Cable and OTT Reality TV Show Market Research

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Cable and OTT Reality TV Market Research - Percentage of Cable/OTT Market

Key Takeaways

  • Estimates indicate that as of 2020, at least 2,000 unscripted series existed on television.
  • Across streaming platforms, 32% of the total content is unscripted, which includes reality TV, while 68% is scripted.
  • The number of reality/unscripted shows is increasing: in 2015, there were only 750 total unscripted series on primetime cable.


While there is no definitive tally of reality TV shows across cable, broadcast and streaming platforms, we have presented some relevant statistics on the current and historic state of reality and unscripted TV below.

Current Reality TV Percentage

Historical Reality TV Percentage

  • Between 2018 and 2019, the percentage of unscripted projects in development across more than 150 streamers, including "social and short-form platforms such as Quibi and Facebook," increased from 24% to 51%. From 650 purely linear platforms over the same time period, however, unscripted projects in development actually decreased, from 44% to 41%.
  • In 2015, there were 750 total unscripted series aired on primetime cable — "83 percent higher than the number of scripted shows." Of those 750 programs, 350 were new.
  • Expert predict that the amount of unscripted shows will continue to increase as these shows are less expensive to produce than scripted shows: "TV networks and streamers can load up on these [unscripted] shows relatively inexpensively to increase their odds that a viewer will find something to watch. And when an unscripted show succeeds, companies can quickly and cheaply produce more episodes of it and spin off related series."
  • Netflix is also betting on an increase in unscripted content in the future. According to their unscripted chief Brandon Riegg, "his division is still in its infancy." He states: "Part of the goal is, we’re trying to provide something for everyone... And unscripted is probably the broadest content genre that’s out there, right? It’s everything from game shows to docuseries to these big competition formats. We’re working hard to get all of that covered and do the best shows in those various categories."

Research Strategy

The research team attempted to identify the percentage or number of reality TV shows on streaming and cable platforms in 2020, however, we were unable to identify a precise number or percentage. We were able to identify an estimate, however.

We were also able to find adequate information about unscripted content on all platforms. According to streaming guide Reelgood, unscripted TV includes "reality TV series, documentaries, game shows and talk shows." Casting Depot also confirms this definition, stating "A common misconception is that unscripted television is only reality TV. Unscripted content is an umbrella term for all programming that does not require a formatted script. The term ‘unscripted’ was coined years ago when the launch of reality-based dramatic content became relevant in programming.... Since then, this section of the industry has completely evolved into other areas of unscripted content including game shows, talk shows, doc-series and yes — still reality tv shows."

We were able to provide similar data about the historical number of reality/unscripted shows on cable and, eventually, streaming platforms dating back to 2015.

The research team did attempt to determine the percentage of all unscripted TV that is reality TV, however, we were unable to determine the exact percentage.

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