How Reality Steve built a business off ruining 'The Bachelor'
BY THERESA FISHER
Before last night's 18th season finale of The Bachelor, we all wondered to whom Juan Pablo Galavis would hand out a rose, and perhaps even a hulking diamond ring to; which one of two comely contenders sporting tousled banana curls and spangled dresses would be chosen? More than eight million viewers have tuned in weekly to watch Galavis, an American-born Venezuelan former soccer player with a penchant for homophobic gaffes, and his shrinking pool of potential wives search for love and tabloid fame.
Steve Carbone was one of these viewers, but at no poit was he on the edge of his seat. Carbone, the man behind The Bachelor spoiler blog Reality Steve, has known for months which American sweethearts would rue the rose ceremonies.
In an era of unprecedented spoiler phobia, anyone who breathes a digital word about a remotely new show must heed “netiquette” and insert a spoiler alert warning. Except Carbone, who’s made a career out of spoiling a schlocky TV show to the appreciation of a growing audience. Since 2009, the 38-year-old Texan has spoiled 15 seasons of The Bachelor, The Bachelorette, and Bachelor Pad and become something of a legend among reality TV fans and hate-watchers alike.
In 2003, Carbone was working for his father selling linens wholesale when he decided to recapThe Bachelor as a hobby. Within a few years, Carbone gained a moderate following on the blog he called Reality Steve.
In 2009, shortly before the show’s 13th season, Carbone received unsolicited intel about a twist-ending. A source claimed that after taping ended, bachelor Jason Mesnick ditched the woman he chose for the runner-up. Carbone posted the salacious report and faced widespread disbelief until Mesnick appeared on the show’s “After the Final Rose” special with his affianced runner-up.
After his inaugural spoiler made a splash, Carbone started to collect sources and perform his own sleuthing. Within a few seasons, despite a few hiccups, Carbone devised a functioning spoiling system.
“I’ve got no competition out there,” said Carbone, during a recent video chat with Reality Steve readers. “There’s not a single website in all of the Internet, as wide as the Internet is—there’s not a single website that posts spoilers to this show, season in and season out, and is right 95 percent of the time.”
Even if no one cares to rival Carbone, his spoiling record is hard to beat. He nailed seven seasons in a row. ABC and Reality Steve detractors like to point out Carbone’s mistakes, but he’s made just three errors in the past few years and corrected all but one before the relevant episodes aired.
The three Bachelor shows film and air in pretty rapid succession. Carbone begins posting detailed spoilers before the new season of each show begins, including lists of contestants and episode-by-episode break downs of dates and eliminations. During the season, he recaps episodes, hosts weekly video live chats to answer readers’ questions, and furnishes bits of Bachelor-verse intel as he learns it.
Carbone gets a lot of material from confidential sources. But he also relies on less shrouded information to piece together what he sees as a puzzle. Many dates on the pre-taped show take place in public. Passersby and area residents who snap photos become Carbone’s on-the-scene correspondents. Social media has also increased Carbone’s access to contestants, whom he methodically tracks online. When suspected contestants, for example, de-activate Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram right before a season begins filming, Carbone knows they’re on the show.
By 2011, Reality Steve brought in enough traffic for Carbone to live entirely off ad revenue. Currently, Reality Steve gets between 1-1.5 million unique monthly visitors and between 8-10 million monthly page views. Traffic is 10 to 15 times higher when the Bachelor shows are on the air.
Carbone said he makes “a comfortable living,” but declined to reveal his income. But based on an online Adsense earnings calculator and insight from a Google Adsense partner company, Carbone may make between $4,500 and $5,500 a month from Reality Steve.
Spoilers are nothing new, but it’s rare, if not unique, to make a career out of ruining a television show. Dr. Arnold T. Blumberg, a pop culture expert and University of Maryland professor, has never heard of a professional spoiler. He wondered why ABC hasn’t done more to protect its intellectual property, and surmised that, given Carbone’s success, other people would go into spoiling. ABC has in fact sued Carbone twice but has come away with nothing more than a $10,000 award.
Knowing what happens doesn’t, in Carbone’s estimation, take away from what he deems “female fantasy porn.” Research has shown that, in some cases, people enjoy spoiled stories as much as their un-ruined counterparts. This might be especially true for a show like The Bachelor. It’s dull, predictable fluff, and as based in reality (and nearly as scripted) as any daytime soap. Reality Steve readers routinely tell Carbone they wouldn’t watch the show un-spoiled.
“Surivor has a lot of strategy,” he said. “If you know who’s going home that episode, it becomes moot to watch. But The Bachelor is so silly, spoilers couldn't ruin it.”
But does he partake in the operation that makes him a living? Apparently not: Carbone says he doesn’t read spoilers for shows he actually enjoys.
Photo via DelucchiPlus