It's the television genre we love to hate but can't get enough of - and Kiwi audiences are in for yet another bumper year of reality TV.

The Block NZ, My Kitchen Rules New Zealand, the Australian version of My Kitchen Rules and Married at First Sight NZ were all in the top five most watched series on free-to-air TV last year by Kiwis aged 18 to 49, with hundreds of thousands tuning in to each episode.

And free-to-air broadcasters TVNZ and Mediaworks look set to cash in on audiences' fascination with reality again, with both networks set to air several new seasons of local and international reality series this year.

An Indian dance competition and a local version of the fashion design franchise Project Runway are coming new arrivals to our screens.

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Popular DIY and cooking programmes The Block NZ and My Kitchen Rules New Zealand are among shows returning for new seasons.

Cate Slater, TVNZ's director of content, said successful local reality series had drawn audiences back to free-to-air TV in the age of streaming and subscription services, but TVNZ's programmers still tried to avoid saturation of any particular genre.

"We do have more local reality formats in our 2018 slate. But this is proportional to the increase in local content we'll be providing across the board, including in drama, factual and comedy.

"We take the scheduling of reality series into consideration, with factors such as the time of year, how much of that particular genre has been on the channel, and what our offering is across the board to ensure it's a good mix."

As well as popular international exports TVNZ's schedule features several new seasons of locally made reality shows.

Slater said local content resonated strongly with Kiwi audiences, which was why the network was focusing heavily on it.

"We have a really diverse local slate with increased reality programming, but we also have great local drama and really extensive local factual as well.

"Viewer behaviour has indicated Kiwis want to see their own stories on screen, and particularly on TVNZ channels, which makes it very important to us."

University of Otago media researcher Dr Rosemary Overell said making local TV shows was often risky because the television production industry was very small here and so it made sense that New Zealand broadcasters were copying formats that had been successful overseas - like cooking and dating shows - to make our own versions.

"It plays to the idea that [reality shows] are relatively cheap to make but that also viewers enjoy them. New Zealanders have enjoyed watching the foreign version of these programmes so it makes sense to localise them and almost have a bigger audience.

"Whenever it's your people in it you can identify. You'll go 'they're from a town I know', which you don't get when you're watching the American version, you don't get all those jokes."

The reality TV genre was popular because people found it relatable, she said, but it also had value as a cultural product that could teach citizens about class and gender politics.

"It's not just entertainment. It can tell us a lot about the culture and society we live in."

Mediaworks chief content officer Andrew Szusterman was not available for comment by deadline.

What's on when and where to tune in - an edited guide

Manu Feildel and Pete Evans return to TVNZ 2 screens to host another season of My Kitchen Rules New Zealand. Photo / Supplied by TVNZ
Manu Feildel and Pete Evans return to TVNZ 2 screens to host another season of My Kitchen Rules New Zealand. Photo / Supplied by TVNZ

My Kitchen Rules New Zealand

Celebrity chefs Pete Evans and Manu Feildel return to TVNZ 2 and OnDemand as hosts and judges for season 4, which sees a new cohort of contestants compete to be crowned champion home cooks. The winner will secure a cash price - release date is yet to be confirmed.

Matilda Rice and Mark Dye host Heartbreak Island. Photo / Supplied by TVNZ
Matilda Rice and Mark Dye host Heartbreak Island. Photo / Supplied by TVNZ

Heartbreak Island

Twenty Kiwi singles - 10 men, 10 women - are sent to a tropical island where they have to complete challenges and will hopefully find their perfect match. The contestants also have a chance of winning $100,000. Airing and streaming on TVNZ 2 and OnDemand in 2018.

NZ is getting it's own version of the popular fashion design franchise Project Runway. Photo / Supplied by TVNZ
NZ is getting it's own version of the popular fashion design franchise Project Runway. Photo / Supplied by TVNZ

Project Runway New Zealand

TVNZ has put out a casting call for the inaugural New Zealand version of the successful American series that seeks to find the next up-and-coming fashion designer. The show will air on TVNZ 2 and OnDemand later this year. Prize is yet to be confirmed.

First Dates New Zealand
Kiwi singles matched based on their likes and dislikes go on blind dates and cameras capture their first interactions over a three-course restaurant meal. The second season of the so-called "dating show like no other" is set to screen on TVNZ 2 and OnDemand in 2018.

Spartan
Trios of super-fit Kiwis and Aussies compete on an arduous obstacle course. Screening on TVNZ 2 and streaming on OnDemand soon.

Another season is Survivor NZ is coming. Pictured, last year's winner Avi (centre) and other contestants from the Mogoton tribe. Photo / Scott McAulay
Another season is Survivor NZ is coming. Pictured, last year's winner Avi (centre) and other contestants from the Mogoton tribe. Photo / Scott McAulay

Survivor NZ

TVNZ has upped the stakes for the series' second season, with a $250,000 prize on offer to the Kiwi castaway who is crowned this year's sole survivor. The network is yet to confirm the release date, but says the show will be on TVNZ 2 and OnDemand sometime this year.

The Block NZ
Teams of two renovate a house each which is auctioned at the end the of the series. Competitors get the profits above the home's reserve price and the team whose house sells for the most money wins an extra $100,000. Applications are open to wannabe-contestants for Season 7 of the DIY series - which will be broadcast on Three later this year.

The Great NZ Dance Masala
Described by Mediaworks as "a colourful and vibrant dance competition" that celebrates Indian culture, the first-of-its-kind series on New Zealand free to air TV will be hosted by Colin Mathura-Jeffree. It will air on Three later this year.

XVenture
Veteran TV and radio presenter Simon Barnett hosts this new programme which features 16 New Zealand families completing a range of challenges. The winners will take home $25,000 in cash. The series starts next month on Three.

Dancing With The Stars
Several Kiwi celebrities compete for the public's affections and votes on the dance floor. Proceeds from text voting will be donated to each contestant's chosen charity. Dai Henwood and Sharyn Casey will host the show live on Three.

Aussie DIY series House Rules is now on Three. Tune in on Sunday at 7pm and Monday to Wednesday at 7.30pm. Photo of the cast / Supplied by Mediaworks
Aussie DIY series House Rules is now on Three. Tune in on Sunday at 7pm and Monday to Wednesday at 7.30pm. Photo of the cast / Supplied by Mediaworks

House Rules Australia

Six couples renovate each others' houses. Each pair of home owners set five "rules" that the other teams must obey during the project and score their fellow contestants' work. The couple with the highest score at the end of the series wins AU $200,000. The fifth season of the series is now on Three on Sunday at 7pm and 7.30pm Monday to Wednesday.

The Block Australia
A new season of the popular DIY show (which has a similar format to the Kiwi version) premieres on February 6 on Three.

My Kitchen Rules Australia
The competitive cooking show that inspired My Kitchen Rules New Zealand returns to TVNZ 2 and OnDemand on February 12.

I'm a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here (Australia)
Aussie stars are forced to forgo luxuries fend for themselves in the jungle, where their mental and physical strengths are tested in a series of challenges. The winner gets $100,000 for their chosen charity. Coming soon to TVNZ 2 and OnDemand/

Hell's Kitchen Australia
Marco Pierre White channels Gordon Ramsey to put Aussies celebrities through rigorous cooking challenges at a Sydney restaurant. Tune in from February 3 on TVNZ 2 and OnDemand

MasterChef Australia
Amateur chefs compete to prove they've got what it takes to go pro. The winner gets to train with top chefs, a chance to have their own cookbook published and a cash prize. Season 10 is yet to air in Australia. It will come to TVNZ 1 and OnDemand later this year.

The Wall
Pairs of contests try to win huge sums of cash by dropping balls down a multi-storey-tall pegboard into 15 slots marked with various dollar amounts. Coming soon to TVNZ 2 and OnDemand

Britain's Got Talent
Former Idol judge known for his brutally honest feedback, Simon Cowell heads up a panel of judges as talented hopefuls take to the stage for their five minutes of fame (and prizes). A new season is coming to TVNZ 1 and OnDemand in 2018.

Family Food Fight - TVNZ 2, OD
Six Aussie families with different traditions and cooking styles battle in the kitchen to impress with home cooking. Now on TVNZ 2 on Monday at 8pm, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday at 7.30pm and streaming on OnDemand.

Plus:
Instant Hotel (TVNZ 2 & OnDemand)
Aussie Property Flippers (TVNZ 1 & OnDemand)
Love Island (TVNZ 2 & OnDemand)
Take Me Out (TVNZ 2 & OnDemand)
The Amazing Race (TVNZ 2 & OnDemand)
The Bachelor USA (TVNZ & OnDemand)
The Island With Bear Grylls (TVNZ Duke & OnDemand)
Escape (TVNZ Duke & OnDemand)