Wed. Jul 17th, 2024

9 Amazing Idol Groups Formed From Reality Survival Programs

With “Produce 101: Season 2” in full swing, I began to think about all of those talented groups formed through competition reality shows! Dozens upon dozens of new idol groups debut every year. What helps some of these bands stand out from the rest? Starting with a grueling battle, of course!

The typical method most companies use for making a new group is internally choosing members and piecing a band together in private before their debut. Using a reality television and documentary style programs, entertainment companies and television broadcasters alike are using survival competitions to fully compose an upcoming “super” group! Some use this method to weed out only the best of the best of trainees, and others use it so that the show’s viewers and fans can make a connection with the new group before they debut. Here’s a look at nine groups who started in this manner.

*I’ve decided to focus on groups that were either fully composed from trainees on the show or trainee groups who fought against other trainee groups for the earlier debut chance. I’m not including shows that do not create groups from trainees in the end (e.g. “Show Me The Money” and “Superstar K“), take previous celebrities and make them a group for a temporary project (e.g. “Sister’s Slam Dunk” that created Unnies), nor am I counting reality shows that document a pre-existing trainee group as they lead up to debut, such as “Big Bang Documentary” and “Astro OK Ready.

1. I.O.I

There probably isn’t a more fitting group to start off with. I.O.I is the definite “super group,” considering the group is composed of the top eleven trainees out of one-hundred and one! This multi-talented girl group’s members were the top picks from the first season of Mnet’s Produce 101.” The idea was to promote as a group for a year or so, then each member would move on to different bands or projects. Some of the members are now in groups such as Gugudan, WJSN, and Pristin. The band went on to promote many popular hits such as “Whatta Man (Good Man)” and “Very Very Very,” the latter of which now boasts almost 50 million views!

Produce 101 is currently airing it’s second season to make the next big boy group.

2. SF9

The stakes were already high when this reality show was announced. It was a chance for FNC Entertainment, who is known for instrumental type bands such as F.T. IslandCNBLUE, and N.Flying, to debut their first “dance” boy band. Two different groups composed of trainees from the companies went head-to-head, but with a catch. They called the program “D.O.B” for “Dance or Band.” This meant one group would be dance themed and the other would be instrumental. In the end, the nine-member dance band took the win, leading to the official debut of SF9 with the song “Fanfare.” However, eight months after SF9’s debut, the band group finally made their long awaited debut! Just recently, May 16th, they debuted with the name HONEYST!


“WIN: Who Is Next” was an extremely popular survival show also about two pre-composed YG Entertainment teams that would go head-to-head in battle. The only difference in this and FNC’s show “D.O.B” is that the other team was not expected to debut. Yang Hyunsuk, the CEO of YG, said some of the losing team’s members may be kept as trainees for future projects, and the others could easily be sent away. After the five-member Team A won the competition against six-member Team B, they became known as WINNER— the group name mirroring their success. Their debut song “공허해 (Empty)” was released in August of 2014.

4. iKON

Despite YG’s CEO supposedly admitting he didn’t have plans for another group, the fans’ love for Team B in “WIN: Who Is Next” had shown through to give the group another fighting chance. However, they still had to go through one more grueling survival show before debut. This new show, “Mix and Match, aired with the purpose of adding in a few more trainees to the mix to create the final line-up. The final lineup ended up being the original six members from “WIN: Who is Next,” plus one more. The official seven-member group, now called iKON, debuted with the song “취향저격(MY TYPE)” a year after label-mate WINNER.

5. Pentagon

The fitting name of “Pentagon Maker” was the title of the show that created Cube Entertainment‘s new boy group Pentagon. Each member had individual battles to make it into the final line-up. Three of the original ten trainees were dropped from the survival competition, leading the now seven-member group to become Cube’s first boy band since BtoB‘s debut four years prior. However, the original plan was to debut in the summer, but was pushed back due to internal reasons. Surprisingly, it was later revealed they would officially debut in October and with all ten trainees from the show! Their debut track, “Gorilla,” now has almost five-million views on Youtube!


One band many people might not realize also came from a survival show is Jellyfish Entertainment‘s VIXX. It was announced in early 2012 that Jellyfish was planning their first band ever and would be composing it through an audience involved show called “MYDOL.” Taking their current seven trainees and adding three more to the mix, each one’s talents were put to the test against each other. In the end, only six could debut in the group. The winners were five of the original trainees and one trainee added in at the last minute who ended up being their talented maknae, Hyuk. The fans were even given the chance to decide the band’s name on a poll of three different options. The survival show ended up continuing on as a documentary, following the group to their debut which was only a month after the program’s ending!

7. Boys 24 Units

Boys24 is certainly a unique concept for a survival show. CJE&M Company narrowed down nearly four-thousand applicants to forty-nine who would compete as groups composed of the solo agents on the show. Four groups won in the end, leaving twenty-seven members remaining of Boys24. Following the show, the MVP group, Unit Yellow, was given a chance to have an MV filmed for “E” and promote the song on music programs. However, the unique part was that technically the competition wasn’t quite over. For a year, the twenty-seven trainees would perform for an audience at their own permanent concert hall and do multiple fan-meetings. The first promotional unit which was decided from the “BOYS24 Re:born The 1st Semi-Final” concert was named Unit Black and promoted the song “Steal Your Heart” for three months. Later this year, the official line-up of the permanent group will be decided and make their debut.


Of course, there’s TWICE! JYP Entertainment started a ten episode season of a new survival show called Sixteeen, titled as such for the sixteen trainees involved. Seven of the sixteen trainees were already candidates, and the other nine were out to take their spots with the help of votes from the audience. The main difference in this program versus others was the fact that they weren’t just testing singing and dancing but also how well they could handle “idol” life. This included photo shoots, variety shows, and living in what would be considered harsh environments (e.g. dirty dorms and long, hard practice periods). Despite the seven members who were chosen to compose TWICE in the end, there was a twist that revealed TWICE would be a nine-member band and previously eliminated trainees Tzuyu and Momo were added back in. There was much controversy involved in this choice considering one was added in due to the audience’s online opinion and the other simply due to the decision of Park Jin Young, the CEO of JYP. TWICE’s popularity certainly shows, as they boast a huge fanclub and their hit single “TT” has just recently become the most-viewed girls group video on YouTube with almost two-hundred million views!

9. Monsta X

Starship Entertainment is home to many impressive artists such as K.Will, Mad Clown, and Sistar. However, they hadn’t debuted a Starship boy band since Boyfriend‘s debut in 2011. Late in the year of 2014, they gathered twelve male trainees from the company to battle each other over various “missions” in a survival show called “NO.MERCY.” There was a twist later in the show which threw in a thirteenth member after some eliminations had already taken place. This member was I.M., who is now the maknae and rapper in the band. Over the course of ten episodes and four different missions, a final seven-member line-up was decided. The new band would be called Monsta X and debut with a modern hip-hop style. Their success has certainly shown, just like the rest of the above groups, as they have just recently announced their first world tour!

Survival shows have proven to be a great way to make a deep connection to new groups, as well as really bring out the talent in these amazing trainees. Were there any bands on the list you were surprised by? What other groups would you have included? Let us know in the comment section below!

CaptainMal has been into Korean Entertainment for seven years now, since 2010. She travels to conventions in her area, showcasing her “Kpop Game Show’” and occasional Kpop cosplay. Although her favorite bands are Infinite, Super Junior, and VIXX, she boasts a love for a huge variety of artists throughout the last 15 years of Kpop. Other than Kpop, CaptainMal loves Disney, 80’s rock, Daft Punk, Gaming, and Orange Juice.

Media: As Credited

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