'Bachelorette': Did Sex Scandal Boost Ratings?

Rick Rowell/ABC
Kaitlyn Bristowe

Ratings jumped for the dating show in its 11th season. ABC credits a compelling love triangle, but having a controversial, sex-positive contestant didn't hurt either.

This story first appeared in the August 7 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

The Bachelor refuses to settle down. The ABC dating series, never a smash hit, has held steady through 19 seasons (especially among women 18-to-49), and sister series The Bachelorette averaged a 2.5 rating in adults 18-to-49 during its 11th season, which ended July 27, a curious uptick from the previous season's 2.2.

What caused the jump? Marketing for this season centered on star Kaitlyn Bristowe sleeping with eventual runner-up Nick Viall in an early episode, but execs are reluctant to credit the scandal for goosing viewership. Robert Mills, ABC senior vp alternative, specials and late-night, instead attributes a compelling love triangle as Viall vied with winner Shawn Booth for Bristowe's affection.

"When you have a lead [whom] the audience is extremely invested in, and that lead is really torn between several potential love interests, appointment TV follows," says Mills.

The star's general likability also can play a role in luring viewers. Season 17 bachelor Sean Lowe, a "born-again virgin," saw a ratings boost from his predecessor, Ben Flajnik (Lowe's 500,000 Twitter followers also crush Flajnik's 200,000). Still, a sex scandal (and accompanying celebrity weekly covers) probably doesn't hurt.

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