Mike Darnell was in London this week to help Warner Bros International Television Production impress international buyers as part of the UK Screenings. He talked up new shows, including Ellen’s Game of Games, and Warner’s monster franchises, not least The Bachelor, which is poised to go all A Star Is Born with its latest spinoff The Bachelor: Listen to Your Heart.
Darnell knows that if he can get a show away in the U.S., it makes the job of his international colleagues that much easier, but it was the contrasting fortunes of The Bachelor and Love Island in America and Britain that got him thinking when Deadline caught up with Warner’s president of unscripted and alternative television.
The Bachelor returned to ViacomCBS’s UK network Channel 5 after a seven-year hiatus in 2019, but it struggled to make an impression. By contrast, Love Island has been extended to two seasons a year on ITV2 and its winter edition is entertaining more than 3M viewers a night — six times The Bachelor‘s audience. Over in the States, it’s the opposite story: ABC’s The Bachelor is the long-running and dominant force, while CBS premiered Love Island to a mixed reception last year, although it did renew the dating show for a second season.
Darnell has a theory that the two shows can’t co-exist in the same market. “It does appear that Love Island has taken over the space in the UK. I notice that Love Island didn’t really work over in the U.S. and it feels like maybe the two, once one is established, it’s hard to get a foothold [for the other],” he said. And on the prospect of Love Island putting down roots beyond a second season, Darnell was not convinced. “I’m just going to be really honest. I love CBS and I work with them, but I think based on those numbers last year, it will have to grow an awful lot to continue,” he added.
Listen to Your Heart is the latest in a conveyer belt of Bachelor franchise extensions, which makes it all the more remarkable that Darnell is yet to expand The Voice universe for NBC. There are other iterations of the format overseas, most notably The Voice Kids, but NBC has yet to be persuaded. Darnell remains enthusiastic about getting a kids’ version off the ground.
“I would love to do a Voice Kids in the U.S. It’s going to be ultimately NBC’s decision — it’s been talked about here and there, but we’re still not there with them. Voice Kids has done well everywhere, so I’d like to see one in America,” he explained.