Love Island draws to a close on Monday – bringing to an end another holiday fling for fans of ITV2’s reality dating series. Now in its seventh season, is the show still worth sharing a bed with or are audiences ready to give it the slow fade?
Expectations were high when it returned in its traditional form after an 18-month break enforced by the pandemic. The prospect of a new band of glamorous contestants ready to find love, lust (and everything in between) after a year of lockdown, had social media giddy.
However, the summer spark hasn’t quite been rekindled as planned. The series opener pulled in the show’s smallest overnight launch viewership since 2017, according to ratings body Barb, with heads turned by Euro 2020 and Wimbledon.
While consolidated figures for later episodes picked up, they largely remain below the last summer season in 2019.
The show’s format has also faced continued scrutiny. The heated Casa Amor row between islanders Faye and Teddy sparked 25,000 Ofcom complaints – a record for the show – as viewers called out “manipulative” producers on social media. This despite ITV introducing revised duty-of-care protocols.
If Love Island were a contestant, now might be the moment to ask for a chat about the future. So, what’s changed and can the relationship be saved?
Love Island brightened up summer TV schedules in 2015 with a format that “intrigued” audiences by playing on the idea of summer romance, says entertainment journalist Emma Bullimore.
The show quickly cornered the youth market, with half its record-breaking 2019 audience aged 16-34. It also reaches demographics other shows can’t – young, underserved, female viewers, with social media a huge part of the collective experience. And that’s hugely valuable to advertisers.
Today Bullimore feels its popularity is “fading slightly” as its novelty value wanes and it risks becoming a victim of its own success – the impact of which is also affecting casting.
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“Now the contestants are mostly social media influencers, so there’s more cynicism,” she says.
“Look back a few seasons, the reason that Jack and Dani were so popular as a couple was because they seemed as if they were actually there for a relationship. Today, it’s mainly a launch pad to find fame, and the Instagram-savvy audience know this.”