Hit TV show ‘Love Island’ is coming to America. CNBC explains why CBS wanted the reality series

Love Island is a British reality TV dating show that saw swimwear-clad twentysomethings spend several weeks in a luxury villa attempting to find their romantic match for a £50,000 ($64,467) prize.

The British public voted for their favorite couple via an app, with the most recent fourth season won by bartender Dani Dyer, the daughter of U.K. soap opera actor Danny Dyer, and Jack Fincham, a stationery salesman.

Screened on ITV2 six nights a week over eight weeks in June and July, the final show on July 30 had 3.6 million viewers, a record for the channel.

Why should Americans care about 'Love Island?'

“Love Island” is coming to America. It was announced Wednesday that CBS had bought the U.S. rights to the show, which reaches the elusive 16- to 34-year-old audience that TV networks crave.

Filmed on the Spanish island of Majorca, “Love Island” saw young men and women take part in a show where they spent most of their time in swimwear and chose potential partners from the start. Contestants, known as islanders, completed various challenges such as reading out tweets from the public and guessing which couples they referred to. Challenges also encouraged close physical contact including kissing, which hooked the British public who could follow each character via their Instagram feed and a Love Island app.

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TV ratings have steadily increased since the first season aired in 2015. The final episode that year drew 800,000 viewers, increasing to 1.4 million in 2016 and 2.6 million in 2017, according to a statement on the ITV website.

“As a format, ‘Love Island’ breaks the mold with high levels of viewer interactivity and participation that influence the content of the show in a way that’s extremely addictive,” said David George, ITV America’s chief executive, in an online statement. “It’s a cultural phenomenon that builds anticipation with every episode and creates appointment viewing — a pretty hard thing to do in today’s TV landscape.”

Islanders also went through a series of “re-couplings,” where they had to choose whether to stay with a current partner or pick a new one, and their loyalties were tested when the men and women were separated and new potential partners joined the show.

What commercial success has 'Love Island' had?

ITV Chief Executive Carolyn McCall described “Love Island,” as well as the World Cup soccer competition, as having an “extraordinary” impact on the channel, contributing to an 8 percent rise in half-year revenues to £1.59 billion.

The show is a marketing powerhouse, with brand partnerships bringing in millions. U.K. drugstore chain Superdrug was the main sponsor, advertising its sun lotion Solait during ad breaks, producing a series of “Love Island”-branded cosmetics and toiletries and providing products for contestants to use on the show. Media experts estimate its involvement to have cost £4 million.

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Lucozade also partnered with the show, with its no-sugar Zero drink running ads in the series as well as on social media, outdoor advertising and a competition to win tickets to the final. It worked with media agency MediaCom on the ITV partnership. “It was a good fit for ‘Love Island’ because the target audience was the right audience and Lucozade is a fun, cheeky brand like ‘Love Island,’ light-hearted and British,” MediaCom’s UK Managing Director Claudine Collins told CNBC by email.

U.K. fashion website Missguided also advertised and provided clothes for contestants, claiming that it saw sales go up 40 percent versus the eight weeks before the show started, according to industry website Business of Fashion. It also used the “Love Island” app to show stills of the islanders wearing its clothes with links to buy them.

Airline Jet2, makeup brand Rimmel, Kellogg’s and the Echo Falls wine label also sponsored the show, with Samsung providing smartphones.

What's controversial about 'Love Island?'

U.K. TV regulator Ofcom received more than 2,500 complaints after Dyer became very upset as she was shown footage of her partner Fincham’s reaction as a recent ex-girlfriend entered a separate villa the male contestants had been sent to.

The charity Women’s Aid also highlighted the behavior of islander Adam Collard whose partner Rosie criticizedhis behavior towards her after she said he’d ignored her. He replied that he didn’t “need to reassure her,” and that she was defensive, according to the BBC. Women’s Aid Chief Executive Katie Ghose said there were “clear warning signs” in Collard’s actions and urged women to speak out against unhealthy behavior.

The show has also been criticized for a lack of diversity and for its potential impact on young women’s self-esteem.

What's next for 'Love Island?'

The franchise continues with a “Love Island: Live” event, held Friday in London, where for £20 fans can attend a Q&A with the stars and try out one of the show’s beds, or pay an additional £15 for backstage selfies. The show launched in Australia this summer and is set to air in the U.K. next week, and the format is also airing in Germany, Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland this year.

CBS expects it to be a hit in the U.S. “Having seen the reaction of audiences ‘across the pond’ and around the world to this most recent season, we expect American viewers will be captivated by this engaging format,” its Senior Vice President, Alternative Programming Sharon Vuong said in an online statement.

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