‘RHONY’: Are Cable Ratings Influenced When Bethenny Frankel Is a Cast Member?

Does the “Bethenny Frankel” factor truly influence ratings of The Real Housewives of New York City? Like most series, RHONY has tracked ratings peaks and valleys. But are they associated with whether or not Frankel appears on the season? The short answer appears to be yes. Ratings are seemingly lower when Frankel isn’t on the show.

Bethenny Frankel from 'RHONY'
Bethenny Frankel| Andrew Eccles/Bravo/NBCU Photo Bank

Season 5 looked bleak when Frankel was not on the cast roster. The season saw a 20% dip in ratings in 2012, which occurred while Frankel was on hiatus from the series.

“Nielsen numbers for the first two episodes of RHONY tell a worrisome tale. Compared to the ratings average for last season, the average ratings of the June 4 and 11 episodes of NYC’s Real Housewives were down 21% in total viewers — from almost 2 million to 1.6 million,” according to the New York Daily News. “Based on the same comparison, the season so far is down 22% among viewers 25-54, the key demographic on which advertisers base their commercial buys.” Frankel left and viewers met Aviva Drescher, Carole Radziwill, and Heather Thomson.

Bethenny Frankel returned and ratings rose 20%

Frankel returned to the series in 2015 for seasons 7 through 11. Bravo released a statement about series growth at the end of 2016, citing that RHONY experienced a 20% increase.

“Helping to fuel this growth, Bravo is bucking industry trends with 15 returning series up season over season in total viewers including: … The Real Housewives of New York City (+20%).” RHONY growth outpaced the franchise flagship show, The Real Housewives of Orange County, which experienced a 10% growth. The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills is currently having a ratings boom but only grew by 5% in 2016.

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Twitter account, Bravo Ratings insists Frankel was carrying the series. “Good afternoon, RHONY was going to be axed until Bethenny signed back on for S7 and put the show back on the map when it was reaching season highs of 1.7m+ during S8 and S9.” Adding, “there’s a reason why S6 was delayed being aired for an ENTIRE YEAR.” Bravo has not officially backed this assertion.

But ratings soared during season 7. “The season seven finale of The Real Housewives of New York City (8/11/15) delivered 2.1 million total viewers, 1.3 million P25-54 and 1.2 million P18-49, marking double digit growth up 15 percent, 15 percent and 18 percent in each respective demo versus the prior week’s episode,” according to a statement from Bravo. “The Real Housewives of New York City season seven averaged over two million total viewers, 1.3 million P25-54 and 1.1 million P18-49. Compared to the full prior season, the series was up 13 percent among P25-54, 10 percent among P18-49 and eight percent among total viewers.”

Is season 12 in trouble?

Season 12 of RHONY is nothing short of wild and entertaining. But ratings have been bumpy, leading some fans to beg for Frankel’s return. She has made it clear, there is no way she’s coming back for a third run.

But new cast member Leah McSweeney has been heralded as one of the few new cast members that fans have quickly embraced. Her brash, in-your-face approach to the existing cast members is refreshing for some fans. Plus, she blends well with this series, which is rooted heavily in comedy. Nonetheless, ratings have trended downward in recent weeks.

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The latest episode only drew about 1.180 million viewers according to Bravo Ratings. Meanwhile, RHOBH is seeing numbers closer to 1.5 million weekly viewers. The wild (and funny) Halloween episode may have been RHONY‘s lowest-rated episode ever at less than 1 million viewers. The season-high this year was episode nine when Ramona Singer threw a private party in Newport, Rhode Island. McSweeney got drunk and wild, doing a somersault in the grass. “S12E09 – 1.325 million viewers (0.41 18-49 demo) *season high in total viewers*,” according to Bravo Ratings.