The real reason MasterChef’s recipe is better in 2014

MasterChef's fortunes can be directly linked to those of TEN management. Here's why.

2014-06-30_0227It’s enjoying a run as TEN’s best-rating show, with renewed critical praise. The food has been good and, one Australian Story episode notwithstanding, MasterChef Australia has largely avoided negative press.

Despite going up against House Rules and The Voice, MasterChef has managed to avoid the annihilation suffered by The Biggest Loser and So You Think You Can Dance Australia.

So what’s made all the difference this year when it struggled so much in 2013?

There were two key factors to this year’s recipe.

One was network research that reiterated the brand’s values. The other was the way TEN’s former management fiddled so terribly with the format. Thankfully, the latter has been rectified.

“Channel TEN spent a bit of money on research finding out what the audience wanted to see. Out of that Shine and TEN have been completely committed to building on the MasterChef that everybody fell in love with,” Gary Mehigan recently told TV Tonight.

Research indicated viewers still enjoyed the judges’ line up, the mystery box, inspirational not everyday food and the invention tests.

“Last year there were too many team challenges and people ended up in eliminations because of team challenges,” said Mehigan.

“They also apparently hold us in high regard in terms of our transparency and honesty and they see it as the premier cooking competition.”

This year the show cleverly send out a simple message: “Ordinary People. Extraordinary Food.”

By contrast, 2013 came under heavy fire for its ‘Boys v Girls’ launch, with media suggesting the show had abandoned its core values. While the gender battle was misunderstood as being merely the first of its weekly themes, it was a criticism the show struggled to overcome.

But what hasn’t been acknowledged is that Shine Australia was, at the time, producing under directives from TEN management to detour the show down a My Kitchen Rules road.

Under 2012 CEO James Warburton, TEN was responding to the rise of MKR and MasterChef fatigue. The 2013 show (production began in 2012) was cast for personalities above cooking skills and as a result ended up sitting in between both, with disappointing ratings. Behind the scenes it was a tug of war over the show’s true identity.

Ironically, by the time the 2013 series hit screens, TEN’s management had undergone yet another change.

Guided by producer David McDonald and drama exec Rick Maier, the storytelling has now been restored. Beverley McGarvey’s decision to stick to one series per year has also paid off. Together with Offspring, TEN has managed stay in front of the ABC for 5 weeks now.

TEN is a long way from being out of the woods and there are real concerns for the network without another stripped series once MasterChef concludes (a lesson harshly learned in Q4 2012).

But it’s clear audiences respond to authenticity, and not knee-jerk reactions.

Too many cooks can easily spoil said broth.

20 Responses

  1. Hamish McLennan really should be removed. He clearly isn’t capable of running a television network.

    Back on topic and MCA is doing a lot better this year. It has exceeded my own and many others’ expectations by holding its own against the competition from Seven and Nine. The research they have done has really helped, and it shows what happens when you listen to your audience. They really have used those researchers in 2011 and 2012, as their appalling treatment of their audience during those 2 years is what caused their massive ratings decline and created so much ill-feeling towards their network among the general public.

    Shame they don’t have much major content for the back end of the year. Shows like Recipe to Riches and Wonderland aren’t strong enough.

  2. @ Partial ‘Gary Mehigan’ exerts, from within ‘Davids’ above article.

    ” Channel Ten spent a bit of money on research”
    Strange but typical ‘Ten’ response, especially when virtually all the same info, via ‘David’s Blog’ has been repeatedly relayed via ‘ Viewer Feedback’ along with ‘David’s Articles/Interviews etc.,ironically for quite some time, (soon after the ‘rot’ began) and it was all there and completely ‘Free’

    ” with *media*, suggesting the *show* had abandoned its core values”, and ” To many *cooks* can easily spoil said broth”

    Nearly similar statements, but virtually still resultant of the same old problems, and again typical of ‘Ten’, because haven’t we heard similar, so many times before,( You spoke We listened,but hopefully this time they actually mean it)

    And only proven if ‘Ten’ swap * media* with ‘viewers’…

  3. i heard somewhere they were doing an idol reboot in 2015 in the first half of the year up against MKR and The Block.

    They wanted Jessica Mauboy, Guy Sebastian and were trying to get a high profile singer to be on. I think someone from USA.

    That is what i heard. Probably a rumour at this stage but if it’s true i’ll be watching it so badly!!

  4. Cairo: I knew last year’s season 5 was shown in South East Asia, UK, Canada, New Zealand and India. This year, season 6 is being fasttracked to India for the very first time, as the show is hugely popular in the country. It is being shown on Star World Premiere (in full HD I may add), with each episode shown 8 days after Australia.

  5. I’d suggest this season is more than just about refocusing on the cooking. Ten deserves credit for altering the format (longer shows, tiered eliminations, power aprons, combining masterclass with eliminations, Kylie kwong…)

  6. Mr J; totally agree. However Gary Mehigan did say they “spent a bit of money” doing that research and it may not be justifiable for a non prime time breakfast programme. Having said that, if that brekkie show was like Sunrise a success for ten years plus, it would certainly be worth it.

  7. Im loving this series however my one thing im hating is the masterclass because I enjoy seeing that weekly. Now we see it every 2 or 3 weeks. Bring ti back.

    Otherwise its been good.

  8. I Hope they are doing the same research on the biggest loser.
    On Masterchef I love this season so much more than last! I’m loving the contestants and the food. The only thing I want to see more of is service challenges in either the Mc Kitchen or in a real restaurant.

  9. Hey awesome article David!

    Just wondering do you know where Master Chef is released around the world because apparently our version is very popular overseas. And I’m just interested to know what the numbers are like for the show overseas and if those numbers play a role in it staying on air? If you know that’s is?

  10. Putting Masterchef Professionals up against MKR was also a mistake. It reenforced the idea that MC was tired, created too many MC episodes for fans to keep up with and its poor result lead to Ten trying to overhype their reworking of MC.

  11. Masterchef is the only ‘reality’ show I watch, can’t stand the never ending singing, building and fat shows. It’s been absolutely terrific this year, no on-screen bitchiness like MKR, only a few tears, a lot of support for each other and a stack more empathy and guidance from the judges, especially George, who has revealed a new side to him. (hope he’s always like that!).

    And great cooking. I really regret the demise of Junior Masterchef – those kids were startlingly good.

  12. Good feature. It’s clear that the people involved in Masterchef genuinely care about the show. I gave up on the tabloid trash that was MKR but I’m still a committed MC fan, now as much as ever.

  13. Back to basics is the way forward for the entire network. Really happy they stopped trying to be so clever and simply gave the audience what they want, what made the show a hit in the first place. And presto – good show and ratings!

    Where else might this logic be applied, Ten?

    The exact same thing could be said about Neighbours. It veered of course, people turned off, network rightly shunted it to Eleven. The show has since gone back to basics and it’s great. Now Ten just need to give it the Masterchef treatment, put it on the main channel and promote it. Hard to believe deals can’t be renegotiated for this when the channel is in peril.

  14. I’ve lost count of the numbers of times management has meddled with something that they didn’t have any proper understanding of and mucked it up. It shouldn’t have taken a kick in the guts for them to see the light.

    Seriously, they could could have avoided half of their problems with programming if they’d paid heed to the better informed comments on this blog.

  15. Returning MC to its roots was a no-brainer. If last year they tried to cast for personalities first then they got that all wrong as the cast was not really the most likeable bunch.

    This season has been fantastic. Have really enjoyed every episode so far. Keeping it to one series a year is a definite must for the longevity of the franchise.

  16. If only they used the same researchers for Wake Up, the news revolution, and pretty much every primetime show they have launched the the last 5 years.

    In my experience networks listen too much to the blokes from market research and let their advise completely replace common sense. If you look through tens history all of the shows that have boasted heavy research in the leadup to the launch have been the biggest flops. I think the most important thing is to have someone on charge that knows what they are doing, has a vision, and the balls to follow through.

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