The Bachelorette has always been the struggling little sis to The Bachelor. You’d almost think the female fan base would prefer watching 25 hunky guys fight over one woman — not to mention The Bachelorette’s higher percentage of “success” — but The Bachelor has higher ratings. So be it.
Of course, that doesn't mean The Bachelorette isn't a hit — especially back in the franchise's 2003 glory days when it was a certified blockbuster.
Nine seasons of The Bachelorette have come and gone, as opposed to 17 completed seasons of The Bachelor. For the ladies, the very first season is still the most successful. Fans already knew Trista Rehn by the time she started handing out roses, since we met her as the runner-up of Alex Michel’s The Bachelor Season 1.
Trista's season started with 17.4 million viewers and an 8.4 rating/20 share in the advertisers' dream market, the 18-49-year-olds and ended with 20.4 million viewers and a 9.3/22 rating. At the time, ABC estimated that 30 million viewers tuned in to watch at least some part of the finale. That's huge. Plus, she's still with the guy! Trista and Ryan Sutter got hitched on December 6, 2003, so we're officially 10 years out from the first major success of the show. Back pats all around.
Things slowly got worse from there, but “worse” is comparative. Meredith Phillips' The Bachelorette Season 2, which aired in 2004, started with 12.4 million and a 5.6 rating and ended with 13.5 and a 6.2 rating. Not bad.
Things went down a bit more for Season 3 in 2005, starting with 9.10 million and a 4.3 rating, dipping into the 8 million zone for a good chunk of Jen Schefft’s season and ending with 11.30 million and a 5.0 rating. The show took a three year break after that, only returning after Brad pulled a Womack and chose himself in the end of Season 11. Reject #1, DeAnna Pappas, became the rose-giver in 2008; her season started with 8.08 million viewers for the premiere with a 2.9 rating, and ended just a hair under 10 million with a 3.7 rating.
Unfortunately, according to SpottedRatings, the weakest overall seasons were the last few Bachelorettes, which had ratings as low as a 1.7 on July 31, 2011 (during Ashley Hebert’s season) and again on June 3, 2013 and June 17, 2013 (during Desiree Hartsock's season).
This past year's Season 9 marked a series low for premieres. Desiree's first episode brought in just 5.99 million viewers with a 1.9 rating, a 27 percent drop compared to Emily Maynard's Season 8 premiere. But Des' season bounced back, growing steadily and ending at 8.31 million with a 2.5 rating.
The show may never again reach the dizzying heights of 10 years ago, but a lot of shows out there would be thrilled to get 8 million viewers. And who knows, maybe 2014’s Season 10 will be the best yet!