(Bloomberg) -- The U.S. edition of British reality show “Love Island” begins on Tuesday night, testing American appetites for daily, hour-long doses of sun-drenched tropical romance.
Millions of British viewers sit down six nights a week to watch the show’s toned and tanned millennials flirt, bicker, confront challenges and couple up under constant video surveillance to win the audience’s affection and avoid being ejected from paradise.
The latest U.K. season is the most-watched show ever on producer ITV Plc’s second channel and the franchise has had similar success in continental Europe and Australia, turning participants into celebrities.
ITV is also bringing the format to Belgium, the Netherlands, Poland, Hungary and New Zealand. CBS Corp. will air Love Island USA, set on the Pacific island of Fiji, for five nights a week until Aug. 7.
Success in the world’s biggest TV market is not assured. The birthplace of “Keeping Up with the Kardashians” is loaded with reality shows, from “Big Brother” that runs three nights a week on CBS to “America’s Got Talent” on Comcast Corp.’s NBC. One of “Love Island”’s closest U.S. equivalents -- “Bachelor in Paradise” from Walt Disney Co.’s ABC -- got enough viewers for two episodes a week last season.
Love Island’s U.S. producers have smoothed the brasher edges of the U.K. version to secure a prime-time 8 p.m. slot, so the contestants’ swimwear may be less revealing and bleeps will obscure any foul language. Some quirks of the British format remain, including the ironic off-camera commentary that may be less familiar to U.S. reality-TV viewers.
CBS is mobilizing its marketing firepower to make the show a success and boost its share with younger audiences.
"If social media is any indication, we are on the right path and look forward to having the audience find us and grow," David George, chief executive officer of ITV’s U.S. production arm, wrote in an email.
ITV, Britain’s biggest free-to-air commercial broadcaster, has been squeezing the franchise for all it’s worth as the company’s advertising-funded channels come under attack from Netflix Inc.
“Love Island” has tripled its international production hours since the beginning of 2018. ITV has even licensed a Love Island mobile game and sold opportunities to meet and greet the contestants.
“A single show in a single market isn’t really going to move the needle that much,” Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Matthew Bloxham said. “But the wider success of Love Island as a franchise is more noticeable.”
--With assistance from Joe Mayes.
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