MTV’s ‘The Real World’ Returns, But On Facebook Watch: What Will Change

Bunim/Murray Prods. and MTV Studios will simultaneously produce three new editions of the landmark reality series, in United States, Mexico, and Thailand, for the site.
MTV's The Real World Returns, But On Facebook Watch: What's Changing
"MTV's The Real World"

A year after legendary MTV reality series “The Real World” ended its run, the cable network is resurrecting the franchise — but not for its own air. Instead, “MTV’s The Real World” is being reworked as a revival for Facebook Watch, which will premiere the new edition in Spring 2019.

Actually, make that three all-new editions: Facebook Watch will simultaneously run original productions of “MTV’s The Real World” set in the United States, Mexico, and Thailand.

“MTV’s The Real World” may be the most visible example yet of how legacy programmers like MTV are aiming to remain relevant by targeting consumers where they reside — including social media. Taking such an established brand like “The Real World” and sharing it with a competitor like Facebook may seem unusual, but it’s also an opportunity for MTV to spread its brand to other platforms. And it’s not unlike the traditional studios selling their fare to streaming services like Netflix.

It’s unclear whether “MTV’s The Real World” (notice that subtle title change, in order to make sure MTV’s branding still lives on Facebook) will ultimately also air on the cable channel, but that seems like an eventual possibility, given that MTV retains ownership over the franchise.

Bunim/Murray Productions, which originated the format in 1992 for MTV, continues to be involved and is co-producing the revival with MTV Studios. Pre-production is underway in each location, although MTV hasn’t yet revealed specific cities where the new “Real World” will be set.

In announcing the show’s return, MTV and Facebook Watch emphasized the groundbreaking topics addressed on the show, particularly during its early seasons — such as race, religion, politics, LGBTQ issues, AIDS and HIV awareness, abortion rights, the military, and more. Other than an attempt in 2009 with a season set in Washington, D.C., the show moved somewhat away from that as it focused much more on relationships and conflict between roomies.

But in a world of #MeToo and a new young generation of leaders, such as the survivors of the Parkland, Fla., shootings, this may be a sign that “The Real World” is looking to return to its roots. Again, MTV was tight-lipped on the direction the show might be going, as well as how the three different editions will be unfurled.

Among the info that was revealed: “MTV’s The Real World” will return to its original weekly half-hour format. (The show was expanded to an hour starting in 2008.) And in utilizing the Facebook platform, the show will share daily scenes, and incorporate interactive social and community features.

Among one new element: Facebook users will be asked to vote one housemate on to the show prior to air.

Facebook Watch and MTV were set to announce the “MTV’s The Real World” revival on Wednesday during at the MIPCOM market in Cannes.

“‘MTV’s The Real World’ helped to define a generation and created a new genre of television with a simple yet powerful idea of connecting people from wildly divergent backgrounds to find common ground on the issues that often divided them,” said MTV president Chris McCarthy. “By partnering with Facebook Watch and Bunim/Murray Productions, we have the opportunity to impact culture and create a new genre of television all over again, while engaging the next generation of content consumers around the world.”

“The Real World” ran for 32 seasons, producing 602 episodes in 23 different cities. The show featured 252 cast members over its run, and spawned the spin-offs “Road Rules” and “The Challenge” (which continues to air on MTV).

The show revival comes as MTV also enjoys the fruits of another recent reboot, “Jersey Shore: Family Vacation,” which has helped fuel a comeback story at the network. According to MTV, it has experienced five consecutive quarters of year-over-year ratings growth, and is experiencing its best primetime ratings in four years.

Coincidentally, one of Facebook Watch’s first series was the pickup of a canceled MTV show, “Loosely Exactly Nicole.” Bunim-Murray, meanwhile, already has a relationship with Facebook Watch through the reality series “Ball in the Family,” which it has produced for the outlet.

MTV isn’t the only TV network producing fare for Facebook Watch: Fox News has “Fox News Update” on the service, while CNN has “Anderson Cooper Full Circle,” ABC News has “On Location,” and Univision produces “Real America with Jorge Ramos.” PBS, TLC Prods., A+E Studios, CMT Prods., and Animal Planet have also produced for Facebook Watch.

Here’s a pitch for the new “The Real World” from MTV:

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