‘Glee’ Expands Its Audience with ‘The Glee Project’

Let me begin this post by saying that I do not like Glee. In fact, I hate it. But for some reason I am addicted to The Glee Project – a new performance competition reality show on Oxygen brought to you by the makers of…you guessed it.

With this new series, the makers of Glee have been able to appeal to a wider audience and build even more excitement about their brand (as though there wasn’t enough already). Since this program airs on Oxygen instead of Fox, viewers that may not have tuned in to the original show are now getting exposure to the brand.

Alex, one of the finalists on the show.

Alex, one of the finalists on the show.

In addition to appealing to a new audience with a reality show, the competition also appeals to the Gleeks of the world by providing an inside look behind the scenes. Here’s how the show works: each week there is a theme, and the contenders are given a homework assignment according to the theme. They all perform their homework assignment in front of Glee’s casting director, Robert Ulrich, and one popular cast member. The cast member then chooses a winner for that week’s assignment, and the winner receives one-on-one training with the cast member. Then, all of the cast members work with the vocal arranger and songwriter, Nikki Anders, in the recording studio, and the show’s choreographer, Zach Woodlee, to put together a music video that relates to that week’s theme.

Damian, one of the finalists on the show.

Damian, one of the finalists on the show.

After the music video, 3 contenders are chosen to perform a “last chance performance” for the director, Ryan Murphy. Murphy then selects one contender to go home. The winner of The Glee Project earns a 7-episode stint on Glee. The reasoning behind this is that the original cast of the show are seniors now, so Murphy needs to start writing in new cast members to take over the club once Rachel, Finn, and the gang graduate.

Lindsey, one of the finalists on the show.

Lindsey, one of the finalists on the show.

As you can see, everything about this new series is interwoven with the original series. This makes it easy for new fans to get involved in the original series, and makes it easy for die-hard fans to find interest in the new one. I would say that The Glee Project has mastered this delicate balance flawlessly.

The show leaves out all of the things that I hate about Glee (cheesy scripts, obnoxious characters, and an unrealistic depiction of high school), focuses mainly on the performance aspect of the show that I do like, while simultaneously including all of the things that Gleeks love (their favorite cast members, fun songs and dancing, and slushies to the face).

Samuel, one of the finalists on the show.

Samuel, one of the finalists on the show.

Since the winner of the show will be appearing on Glee, the chances that someone who has never watched the show on Fox, but followed The Glee Project on Oxygen, will tune in to watch the winner perform when the new season of the original show premiers this fall are pretty high. Will I tune in even if my favorite doesn’t win? Or, even if my favorite does win? The jury is still out on that one. But chances are that a lot of people will.

No matter who wins, fans are still able to vote online for their favorite contender to win the Bing Fan Favorite competition. The winner of that competition receives $10,000 and a live performance. This is another way that the show gets new and old fans involved in the show – it gives them a voice.

Glee is known for providing a voice to the underdogs. I’m here to do the same for you. Are you trying to expand your audience? If they can do it, so can you!

What do you think? Do you know of other brands that have done something similar? How about a brand that has tried, and failed?

Photos appear as screenshots from The Glee Project website. TM & Copyright Oxygen Media. All Rights Reserved.

Jenna Markowski

Jenna has a much easier time writing about the media and pop culture than she does writing about herself. She enjoys the simple things in life, like puns and typography. She is an avid fan of pop-punk, Halo 3, Spider-Man and origami, with a slight Taco Bell obsession. Her spirit animal is either a bulldog or a panda bear. You can also connect with Jenna on Google+.


  1. Peemo

    My daughter watches Glee and The Glee Project.

    This means I watch these things.

    To be honest, it grows on you after awhile. Better than the horrible Disney shows I’ve now forbid to be on when I’m home.

    • Jenna Markowski

      It really does grow on you. When my mom and my sister first started watching The Glee Project I was sure that I was going to hate everything about it. But nooooo — I watched one episode and I was hooked!

  2. JPorretto

    As a matter of principle, I cannot provide an insightful comment to a Glee post. Wait, was it insightful that I refused to be insightful?! Crap.

    I will just say this… Good job =]

    • Jenna Markowski

      Haha, thanks Jeff! :]

      I’ll be the first one to admit that Glee and The Glee Project are far from intellectually stimulating, so I don’t blame you for not liking it!

  3. Mandy Kilinskis

    The Glee Project is brilliant because it creates potential for more Glee fans without risking driving some away.

    Example: I’m already a fan of Glee, but the thought of reality competition shows makes me want to scratch my eyes out. I’m not watching The Glee Project, but I won’t stop watching Glee just because they add a new cast member. At this point on the show, I’d welcome it.

    Excellent post, Jenna!

    • Jenna Markowski

      Good point, Mandy! The Glee Project is capable of bringing in new Glee fans without alienating the existing ones. It’s important that The Glee Project doesn’t take away from Glee or make it so that anyone who didn’t tune in to The Glee Project would feel out of the loop when the new season starts.

      Thanks! 🙂

    • Amanda

      I agree Mandy! It’s a great concept for sure and I’m sure that the addition of new cast members will help the show grow and develop. Some shows I’ve watched get new cast members–and I hate it at first, but once I get used to them, I end up loving them too. =) Law & Order SVU is getting two new cast members, and I’m scared I won’t like them…….Stabler & Benson forever! lol

  4. Doc

    I’m the exact opposite of you, Jenna. I am a fan of Glee, but never watched the Glee Project. Honestly, I didn’t even know of its existence until reading this blog. But spinoffs like this are great for both sides. For example, the classic TV show Cheers and it’s spinoff Frasier. Before Frasier premiered, it already had a huge fan base. Likewise, people that never saw Cheers, but really liked Frasier, were turned on to the original classic and the fan base multiplied.

    However, this idea can also destroy fan bases. Just go back and watch an episode of “Joey”, the spinoff of the title character from Friends. That was a DISASTER!!!

    • amy

      I second that disaster, “Joey” was just bad.

    • Jenna Markowski

      Don’t worry, you’re not missing out on too much — just expect a new cast member when the show starts up again next season! I agree with you, spinoffs are great as long as they are executed well. For Cheers and Frasier, it totally worked — Friends and Joey…not so much! I don’t think I ever saw an episode of Joey, but I do remember that it flopped almost instantly.

  5. amy

    Awesome post Jenna! I’ve seen a few episodes of ‘Glee’, but never of ‘The Glee Project’ on Oxygen. I really haven’t found a reality competition show that I can watch on a regular basis (with exception of ‘Project Runway’ and ‘Top Chef’) without as Mandy so eloquently said, “wanting to scratch my eyes out” 😉

    I think the idea is great though, increase your customer base by expanding into new markets that haven’t been exposed to it yet. It’ll be interesting to see if viewership this fall increases for ‘Glee’ with the additional cast member.

    • Amanda

      What about “The Voice”!? Don’t go forgetting our buddy Adam now. 😉

      • amy

        Awww, Adam! How could I have forgotten him?! Thanks Amanda for reminding me 🙂

    • Jenna Markowski

      Thanks, Amy! I’m the opposite of you, I get addicted to reality shows almost instantly. Which I’m pretty sure is not a good thing.

      I agree! It will be interesting to see — I know all of my dedicated readers will be on the edge of their seats in suspense until they find out whether or not I tune in, so maybe I’ll do a follow up post! Haha 🙂

  6. Jill Tooley

    Glee is on my “to eventually watch” list because I can’t get enough of Jane Lynch. The Glee Project was a mystery to me before now, though. Like Mandy, reality TV makes me cringe so I’m not sure I’ll be checking it out anytime soon; however, I have to admit that this is a great effort on their part. As you mentioned, people who aren’t current fans of Glee may be interested in the spinoff and then carry that interest over to the original show when it airs a new season. The ultimate test? If The Glee Project actually gets YOU to watch Glee in the fall! 😉

    Thanks for the update, Jenna. I love it when brands/shows try stuff like this!

    • Jenna Markowski

      If reality TV makes you cringe, then I would steer away from The Glee Project. As much as I feel that the world can do without any more Gleeks, I’m sure that their efforts here wrapped in some new fans. Who knows if one of them will be me, only time will tell! 🙂

  7. Joseph Giorgi

    “…everything about this new series is interwoven with the original series… this makes it easy for new fans to get involved in the original series, and makes it easy for die-hard fans to find interest in the new one…”

    Sounds like a win-win to me. I may not be the biggest fan of Glee, but I do enjoy reading about effective and successful spin-offs/side-projects/whatnot-and-what-have-you. I can understand the appeal of both programs, and it’s interesting to see that each works in conjunction with the other.

    Very informative post, Jenna! 🙂

    • Jenna Markowski

      Thanks, Joe! 🙂

      It is pretty interesting to see which kinds of spin-offs work and which ones don’t. I think it all depends on the fanbase, really. If the spin-off is geared specifically toward the fans rather than simply trying to milk more money out of the show, there’s a good chance that things will work out!

  8. Jen

    Sweet post Jenna! I think it is so funny how much you hate Glee, but are addicted to The Glee Project.

    I happen to love Glee, and I have zero interest in The Glee Project. I like reality competition shows, but I’m afraid this one will ruin my love for the Glee. I really don’t know why I have this fear…I just do.

    I will admit after reading this blog post, you have sparked my interest somewhat…Maybe I should face my fears 😉

    • Jenna Markowski

      Thanks, Jen! I think it’s funny, too!

      You should face your fears, and quick! The last episode is on this Sunday! Both my mom and my sister love Glee, and they love The Glee Project, too. There’s nothing to be afraid of! (at least, I don’t think so.) 🙂

  9. Amanda

    I have watched 2 episodes of Glee, but have never seen the Glee project. I thought the Glee episodes I watched were ok, but they didn’t get me interested enough to watch it again. And even though you point out the differences between the shows, and such, I don’t know if I’d like the Glee project much either. I’m just not a big fan of singing incorporated into tv shows and movies. I do love reality tv shows though–so who knows.

    • Jenna Markowski

      It’s interesting that you don’t like singing shows, but you love SYTYCD so much! To me singing and dancing seem pretty closely related!

      Totally acceptable that you’re not a Glee fan though. You know that I’m not, either! 🙂

  10. Kyle

    I generally stay away from reality shows and I’m not a huge fan of singing outside of the music in my headphones so I’ll steer clear, but I can definitely see the appeal of this spin-off. You brought up a great point regarding the two shows attracting new viewers by being aired on two different channels.

    The one thing I find risky about spin-offs though, is the possibility of saturating the market with your product to the point where it actually loses appeal. It seems like Glee is only gaining appeal at this point (or from what I can tell), so I doubt this is the case.

    Great post, Jenna.

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