Was it the news about a waiting list of 46,000 for nude dining pop up restaurant Banyan that gave Channel 4 the bright idea for Britain’s most controversial dating programme, Naked Attraction? Did they see ITV’s dating show Take Me Out and think-now how can we top that? Oh, no. Monday night’s newest distraction was preceded by a slew of American shows featuring blurred naughty bits and premiered with the benefit of a judicious application of media currency. 

Naked Attraction’s producer Production Studio Lambert (also the creator of Gogglebox) long ago shed its humble beginnings as a little independent UK advertising studio. Lambert has a toehold in both London and Los Angeles; its parent company All3Media was purchased by Discovery and Liberty Global in 2014 for £550m. 

Shows like Naked Attraction seem to be a unique reflection of British culture-and will be reviewed as if they inform us of -pardon- the unseen underbelly of our society, but don’t believe it. Reality programmes don’t mirror any such thing! They’re inexpensive to produce shows that garner attention, provoking jeers, headshaking and gossip, and carrying hefty social currency, they promote themselves.

Love in a ‘Meat Market’

It wasn’t even necessary to watch the program to learn that first contestant Aina, a music producer from London, was shown a line of naked prospective dates stood behind frosted glass. Of course she picked the one legged artist after giggling at all the genitalia on display for her as if she were at a butcher’s counter. The other contestant, Mal, a designer from Guilford who had dated both men and women lent the programme tension-would she be attracted to the men’s or women’s bodies when both were viewed? After having to strip down herself, she picked Rebecca.

Thanks to more bulletins from reviewers we’ve learned that both couples are still seeing one another, which is just one more bump of interest that’s been cultivated by Channel 4 and the producers. 

News that the show was tasteless and off-putting will spark more interest because, especially with social currency- the degree to which a programme is shared and promoted on social networks, any news (except that the show was boring) is good social traction.

Shaping the Naked US Shows for UK Sensibilities

It remains to be seen whether the naked UK dating programme will prove a success, but it certainly has a better chance than the ones that have been airing in America for years. Self-described as ‘a groundbreaking social experiment’ Naked Dating sets couples on blind first dates on beaches where we can only hope they are given a high factor sun lotion. A special nude wedding episode was filmed for a couple who met on the series, bringing a new level of awkwardness to the traditional family group photo.

Naked Castaway and Naked and Afraid are both features we also hope permit the desert island contestants to bring bug repellent, although they can’t carry clothing and food into the jungle. For those seeking a clothing optional home, there’s Buying Naked, where a rather matronly attired estate agent shows grinning naked couples homes in nudist-friendly communities. If any of these programmes were likely to become British staples, they’d already have been produced because these sorts of decisions are not left to chance.

Research is Valuable Media Currency

There is a statistical science behind the programming that producers and advertisers present, thanks to what’s termed media currency- the industry media research data. Broadcasters’ Audience Research Board (BARB)interviews 1,000 UK households weekly, gathering data about media consumption from over 12,000 people. 

It is BARB that gives us figures such as that, in the first quarter of this year, BBC garnered 56.77 million viewers whereas Channel 4 captured an audience of 53.97 million. 

Robust research surveys provide industry currencies upon which all the media markets trade. These currencies predict who is likely to be viewing a certain channel at a particular hour so that both advertisers and producers can craft the optimal pairings. Aside from producing industry based research currencies that help predict what will be well received, the research yields accountability and insights afterwards, as well. 

Economical Unscripted Programmes

Reality TV has become popular with networks worldwide because it can be far less expensive to produce than a scripted TV show, according to one of the producers of Bridezillas. While the American naked programmes are set in exotic beach and jungle locations in the Philippines and Panama, those budgets for production crews are far larger than those for a show like Naked Attraction which, by using a single studio set is likely a very inexpensive programme to produce. 

US and UK networks zealously conceal their budget figures, but industry insiders in 2013 revealed that US budgets for reality shows typically range from $100,000 to over $500,000 per episode.

"An episode for a scripted series can be anywhere between a half-million and millions of dollars depending on the network and content involved," said Scott Manville, president of TV Writer’s Vault. "Reality TV is much more manageable in terms of getting content produced and on the air, with much less risk. But the process reflects that as well. It’s much easier to sell a reality TV show."

He acknowledged that there is often very poor content in unscripted programmes but contends that programmes like Celebrity Big Brother (CBB) serve their purpose. CBB starts July 28 and has already leaked ‘news’ that Grant Bovey will join the cast for £100,000. This serves as an example of how unscripted programmes cash in on social currency, compelling viewers to tune in. Advertisers respond to the viewer figures, encouraging networks to add more such programmes. 

Channel 4 is publically owned, but as a privately funded non-profit network, it supports itself the way most privately run commercial stations do, unlike BBC, which is taxpayer funded. It relies on sales of advertising, programme sponsorship, and the overseas sales of programmes. Gogglebox, for instance, is exported to 30 territories outside the UK and First Dates to 20.  As of 2015, Channel 4’s total revenues were £979 million with approximately 90% earned from sales of advertising.

Bare Naked Profits

Nudity is a proven eye catcher as evidenced by Bunyadi, London’s au natural restaurant that encourages diners to enjoy raw food whilst unencumbered by clothing. Certainly the menus, with 3 courses for £38.99 per person and 5 courses for £58.99 have been highly praised but there can’t be a doubt that the central London pop up wouldn’t have had international attention without the nudity.

Have you heard of nakations? Apparently there’s a niche travel market for nudists. Figures haven’t been updated since 2011 when the global industry was generating $400m or according to our calculator, over £304m. The American Association for Nude Recreation promotes several nakation destinations that average $1,500 per person for five day holidays including airfare (flights- we warn you- are absolutely not clothing optional). 

For those seeking a naturism destination in the UK, plenty of outdoor activities are on offer (volleyball being the perennial favorite) at Spielplatz in St. Albans. Whilst you’ll save on expenses such as laundry, they will be offset by membership fees of £170 for a single person. Couples and families with children under 18 pay £230 annually.

 If the idea of getting your kit off on holiday leaves you cold, take comfort in knowing your bits aren’t being featured, however blurrily on Channel 4 to be commented upon by a prospective date as possibly a million viewers look on!