There was once a time when The Real Housewives were ruling the reality TV space and creating more pop culture references than t-shirt companies could keep up with. Specifically, The Real Housewives of Atlanta, as detailed in The Wrap (opens in new tab), was once the most-watched show on all of Bravo. In fact, RHOA season 6 can still brag of having the highest-rated episode of any Real Housewives show with more than 4.6 million total live viewers (opens in new tab).
Fast forward to the present and the current season of RHOA has failed to have one episode surpass 1 million live viewers, according to TV Deets (opens in new tab). This is pretty shocking when you consider so many people (us) used to rush home on Sunday nights just to watch the witty things Nene Leakes would tell her fellow castmates. Who can forget "Bloop" or "closed your legs to married men" or our personal favorite, "I said what I said"?
The decline in ratings is not exclusive to Atlanta. All of the OG Housewives franchises (Orange County, New York, New Jersey and Beverly Hills) have seen their audiences shrink over the years. While The Real Housewives of New Jersey and The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills are still considered widely popular and successful, both The Real Housewives of New York and The Real Housewives of Orange County saw some uncharacteristically poor ratings according to Heavy (opens in new tab)and TV Deets (opens in new tab).
Taking all of this into account, we had to wonder, why aren't long-time fans still watching? Looking through Twitter commentary and what some notable housewives have had to say, plus our own thoughts, we have a few theories that could answer that question.
Fan favorites leaving
One of the great things about watching The Real Housewives of any city is that the audience can instantly gravitate towards one or two of the cast members who entertain them the most with their comical remarks or "relatable" behavior. However, for Bravo, the downside to this type of viewer engagement is that when fans’ favorite stars exit the show, it leaves a vacuum, and these fans sometimes just stop watching.
Again looking at RHOA, popular stars Nene Leakes, Porsha Williams, Phaedra Parks and Cynthia Bailey have all exited the series. With that, lots of former viewers have said they're just not interested in watching the current season in their absence.
really not interested in a RHOA without porsha or NeneApril 28, 2022
Everyone needs to admit that bringing Phaedra, Nene and Porsha back into RHOA will save the show.June 6, 2022
#Rhoa will never be the same bring the originals back Nene Phaedra Porsha Cynthia pic.twitter.com/yVLubyBY3mJune 7, 2022
Former Real Housewives of Orange County fans have taken to Twitter to express similar sentiments about that series in response to Vicki Gunvalson and Tamra Judge no longer being featured in the episodes. (However, their admirers can catch these two ladies in the new season of The Real Housewives Ultimate Girls Trip.)
When did he say this.... RHOC without Kelly & Vicki and anchored by Shannon & Tamra is a show I will not be watching. pic.twitter.com/VwVkC9GL00January 5, 2020
#andy cohen #RHOC. Watching old episodes with Tamra and Vicki. Reminds me of when I liked this show! With the new group, not liking at all!January 12, 2022
While we can’t say bringing back any of these women to their respective city’s franchise will dramatically boost viewership numbers, it may be a start for Bravo.
In reply to a fan discussing his shock at the show’s current episode ratings, RHOA star Kenya Moore surprisingly jumped onto the Twitter-verse to address his comments. She replied, "We were up against BMA and NBA Finals next week will be even better. It’s a great season."
Subject closed, Kenya, we hear ya.
We were up against BMA and NBA Finals next week will be even better. It’s a great season https://t.co/8ZPZeuTcdXMay 17, 2022
She actually raises a good point.
Historically shows have always taken a hit in live viewing figures when scheduled against an awards show or major sporting event. This is why normally networks don’t do it. Bravo opted to air new RHOA episodes anyway so perhaps this caused the dip in ratings. In addition, RHOA has had to compete with Mother’s Day and the peak of graduation season — both of which typically see people spending time outside of the home and away from a television.
Eboni K. Williams of Real Housewives of New York, who was largely blamed by fans and castmates for the decline of that franchise, defended herself in an interview with Insider (opens in new tab) making the point that:
"Television ratings are down across the board, a story that more accurately reflects the viewing habits of our nation. People are not watching appointment television the way they used to two or even three years ago. That's the reality."
She’s not wrong.
The Los Angeles Times (opens in new tab) reported that even major sporting events like the most recent Summer Olympics noted record lows in viewing figures.
WTW theories as to why people aren’t watching The Real Housewives like before
While we think fan favorites leaving the different franchises and scheduling conflicts have played small roles in the viewership decline, we have to give a lot of credibility to Williams’ argument. The way we as a society take in content is different and there is so much to digest. When these OG Housewives franchises started, people didn’t readily have access to Hulu, Disney Plus, HBO Max or even Netflix as we know it today. But now they do, so they have so many more options. Sadly, this may put housewife-related series at the bottom of must-watch lists.
Another reason viewing numbers could be down for these shows is "housewife fatigue." The formulaic programs have been on for over a decade. Considering the number of franchises now in existence and the collective number of seasons between each one, perhaps fans are simply looking elsewhere for their reality fix.
Fans can watch the current season of The Real Housewives of Atlanta on Sundays at 8 pm ET/PT, The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills on Wednesdays at 8 pm ET/PT and The Real Housewives of Dubai on Wednesdays at 9 pm ET/PT on Bravo. All-new episodes are available to stream the next day over on Peacock.
Terrell Smith has a diverse writing background having penned material for a wide array of clients including the federal government and Bravo television personalities. When he’s not writing as Terrell, he’s writing under his pseudonym Tavion Scott, creating scripts for his audio drama podcasts. Terrell is a huge fan of great storytelling when it comes to television and film. Some of his favorite shows include The Crown, WandaVision, Abbot Elementary and Godfather of Harlem. And a fun fact is he's completely dialed into the TLC 90 Day Fiancé universe.
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