Could the ‘Below Deck’ Franchise Be the New Trend in Reality Television?

When the fun Bravo series called Below Deck debuted on July 1, 2013, fans were instantly engaged. The show boasted an impressive 1.1 million viewers and has grown ever since.

The reality series gives viewers a voyeuristic look into what it is like to not only work on a luxury superyacht but to vacation in some of the most exotic destinations throughout the world.

Ben Robinson, C.J. Lebeau, Kathleen Held, Adrienne Gang, David Bradberry, Alex Taldykin, Samantha Orme, Eddie Lucas |Photo by Justin Stephens/Bravo

Layering into the drama is the multi-dimensional complexities of rank, skill levels, plus personality clashes. And that’s just with the crew. Charter guests also agree to be filmed, which provides another level of drama to cover for the show. The yacht itself and some of the many hazards and pitfalls that can occur also deliver a major storyline. Deckhand Ashton Pienaar almost lost his life last season of Below Deck. Plus rough seas in the Mediterranean has its own set of challenges. So what is the secret sauce behind the show?

Keep some key players constant

Below Deck creator Mark Cronin held a discussion on Reddit. He revealed how the show came to fruition. “The idea came from a producer who worked for me named Rebecca Henning. She had been a yachty earlier in life and told me about that amazing ‘secret’ world.” He added this was one show that men enjoy too.

Cronin told Inc. he keeps the show engaging by identifying key players who will keep viewers coming back for more. “I try to hold on to key people: Chef Ben, Chief Stew Kate… we try to keep the key department head positions steady,” he said. “That naturally lets us mix it up a little bit and maintain some continuity while introducing new voices.”

Kate Chastain |Photo by Greg Endries/Bravo/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

He added that while Below Deck debuted strong, ratings would lag because of significant filming gaps. “It was like we had to rebuild our ratings every year; by the end of each season we were doing really well… but then we’d be off the air for a year,” he told Inc. “So I went to Bravo and proposed we create Below Deck: Mediterranean as a spin-off. That meant what was in the pipeline was more Below Deck(s).” He added at the time he planned to venture off to Croatia to shoot Below Deck Med.

The ‘Below Deck’ franchise is a breakout hit on Bravo

Toward the end of 2018, Bravo identified some breakout stars from the past year. Both Below Deck and Below Deck Med fell under the title of “new crop of original series on the rise with record-setting seasons.”

The shows were in the company of Southern Charm and Vanderpump Rules. Like Below Deck, Vanderpump Rules is a workplace-based show. While Southern Charm is not centered in the workplace, it includes both men and women. Plus examines both relationships and career goals too.

Joao Franco, Captain Sandy Yawn |Photo by Greg Endries/Bravo/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

The ratings told the full story about the franchises’ popularity. At the time, Below Deck was “on pace to deliver its best season ever among P18-49, P25-54, and total viewers (2.3MM P2+ on L3).” A December 11 episode of Below Deck was the highest-rated show across all television among viewers between the ages of 18 and 34. Below Deck Med wrapped its third season and “delivered its best season ever among P18-49, P25-54 and total viewers (2.2MM P2+ on L3).”

The show continues to grow a fanbase

The last two seasons of Below Deck and Below Deck Med kicked off seasons with extremely strong ratings. Below Deck season six churned out 1.265 total viewers on its debut. And Below Deck Med season four came in at a respectable 1.176.

Below Deck Med | Conrad Empson Instagram

Interest in Below Deck Med has been steadily growing. Late last year, Bravo reported Below Deck Med and Southern Charm were two of the network’s fastest-growing series for on-demand TV.

Furthermore, the franchise hit a high note after Below Deck Med‘s season four debut. The show came in the top five cable shows that evening.