After several months of anticipation, rumours and build-up, Love Island launched its long-awaited ‘winter’ series on Sunday night on ITV2.
The sixth season of the show marked the very first time Love Island has been broadcast in January in addition to its usual summertime slot, with the hope a winter edition could replicate the show’s previous ratings success. It’s not a ridiculous idea – Love Island is one of the most watched shows on television and there is a much needed reality TV gap in January after the much-missed Celebrity Big Brother closed its doors in 2018.
However, despite the glossy new villa, brand new host and heavy publicity (some positive, some not so positive), Love Island opened to an average of 2.39 million – its lowest launch-night ratings since the 2017 series.
The figures are likely to be disappointing to ITV executives who were no doubt hoping for the show to match or even surpass 2019’s record 3.3 million.
But with winter Love Island following the same magic formula which has made it compulsive viewing for the last five years, why have the viewing figures so suddenly declined?
It may be the familiarity of the format that has resulted in the drop – ‘winter’ Love Island has arguably played it a little too safe. While the new series and new time slot could have been a real opportunity to try something different (and maybe address a lot of its previous criticism re: body diversity), our new Love Island 2020 cast look almost exactly the same as their predecessors, failing to offer anything new or exciting which may have resulted in a touch of viewer fatigue.
Winter Love Island may have also been hindered by the shorter break between series; while we’re used to waiting a year for the next instalment of cracking on and mugging off, it’s only been six months since Amber and Greg took the top prize, and after a gruelling eight week series which was on six nights a week it may be too much too soon to feed us another series.
Love Island’s failure to create long-lasting couples could be another reason why long-term fans may be switching off. With the exception of Tommy and Molly-Mae, and Curtis and Maura, none of the couples from the last two series have managed to stand the test of time. More sceptical fans may now see the show serving more as a platform for fame instead of a place where people are actually looking for love.
But the dip in viewing figures doesn’t necessarily spell the beginning of the end for Love Island – far from it, in fact. Hardened Love Island fans will know that the first episode of the series is always the most boring, with a lot of the episode basically being admin – seeing who’s coupled up with who and whether any sparks are flying at this early stage.
The new series also started on a Sunday as opposed to its usual Monday night opening slot, seeing it face off against heavy-hitting dramas; yes, people who tune into Vera, The Trial of Christine Keeler and Louis Theroux docs are less likely to watch Love Island generally, but that doesn’t mean there’s not any overlap whatsoever.
It should be remembered that Love Island is favoured by a younger audience who may choose to watch the series on catch-up in their own leisure: the overnight figures mean slightly less when that 2.3 million figure (which is still incredibly strong for a digital channel) is likely to rise hugely over the next few weeks.
With producers hinting this is set to be one of the most dramatic and explosive series, you probably shouldn’t write Love Island off just yet.
Love Island continues weeknights and Sundays at 9pm on ITV2