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'The Bachelor' is notorious for minting new influencers. How former franchise villain Nick Viall became its most successful alum.

"I was trying to distinguish myself from my peers in reality TV," Viall told Yahoo Entertainment of his podcast.

Nick Viall in 2024 (Sarah Partain Photography)

Between 2014 and 2017, Nick Viall was an unavoidable character within The Bachelor franchise.

Viall wasn’t just any Bachelor Nation contestant — he was the guy who made it to the final rose ceremony of two consecutive Bachelorette seasons only to have his heart broken both times. That earned him a villainous reputation as someone “thirsty” for attention. He rehabilitated his image on Bachelor in Paradise, where he initiated a relationship that didn’t last. He was given a fourth shot at reality TV romance as The Bachelor in 2017, only to announce months later that he and his fiancée had ended their engagement.

Though he emerged from three different shows within Bachelor Nation with a reputation for being “unlucky in love,” Viall hasn’t been unlucky in finding success. He just had to pivot to podcasting to make it happen.

Nick Viall sitting on a couch in front of an audience.
Nick Viall on "The Women Tell All" in 2017. (Michael Yada/Disney General Entertainment Content via Getty Images)

At the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, the 43-year-old spoke about the decisions he made following his appearances on reality dating shows.

Onstage, Viall recalled an offer that he received to appear on a show for reality TV villains after losing a second season of The Bachelorette. He had just left his career as a sales rep at Salesforce to try his hand in Hollywood, and this show appearance would offer an immediate payout. Still, Viall couldn’t stop thinking about how this would forever pigeonhole him as a villain. He didn’t take the money, and shortly after, he was named the Bachelor.

He’s been thoughtful ever since about how the projects he takes on might impact his future career. Beyond his 2017 stint on Dancing With the Stars and Season 2 of Special Forces: World’s Toughest Test, Viall has pivoted away from reality TV to focus on building his own show.

He now hosts and produces a podcast called The Viall Files, which has had more than 150 million downloads since it launched in 2019. Vulture declared itMeet the Press for reality TV.” He announced the launch of his company, Envy Media, in January.

Viall created his namesake podcast two years after his departure from Bachelor Nation. He said the time between projects was filled with “trial and error,” with the requisite stints as an actor and host as he tried to “figure out what [his] thing was.”

“You go from getting the access of a B-list celebrity, getting late-night television appearances, then six months later you're hoping someone asks you to come on a podcast,” he said. “That can really mess with your psyche.”

Each year, dozens of aspiring lovers and reality stars appear on Bachelor shows. The most memorable contestants garner social media followings, which they can then turn into their audience for future endeavors beyond Bachelor Nation. It’s historically been a successful launch pad for the careers of former franchise stars like JoJo Fletcher and Hannah Brown. But it also raises the question of whether certain contestants are “here for the right reasons.”

The Bachelor [franchise] sees at least 60 new people come through every season for the two main shows,” Viall told Yahoo Entertainment after his SXSW panel. “You’re competing with those people for jobs… I always felt like they were temporary and would slowly go away over time as I got further away from the show.”

After other Bachelor alums began getting short-term hosting gigs with podcast companies, using their modest earnings as a kind of side hustle while they attempted to go another route, Viall did the same, but when his contract with a podcast network ended, he took control of the show himself.

“I was trying to distinguish myself from my peers in reality TV,” Viall said.

Though Viall has uniquely held nearly every possible position within Bachelor Nation, he didn’t want to forever be “that guy from The Bachelor. He wanted to be himself — a “heady” guy from Wisconsin with 10 siblings and a reputation among his friends as the person “who people go to for advice.”

After three years of having his romantic failures broadcast on national television in his 30s, and particularly turbulent off-screen heartbreaks in his 20s, Viall explained that he wanted to provide “sensible life advice” to his audience. He had a reputation on The Bachelorette of being blunt to the point of arrogance, but sometimes that’s exactly the advice people need, especially in a social media age filled with dating-app-driven situationships and ever-shifting cultural expectations.

Kaitlyn Bristowe and Nick Viall.
Kaitlyn Bristowe and Nick Viall on The Bachelorette. (Rick Rowell / © ABC / Courtesy Everett Collection)

“I get credibility by being vulnerable and not overstating my experience or my expertise. I keep saying, ‘I've done this, I've done that, I've learned this. … This is a decision I've made, I relate to your experience, but I’m not any kind of expert,’” Viall explained.

Once he felt he had established himself in the podcasting realm, he started recording some episodes in which he’d discuss reality TV shows, and others in which he’d interview the stars. On reality TV, Viall was used to having his storylines edited down, his interviews cut short and nuance removed from his experience. He said he was drawn to the way that podcasts allow listeners to get an “in-depth, 360 look at what a person is experiencing.”

He knows that the interview podcast space is crowded, but he likes giving people a space to “peel back the layers of who they are.” He’s particularly interested in talking to reality TV villains, because he knows that people will tune in with a preexisting opinion, which could evolve throughout the interview. It helps that he’s been portrayed as both a villain and a victim.

“Reality TV offers a perspective of the most vulnerable moments anyone ever has, and when they feel the most embarrassed,” Viall said. “You have people pushing you to the very edge, like when Kaitlyn [Bristowe] took me all the way to the end of her season [of The Bachelorette].

“Personally, I was pissed about that. But the opportunity allowed me to see a new perspective,” he added. “With my audience, I’m not necessarily trying to change their minds. I’m just trying to give them different lenses to see the same thing from a new perspective.”

With his interviews, Viall often offers villains like Vanderpump Rules’s Tom Sandoval, who has been publicly shamed for months after cheating on his co-star Ariana Madix, a chance to explain their perspective. That doesn’t mean he lets them get away with manipulating their narratives, though — on that infamous episode of The Viall Files, Viall frequently pushed back on Sandoval’s criticism of Madix, injecting her viewpoint, and reminding him of the broader impact he’s had on his audience.

“I was frustrated at times with my own edit [on Bachelor shows], but it’s not like they were showing stuff that isn’t true,” Viall said. “I joke that, when it comes to reality TV contestants, it’s always someone else’s fault when things don’t go their way … I have never heard that when they look good, though.”

He added, “I strongly feel that most people, on average, are made to look better than worse.”

Viall is still part of a crowded market of influencers and reality stars talking about other influencers and reality stars. He said he stands out because he’s openly passionate enough to keep his audience coming back for more.

“My audience is 95% women, and roughly 80% millennial women. It’s easy to know what they’re consuming, and often, I’m lucky that it’s in line with the things I’m passionate about,” he said. “I’m very interested in interpersonal relationships and pop culture, and thankfully, it’s connected with my audience.”

As for the future, Viall plans to stick with this show as long as he can. He said he’s getting offers to appear elsewhere, but with every offer, he considers whether or not taking time away from his podcast could benefit it.

“I think, How does this benefit my show? If it doesn’t, I quite honestly do not have the time,” he said.

Viall markets the show across social media platforms — every show is uploaded in video form to YouTube, and he shares clips on TikTok, Instagram and X. He said that going viral online helps market the show and serves as proof that he’s prioritizing being creative and flexible in ways that major podcasting companies weren’t before. Now, they might be catching on.

“I’ve seen clips that are eerily similar to what we’re doing, even some direct rip-offs,” he said. “I see people emulating the success we’re having …. I get a little bit annoyed, but you know what they say about imitation.”

Viall said he recently saw an interview with MrBeast in which the YouTuber said that no one is working harder than him, and that he’s so focused on executing his own playbook that no one will be able to replicate what he’s doing.

“I feel the same way … People can copy us, but our goal is to always be ahead of what they’re copying anyway,” Viall explained.