Competition TV Shows: A Fix for Every Niche

Remember in 2002 when the only competition-style show around was American Idol? That’s going back to when Ryan Seacrest was a mere co-host with Brian Dunkleman, my friends. However, a few weeks ago on a boring Sunday night, I flipped to my old stand-by HGTV, and discovered a competition show that tested contestants’ ability to build things like Adirondack chairs and folding tables. Of course, after watching it for 5 minutes I was intrigued to watch the upcoming episodes (and not just because I had a minor crush on Scott McGillivray, one of the judges).

This really got me thinking about how many types of competition-style shows there are on TV and on so many different channels. You could find a competition style show for almost every interest out there. Don’t believe me? Oh ye of little faith, let’s take a journey down competition TV road with a few examples:

For the home remodeler and handymen at heart: All American Handyman (HGTV)

If your ideal Saturday is visiting Lowe's or Home Depot, here's your competition show!

  • The goal of the series: to find and award America’s best handyman/woman, who has real skill, integrity and the right stuff to impress the celebrity judges (Mike Holmes and Scott McGillivray, plus a secret judge every week). To avoid elimination, contestants need to show their abilities under the watchful gaze (and sometimes critical opinions) of the judges.

For the inner decorator at heart: Design Star (HGTV)

  • The goal of the series: 12 contestants go through weekly design-based challenges and are eliminated by the judges (Genevieve Gorder, Candice Olson, Vern Yip, and special weekly celebrity guests) until 2 equally competitive and creative finalists fight to become the winner and have their own show on HGTV.

For the inner sharp-shooter: Top Shot (History Channel)

  • The goal of the series: The 16 shooters display their mastery of weapons from all eras of human history, from primitive rocks to today’s sophisticated firearms. In order to see the action on TV, high-speed, high-definition cameras capture the skillfulness of each shot in extreme slow motion. Contestants also must endure grueling physical tests to stay in the game and become victorious. The winner receives a $100,000 prize package and the title of “Top Shot.”

For the inner cupcake enthusiast: Cupcake Wars (Food Network)

Mini cakes! What's not to love?

  • The goal of the series: Besides inducing cupcake cravings in yours truly, each week four of the country’s top cupcake bakers face off in three elimination challenges until only one decorator remains standing and wins. The sweet prize is $10,000 and the chance to showcase their cupcakes at a high-profile gig, like a star-studded magazine party or an A-list celebrity golf tournament.

If you still haven’t found what you’re looking for, consider one of these:

  • For the inner gourmet: Top Chef (Bravo)
  • For the inner hair stylist: Shear Genius (Bravo)
  • For the inner singer: The Voice (NBC)
  • For the inner dancer: America’s Next Dance Crew (MTV) or So, You Think You Can Dance (FOX)
  • For the inner business professional: The Apprentice (NBC)
  • For the business professional’s guilty pleasure: The Celebrity Apprentice (NBC)

One of the biggest things that marketers and advertisers can pull from these shows is the availability of market segmentation that presents itself. A company specializing in customized cupcake wrappers can spend their advertising dollars exclusively on Food Network at the time Cupcake Wars is on. Or, a store that sells hunting gear will get the biggest bang for their buck (pun intended, of course) during Top Shot as compared to an episode of Sugar High.

Do you watch any of these competition shows? Is there a competition show that you love, but I left off the list? Is there an interest that you have, but haven’t found a competition show for it? Shout off below!

Amy Hoidas

Amy is one of Quality Logo Products’ Community Manager. She is a self-professed newspaper nerd and thoroughly enjoys reading business and financial news and having impromptu discussions about it. Oh yeah, she’s “one of those” people! A true Midwestern girl by nature, she loves riding her bike, photography, and the Chicago Cubs. You can also connect with Amy on


  1. JPorretto

    I’m giddy that you included Top Shot. That used to be “my” show, but my wife caught a glimpse of it, instantly recognized the badassery involved with it, and now we watch it together!

    I guess there is a niche for everyone because I never liked any competition show before this one…

    • amy

      Awww, the couple that watches Top Shot is the couple that stays together. I think that’s how the saying goes 😉

      Since networks love how cheap competition style shows are to produce, we’ll definitely be seeing them stick around for a while.

  2. Eric

    Just for the holiday, seasonal angle, I’d throw in Zack Bagans’ “Paranormal Challenge” on the Travel Network. Hosted by Zack Bagans, the unintentionally entertaining and overgrown frat boy from “Ghost Adventures,” it features two teams of legitimate paranormal researchers competing against another to find the best evidence.

    My latest guilty obsession is “Sweet Genius” on the Food Network, mostly because it’s about the strangest damn competition show I’ve ever seen. Literally, the contestants are dessert MacGuyvers, given ingredients like seaweed and pasta, and themes like a seashell and a turtle, and expected to make legitimate dishes from them. The German host (a lot like Dieter from Mike Myers’ old “Sprockets,” anyone?) only makes it all the more entertaining.

    Great article, Amy. It’ll be near to see the comments with what everyone around here’s been watching.

    • amy

      Wow, I haven’t heard of either one of those shows before. The scariest thing I can watch without getting nightmares is ‘Hocus Pocus’, so I think I’ll be skipping “Pananormal Challenge” LOL.

      However, “Sweet Genius” sounds intriguing. I love the Food Network and your explaniation makes it sound like must-see TV 🙂

      I can’t wait to see what other shows I need to add to my list!!

  3. Bret Bonnet

    How DARE YOU NOT Include “Real World Road Rules Challenge” (MTV)! 🙂

    • amy

      I haven’t seen that show in years!! I was obsessed with both “Real World” and “Road Rules” all throughout high school and then in the summer when “Real World Road Rules Challenge” was on, oh man, great times. I truthfully haven’t watched MTV in a few years to know what shows are even on it anymore. “Jersey Shore” and “Teen Mom” haven’t been enough to draw me in on a regular basis LOL.

  4. Amanda

    Holy Moly that’s a bunch of competition shows! Great list Amy! My all time fave is So You Think You Can Dance! =) I hope it’s one for 20 more seasons! Check these out! or It mesmerizes me every single season!

    • Amanda

      I love many competition shows-Idol, Bachelor, etc. But I do think TV has gone a little competition crazy, but hey, why not have one for every possible niche, lol! Super post idea!

      • amy

        Thanks Amanda 🙂 I watched a few episodes of SYTYCD last season and their dances blew me away!!

        As long as there’s a show for every interest, I say the more the merrier 🙂

  5. Mandy Kilinskis

    Is there a competition show for people that don’t like competition shows? Because that’s my niche. As Jill said in the office, “Who Cares Less?” would be right up my alley.

    However, I totally accept that I’m in the minority. Brands should pay attention to all of these shows so that they can maximize their marketing dollars.

    • amy

      Hahaha, I think Fox is premiering “Who Cares Less” in May for the summer season, aren’t they? 😉

      You’re right, these style of shows are a great way to capture people’s interests and better market towards them.

      • Mandy Kilinskis

        Oh, FOX is running it? Then I won’t bother watching. They’re going to cancel it within three episodes anyway. Either that, or delay it for a month because of baseball.

        Related: More New Girl, less baseball.

        /FOX rant

  6. Rachel

    And for that inner fashion designer, “Project Runway” of course! That one’s been a staple of mine for a while. I also like catching “Top Chef: Just Desserts” when flipping channels. It really does seem like there’s a competition show for every niche–or if not, probably a non-competition reality show instead, like all those house-hunting shows on HGTV (which are amazing) or “Say Yes to the Dress” on TLC (equally amazing).

    Great post, Amy! Though it’s reminded me how many reality shows I watch/know about, which is a little depressing, haha. 🙂

    • amy

      I shouldn’t admit this, but I didn’t have to do much research for this blog. Every single show I listed I’ve seen at least three episodes from LOL. Now that’s depressing.

      I love “Project Runway”!! I was watching it a lot at the beginning of the season, but then forgot about it. I think Thursdays they just replay all the past episodes, so I’ll catch up on it before the finale 😉

      P.s I LOVE “Say Yes to the Dress”!!! Pretty much anything TLC puts in front of me I’ll watch, ahem- “Toddlers & Tiaras”, “Extreme Couponing”, “97 Kids and Counting” (I don’t know what number they’re up to yet hahaha). Good stuff!!

  7. Barbara Miller

    It was an interesting article, Amy, and I have only heard about most of those shows. I am afraid I would be in the living room watching with Jill and Mandy. But my boyfriend is a big fan of a number of them, and I definitely think there is an audience. Gotta have open minds in this business, right? Cheers!

    • amy

      Thanks so much for stopping by, Barbara 🙂

      You’re right about having an open mind, you’ll be amazed at the type of markets you’ll attract hahaha

  8. Michelle

    I enjoy Dancing With the Stars for my for my “inner dancer” show! I am also a fan of Four Weddings…we’ll categorize this one under my “inner girl who loves everything about weddings” show. 🙂 I also enjoy The Bachelor/ Bachelorette. Don’t judge me. And my last favorite…Amazing Race! I watch way too many competition/ reality shows.

    Fun post! 🙂

    • amy

      You’re in a ‘judge free zone’ here, Michelle hahaha. I’ve watched the last few seasons of “Dancing with the Stars”, and I agree. It’s another great “inner dancer” show for sure. This season irks me a bit, but that’s another rant for another day.

      It’s amazing when you start thinking of the number of competition shows you watch, the number is always higher than you’d expect. At least that’s how it works with me LOL

      Thanks for commenting 🙂

  9. Joseph Giorgi

    Is it a good thing or a bad thing that, of all these shows, I’ve only heard of Top Chef and The Apprentice?

    Wow, there really are a whole lot of competition shows these days! I had no idea! To be honest, I don’t watch a lot of TV these days. I watch certain shows through Hulu, but I’m usually very picky and choosy about what I watch. I like your takeaways here, though. It’s pretty clear which market segments these competition shows cater to, and it’s always interesting to see the advertising methods employed. There’s always something to be learned.

    Cool post, Amy! 🙂

    • amy

      I’d consider that that a very good thing, Joe!

      Figuring out the types of consumers that watch a particular show based solely on the commercials is always a fun time in my book. If there are three ads in a row selling prescription drugs, chances are there’s an older audience watching. Whereas if all you see are minivan commercials then chances are young families are the main viewers.

      Thanks for reading 🙂

  10. Jen

    My favorite show is Design Star on HDTV, but I also love Project Runway, Shear Genius, Top Chef and Americas Next Top Model. I just can get enough!

    In a few weeks a new show is starting called Project Accessory, where the contestants create shoes, jewelery, hats, scarves, ect. I can’t wait!

    • amy

      I completely forgot about “Project Accessory”! I’ll have to set my DVR for that one. I can’t ever seem to get my shoe and jewelry fix 😉 Thanks Jen!!

  11. Jenna Markowski

    This is a really fun post, Amy! I pretty much love any reality show that the Food Network throws my way. For some reason, I am really into competitive baking. Cupcake Wars and Chopped are my favorites! My friends and I are actually planning on playing a real life version of Chopped at some point. We’ve already named it “Chopped: College Edition,” and we frequently discuss odd ingredient combinations: “Okay contestants, your ingredients are ramen noodles, leftover mozzarella sticks from the Cage, and ranch dressing. GO!” 🙂

    • amy

      I love “Chopped”! I could watch a marathon of that show for hours and never get bored. I think your idea for “Chopped: College Edition” sounds so fun! I’d watch it for sure 🙂

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