8:55am PT by Michael O'Connell
TV Ratings: 'Naked and Afraid XL' Trumps Caitlyn Jenner as Cable's Biggest Reality Newcomer
Oddsmakers may have favored Caitlyn Jenner as this summer's reality breakout, but her E! reality series was hardly cable's top performer. Bragging rights for the off season — and 2015 to date — go to Naked and Afraid spinoff XL.
Discovery's follow-up to its popular clothing-free survival competition premiered to 3.8 million viewers in July, losing little steam over the subsequent seven weeks to average 3.7 million viewers in live-plus-3 returns. (E!'s I Am Cait, by contrast, is averaging 2.25 million viewers ahead of its Sept. 13 finale.)
With little more than three months left in the calendar year, Naked and Afraid XL's closest competition, HGTV competition show Ellen's Design Challenge, is trailing in second-place status by more than 1 million viewers.
Naked and Afraid XL also capped off its run as cable's top freshman of 2015 among both adults 25-54 (2.17 million) and adults 18-49 (1.94 million), where it outperformed both Spike's surprise hit Lip Sync Battle and I Am Cait.
The original Naked and Afraid's successful summer 2013 launch prompted unscripted producers to start developing a wave of nude-themed TV, but none have hit as big. Cable efforts like VH1's Dating Naked, Game Show Network's Skin Wars and TLC's Buying Naked all made plays for Naked and Afraid numbers — and Fox even briefly considered putting its own naked show on the air.
As for XL, its strong debut helped propel Discovery to its most watched and highest-rated summer on record. Also considering the performance of its latest Shark Week, Discovery ends the off months up a solid 17 percent in both adult demos.