Reality Shows Aim For Viewer Boost And Viral Buzz With New Promo Efforts

It can be a challenge to sustain viewers once the novelty of a reality TV show wears off. After all, how many times can you watch a trucker drive across snow a la History Channel's "Ice Road Truckers?" Now, in a bid to boost viewer tune-in for such programs, TV networks are increasingly turning to sweepstakes to anchor their marketing efforts.

These campaigns are not simple one-time, generic contests. Instead, they are designed to last throughout the show's season, reward viewers' wish fulfillment, and ignite viral buzz.

The National Geographic Channel, for example, is promoting the second season of the "Ultimate Survivor Alaska" series with a contest that provides a real-life experience from the show.

Every Sunday from January 5 through March 9, the show will air a unique keyword for entrants to submit online. One winner with all of the correct keywords and a guest fly to Alaska to join cast member Dallas Seavey for activities that include dog mushing, outdoor camping, snowshoeing, and learning MacGyver tricks. The winner must also be camera-friendly. He or she will be filmed and likely featured in future promotional campaigns and episodes. 

Meanwhile, TLC is promoting the new season of "Cake Boss" with the Bake With The Boss contest running through January 20. One winner will fly to New York City to participate in the “Taste Of NFL” event held during Super Bowl XLVIII. As part of this food festival, Cake Boss' Buddy Valastro will bake alongside the winner, segments of which will be incorporated into future promotional efforts. 

The Food Network is ensuring the winner of its reality TV show "Restaurant Express" has at least one customer. As part of the promotion for the "Restaurant Express Las Vegas" TV series, one viewer receives a trip to Las Vegas to eat at the new restaurant opened by the series winner. No word on whether the show's host Robert Irvine will join their meal. 

Networks hope these contests emulate the viral success that A&E garnered with last summer's "Duck Dynasty" Camo Cameo contest. The sweepstakes awarded one person who looked most like a Duck Dynasty family member with a walk-on role in an ad supporting the show's fourth season.

Yet the contest's real winner was A&E. Without much paid advertisement, this contest sparked widespread attention in both social and traditional media. Contestants took to social media to solicit votes and local newspaper and news outlets covered local contestants. Ultimately, all of these mentions raised the profile and awareness of "Duck Dynasty," without cost to the network. 

Still, there's the question of whether viewers will actually want to win some of these prizes. It's one thing to win a lavish dinner at a reality TV contestant's new restaurant; it's another matter to spend the night camping outdoors in sub-zero temperatures.

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