IAMCR OCS, IAMCR 2011 - Istanbul

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Farmer wants a wife and the audience sighs – Analyzing the factors of success of a popular reality TV show
Nina Haferkamp, Juliane Rietzsch, Elena VonRoell, Pamela Przybylski, Lena Kiepe, Till Kreis, Siri Henkel, Svetla Simeonova, Marius Meier, Louisa Mahr

Last modified: 14-03-2011


With its ten localized versions around the world, the reality TV show “Farmer Wants A Wife” (FWAW) is one of the most successful non-fictional TV shows ever aired. For instance, in Germany, an average of three million people (age group 14-49) regularly watched the localized version of this show in 2009. The reality show deals with several desperate bachelor farmers who become acquainted with selected women visiting them on their farms. From a communication science perspective, the question arises why this TV show gains so much attention by the audience. To give those factors a theoretical basis we focus on an audience-centered approach by analyzing viewers’ motives of watching FWAW in consideration of Katz’s uses-and-gratifications-approach. A multi-methodological study combining qualitative interviews with nine German viewers and a broad online survey (n=487) was conducted. While the participants of the qualitative interviews overall mentioned ‘schadenfreude’ as one of their main motives to watch FWAW, the survey revealed more differentiated findings: Next to schadenfreude, empathy as well as the shows’ host are the main motives to watch the TV show. With regard to the former, we identified gender as an important impact factor: While females rather feel sorry for the show participants, males are amused about the multitude of embarrassing situations shown in the show. Moreover, the participants’ place of residence influenced their motives: Those living in the country empathize while people living in the city are rather gleeful. Overall, our results give rise to the assumption that specific person variables impact viewers’ motives. In addition, our paper discusses in how far social comparisons which means the tendency to compare oneself and one’s own situation with those of the show’s protagonists play an important role to explain these different attitudes and perceptions.