Disney+ Needs Competition (Reality Shows)

Who doesn’t love healthy competition? Apparently, Disney+ doesn’t, ‘cause they offer barely anything of the sort. The service now offers Dancing with the Stars, which technically doesn’t count since it shares space with ABC. There used to be some smaller game show formats and baking competitions that have all been removed from the service due to their lack of viewership and [clears throat] TAX WRITE-OFFS! [air-horn noise] It’s a desolate wasteland with no real competition programming.

From a money perspective, it honestly shocks me. The problem among many new streamers is the lack of profitability. With many trying to entice viewers with big-budget showy projects (Marvel & Star Wars, almost exclusively), they need to try and find budget-friendly options that still keep viewers tuned in and, most importantly, subscribed.

In this sense, the other streamers are doing laps around Disney+. Nailed It! was one of Netflix’s first big hits, using an episodic format to highlight comically bad bakers. The show was engaging, the talk of social media, and a multiple Emmy-Award nominee for not doing much.

Meanwhile, as a more serialized competition show, one could argue Peacock finally had its first big hit with The Traitors, a European format hiding traitors within “faithful” contestants, all trying to win a cash prize. The show, utilizing former reality show contestants from many different networks, has taken off as a social media favorite and a new strategic masterpiece.

Disney+? Nuthin’. I would love to see Disney+ dive into this space amid the streamer reorganizing and deciding what to do for their original slate going forward. Smaller, low-budget, engaging competition shows can create just as much impact for the brand as something like Andor or WandaVision, if done right.

Of course, this would require them to think outside the box a bit and take some risks. There are shows that will always do semi-well with a solid concept: competitions around love (Too Hot To Handle, Perfect Match, and to a lesser competitive extent, Love Is Blind) and competitions around food (The Great British Baking Show, Nailed It!). However, the baking ones didn’t work and love shows should remain on ABC, thanks so much.

Think about how instantly engaging and riveting it would be to find “The Next Great Imagineer,” allowing contestants to try their hand at different roles within Imagineering through competitions, creating bluesky attractions/experiences/locations that could later be looked at to come to fruition, etc. On top of that, theme park design is such a neat job that hasn’t been gamified yet on television.

Or, what about reviving the concept of casting by utilizing Disney On Broadway’s properties to find new leads of Aladdin, The Lion King, or Frozen. Legally Blonde and Grease both effectively promoted their shows and shepherded in a new onslaught of Broadway talent. (Kate Rockwell, Max Crumm, Lena Hall, just to name a few.) You know Disney loves a promotional opportunity, so this would be so exciting.

Disney+ has the ability to be a competition series hub, with concepts that can be uniquely Disney and still feed subscriber counts. All they have to do is take a leap of faith and see where reality television can take them.

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Marshal Knight
Marshal Knight is a pop culture writer based in Orlando, FL. For some inexplicable reason, his most recent birthday party was themed to daytime television. He’d like to thank Sandra Oh.