What Went Right: American Ninja Warrior

Seems odd for a show in its 7th season, but American Ninja Warrior, the American adaptation of the popular Japanese series Sasuke, had suddenly turned into a massive powerhouse. While other reality competition shows start strong right off the gate, or have massive growth in the second or third season, there's been very little interest in the show until only last year, and this year continued with it growing more and more year to year. Is there some specific reason as to why it had grown so remarkably, or is it all pure coincidence?

Credit: IBTimes
Well, the thing to remember is that Ninja Warrior didn't start out in the best position. For its first three seasons, the show aired on the late channel G4, that channel intended for video games that stopped talking about video games when the Internet arrived? Well, it didn't get much attention at first. However, after the season 3 finale aired on NBC and earned a 1.7, an idea sparked in the minds of NBCUniversal to broadcast the series on G4 and NBC, and they would do so for the upcoming fourth season, and Ninja Warrior did rather well. The fifth season was very much the same, but it sadly dropped over 19% on NBC. But for whatever reason, the show had a massive increase in the summer of 2014 when G4 went away, and the show moved to Esquire Network, gaining over 11%, and this summer followed suit with a current gain of 7%, nearly gaining back all of its loss. So why is it so popular all of a sudden?

Let's Get Serious!
In the G4 days, the show was pretty basic. The only city where auditions were held was Venice Beach, and the prize was a chance to be a part of Sasuke. Not really all that exciting. But when the show aired on NBC, that's when things got more interesting. Not only did they increase audition cities, but instead of being in a Japanese show, there's actual prize money, starting from $250,000 to $1,000,000, giving far greater incentive to many aspiring bodybuilders and athletes. But almost every competition show gets people some sort of revenue at the end. Surely that must not be it. Well, how about...

Welcome Back, Kotter, or Whatever Your Name Is
With a show like Dancing with the Stars or American Idol, very rarely do you see returnees from other seasons, unless it's for guest star purposes. But not only do people return, but they actually continue to compete. Season 2 competitor David Campbell also competed in seasons 3, 4, 5, and 6, and Season 5 standout Kacy Catanzaro appeared in last season and this season, among others. While it may not seem like much, it actually gives a connection to the player and the viewer. Seeing these people is like seeing your favorite characters: you get to meet them again and enjoy another season of fun and anxiousness. And this anxiousness is shown by the final argument...

Is Anyone Gonna Beat This Thing?
Yes indeed, in all 7 seasons of this show so far, no one has truly become the American Ninja Warrior. You see, the final episodes take place in Las Vegas with Mount Midioriyama, with 4 stages that test the limits of each and every athlete. And yet, no one has ever gotten to stage 4! There are plenty that complete stage 1, but very, very few make it past the second stage, and no one to this day has beaten the third stage. This is done purposefully in order to make people come back. To the viewer, this helps shroud the finale in mystery, as we only see glimpses of Midioriyama's Stage 4. Will it ever be seen in full? How impossible is it? Is there truly an American Ninja Warrior? It's also helped almost every season the obstacles get harder and harder, making it seem even more fruitless. But that's why people come back. We love seeing the underdog fight the big battle, and we love the impossible becoming possible, so every week, the people come back to hopefully see the course slain, and for the true Ninja Warrior to be slain.

Now, in the future, how will Ninja Warrior hold up? By the way things are, it isn't broken, so I see no reason to be fixed. The only real issue is whether the Ninja Warrior will ever arise, which is still debatable and could lead to fleeting interest. But in 2016, expect the Warrior to stay strong.

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