'Bachelorette' lawsuit settled. Can spoilers help reality TV?

'The Bachelorette' producers have dropped a lawsuit against blogger Reality Steve. Since he began revealing spoilers of 'The Bachelor' and 'The Bachelorette' on his website, ratings have gone up.

Angeline Herron/ABC/AP/File
In this March 20 image released by ABC, Emily Maynard, left is shown on "The Bachelorette," in Charlotte, N.C. Producers of 'The Bachelorette' and its sister show, 'The Bachelor,' have dropped a lawsuit against a blogger who regualrly revealed spoilers for both shows.

The men of “The Bachelorette” continue to fight each other for Emily Maynard’s heart week in and week out in prime time. But behind the scenes, at least one other battle involving the popular ABC reality show has been settled. For now.

Producers of the long-running “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette” TV series have dropped a lawsuit against Stephen Carbone, the Texas-based television blogger better known as “Reality Steve,” according to The Hollywood Reporter. Mr. Corbone’s popular website, realitysteve.com, covers a wide range of shows, including “Jersey Shore,” “Keeping up with the Kardashians,” and “Survivor.”  But the blog’s calling card is its coverage of the Bachelor franchise.

Carbone specializes in “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette” spoilers, regularly revealing things like the winner of the show, order of eliminated contestants, and other juicy details, sometimes before a particular season has even aired. 

How does he do it? According to the lawsuit filed by Bachelor producers NZK Productions and Alternative Television, both owned by Warner Bros., Carbone bribed employees of the show, including cast members, for the information, encouraging them to break iron-clad nondisclosure agreements in exchange for cash.

“I swear, this is the easiest money you’ll ever make,” Carbone wrote one former “The Bachelor” contestant via e-mail, the lawsuit alleges. “$2500 to help me out. Not joking.”

The producers’ lawsuit, filed in December, raises questions about the legal issues surrounding spoilers. The twists and turns of reality shows are supposed to be closely guarded secrets, and participants sign confidentiality agreements that carry severe financial penalties for breaching them (according to THR, reality show contracts routinely carry penalties of up to $5 million for blabbing secrets).

At the same time, Reality Steve is in no way affiliated with the Bachelor franchise, and he had been blogging spoilers accurately since 2009. On his blog,  Carbone cheekily maintains that he gets his information from a “spoiler fairy,” who leaves the tidbits under his pillow at night.

“Long story short: RealitySteve.com isn’t going anywhere, I don’t owe the other side a penny, and they had no case,” Carbone tweeted Monday.

"We have resolved our dispute with Reality Steve and are pleased he has agreed to have no further contact whatsoever with any of the cast, crew or employees of The Bachelor," Warner Bros. said in a statement.

It’s hard to imagine that would matter, however. Carbone’s site is just the most famous example of a huge swath of the blogosphere dedicated to spoilers of reality TV. With a little digging, you can find accurate spoilers for pretty much any pre-taped show out there. What’s more, Carbone’s network of  Bachelor tipsters is reportedly so vast at this point that he can probably get the information he needs anyway, without contacting anyone from the show directly. He’s already revealed the final four contestants of the currently airing “The Bachelorette" season, though he has yet to reveal the eventual winner.

What’s more, spoilers don’t appear to do the Bachelor franchise any harm. In fact, they might be helping. Carbonne started delivering spoilers in 2009, the same year that "The Bachelor" enjoyed an unexpected ratings resurgence after several seasons on the downswing. That year, the show’s 13th season saw a 37 percent climb in the Neilsen ratings over the previous season.

Reality Steve probably can’t take all the credit for the renewed success of the show, which also benefited from good casting and a reworked format. Be he didn’t hurt things either. Nor did the headlines from his lawsuit.

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