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Wave of Ad Boycotts Aren't Hitting 'Bachelor' Franchise Yet

Published on .

A scene from last summer's season of 'Bachelor In Paradise.'
A scene from last summer's season of 'Bachelor In Paradise.' Credit: ABC Television Network via YouTube
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Allegations of sexual misconduct, a possible lawsuit, an ongoing investigation and a ton of publicity: These days that's usually more than enough to send advertisers running. But despite the incident that has rocked ABC's "Bachelor in Paradise," shutting down production indefinitely, advertisers are so far sticking with the broader "Bachelor" reality dating franchise.

"We are not planning on making any changes to our current advertising," a Target spokeswoman said. The retailer has aired ads in this season of "Paradise" sibling "The Bachelorette," now in the midst of its latest season. Target is monitoring the situation closely, she said, and has not made a decision on its future advertising in the franchise, which also includes "The Bachelor" and the planned spin-off "Bachelor Winter Games."

State Farm, which has also aired commercials in this season of "The Bachelorette," has "no plans to change the existing media buy," a spokeswoman said in an email.

And a Buick spokesman said the auto maker is "watching the situation closely." The company has advertised in this season of "The Bachelorette" but did not have plans to advertise in "Bachelor in Paradise."

"At this point we haven't changed our advertising commitments with other shows on the network," he said in an email.

There's always been brand risk associated with reality TV. From anti-gay comments by the patriarch of A&E Network's "Duck Dynasty" to the child molestation allegations that ended TLC's popular "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo," it's easy for an advertiser to wind up in an abruptly charged environment.

But this particular scandal comes at a time when there's a heightened sense of caution among advertisers over appearing in or alongside any content they deem controversial. Ad boycotts, it seems, have become the norm.

Just this week, advertisers pulled out of Megyn Kelly's NBC newsmagazine over Kelly's interview with Infowars founder Alex Jones, who claims the Sandy Hook massacre was a hoax. And Delta Air Lines and Bank of America withdrew support from a production of "Julius Caesar" where the title character resembles President Donald Trump.

So while "Bachelorette" advertisers might be hanging tight for now, that could change as more details emerge about that first week of filming on "Bachelor in Paradise."

Warner Brothers, which produces the show, is investigating allegations made by one of the show's producers regarding sexual misconduct on set. The act in question involves two contestants, Corinne Olympios and DeMario Jackson, who allegedly engaged in sexual acts in public that were filmed. There are contradicting reports regarding whether Olympios was too intoxicated to consent.

ABC has not officially confirmed that "Bachelor in Paradise," which was set to premiere on Aug. 8, is canceled.

"We must wait for Warner Bros. to complete their investigation before next steps and are not going to comment until after that time," an ABC spokeswoman said.

But it's hard to see "Bachelor in Paradise" returning this summer as planned.

The network has a lot riding on the results of the investigation. "The Bachelor" franchise, which has been on the air for 15 years, attracts an incredibly loyal and engaged audience for ABC.

Excluding some NFL packages, "The Bachelor" was the fifth-rated show on broadcast during the 2016-17 season, just ahead of two other ABC stalwarts, "Grey's Anatomy" and "Modern Family."

The 21st season of "The Bachelor" averaged 7.4 million viewers and a 2.3 rating in the 18-to-49 demographic, while the current season of "The Bachelorette" is averaging 5.8 million viewers and a 1.7 rating in the demo.

"Bachelor in Paradise" doesn't have quite the same cache. Last season of the series was watched by 4.8 million viewers and pulled a 1.4 rating in the demo. And its after-show, "After Paradise," where cast members and celebrity fans discuss the week's episode, was watched by 3 million viewers and pulled a 0.8 rating.

Still, it ranked among the 10 highest-rated broadcast shows of last summer. Without it, ABC would need to figure out how to fill those hours.

If it is found that there was gross misconduct on the set, it's far from clear how other parts of the franchise will be impacted. There's little precedent for a multi-show franchise being affected by scandal on one if its spin-off series.

TLC's high-rated "19 Kids and Counting" lost a swath of advertisers and was eventually canceled after allegations that one of its stars sexually molested his sisters. But TLC continued the franchise with the spin-off "Jill and Jessa: Counting On," which is currently airing its third season.

Ultimately, short of a crime, some sort of scandal is not only expected on a series like "Bachelor in Paradise" but encouraged. Viewers aren't watching to see people hold hands and walk romantically on a beach. And advertisers know what they are getting when they run ads in these types of programs.

It's also important to note that most advertisers don't view "Bachelor in Paradise" in the same category as other series in the franchise, which are seen as safer environments.

But not all TV is "safe" for brands. Nor should it be.

"Given the wide diversity of media today and wide range of public opinion on any given issue, it would be an impossible task to find a major TV or radio network whose entire programming schedule appeals to all audiences," a spokeswoman for Bayer, which has run ads for its Aleve and Coppertone brands in this season of "The Bachelorette," said in an email.

But morally objectionable and potentially illegal acts are a different story.

"Bayer has very specific guidelines to ensure our commercials air in acceptable content," the Bayer spokeswoman said. "We regularly evaluate our advertising placements against these guidelines, and make sound judgments to continue or discontinue based upon our beliefs, values and ethical considerations. We also value the opinions of our consumers, and take them into consideration when making advertising placement decisions."

Contributing: Anthony Crupi, Adrianne Pasquarelli