The Challenge: Ride or Dies isn’t doing so hot. Episode 2 was viewed by 422,000 people, which is a sharp drop from Double Agents Episode 2. That episode received 839,000 viewers, which is nearly double the amount of people who watched Ride or Dies Ep. 2.
I tweeted about this, and I got every excuse in the books.
The first, and the most obvious conclusion is that everyone is cutting cable, and there’s definitely truth to this. But, 5.49 million people tuned into the Yankees vs. Astros ALCS game on TBS that night, which means they have cable. So, the more likely scenario is that people aren’t watching TV live any more. This may mean there’s still interest in The Challenge, but non-live viewers make pennies compared to the advertiser dollars a live broadcast would make.
The second excuse: Double Agents was during the peak of the pandemic. Again, I’m sure there’s some validity to this. But, on Double Agents Ep. 2 competed against an episode of the Real Housewives of the OC that received 1.004 million viewers. Meanwhile, Ride or Dies Ep. 2 competed against an episode of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills that received 1.402 million viewers. I’m not going to pretend I know anything about this franchise, so I’m sure the Beverly Hills wives have a bigger fan base, but clearly cable reality shows can be successful in the modern era.
People also cite the competition for the Wednesday night 8 p.m. time slot. Ride or Dies was up against an NBA game, the MLB playoffs, the Housewives, Survivor, and a delayed episode of The Masked Singer. Meanwhile, Double Agents was up against The Amazing Race, a Masked Singer Christmas Special, the Housewives, and heaps of post-2020 election cable news. I’d call the competition in 2022 steeper, and it likely did pull viewers away from The Challenge. It’s especially silly for MTV (a CBS/Viacom network) to compete against Survivor, but they don’t seem to care.
We can talk about changes in behaviors toward cable TV, but the fact of the matter is Double Agents Ep. 2 was the #1 cable show on Dec. 16, 2020. Ride or Dies Ep. 2 was the #15 cable show on Oct. 19, 2022.
So, are we in trouble? Kind of — in my opinion.
Ride or Dies was MTV’s highest rated broadcast last week, though Jersey Shore: Family Vacation was airing a reunion special, and that’s going to attract fewer viewers than a regular episode. But, the numbers are still low, especially because there were highly-advertised twists baked into the most recent Challenge episode.
But, we know The Challenge is renewed for season 39, so it’s not at immediate risk of getting canceled. And in some regard, this may be what the show needs. Viewers are getting frustrated with the influx of rookies, disposable nature of cast members, and the same old veterans. The numbers don’t lie, so if viewers won’t watch these people, MTV will eventually notice.
People may also have some level of fatigue from the show. So far, in the 2020s, we’re on our fourth main series show (all of them with 90-minute episodes and longer seasons than in the past), plus there’s been three All Stars seasons and The Challenge: USA. People may be picking and choosing what they want to see, and word on the street is, All Stars is the highest quality pillar in this franchise.
I’m not too worried about the future of the show, but I do hope producers take notice of the feedback surrounding recent seasons. Even the harshest criticism holds nuggets of truth, and the complaints can be a good thing. The people who whine watch the show. The silent fans are the ones who stopped tuning in.