute if it wasn’t so tired. There’s also the fact that six of the bachelors and all nine bachelorettes have been recycled contestants. While many of them were popular, they don’t offer anything new in subsequent seasons.

The Bachelor franchise is one of the last surviving love-centric shows left on major network television. Even NBC’s latest effort, Ready for Love, was nixed after just two episodes. Viewers were once optimistic about the possibility of falling in love on reality shows, but today’s reality has them watching singing competitions instead.

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