Hugh Marks’ dilemma… what to do about MAFS?

What’s a CEO to do?

In recent weeks there have been reports that Nine CEO has expressed concerns over the tone of Married at First Sight, instructing execs to pull back on some of the extreme content (did everyone get that memo?).

But yesterday Nine confirmed the show has given the network its strongest start ever in OzTAM history.

The finale drew a massive 1.968 million viewers -climbing to 2.611 million when Regional is added. By comparison that’s higher than last year’s Melbourne Cup broadcast. A Live VPM of 70,000 on 9Now is a record in the Australian BVOD space for entertainment programming. The reunion dinner party on Sunday night also delivered a massive audience 1.857 million viewers.

It has crushed the competition, including the 10 year old My Kitchen Rules and decimated 10’s primetime schedule. It also created a halo effect around Nine’s other primetime shows, including Travel Guides and 60 Minutes.

Married at First Sight has dominated the national conversation in a way no other TV show can,” said Hamish Turner, Nine’s Program Director. “We’ve again seen significant growth YOY in live linear across all the key demos, as well as live, digital and catch-up viewing through the 9Now platform where you have multiple episodes delivering averages of over 400,000 viewers.

MAFS is both a television and a digital powerhouse with strong engagement across all platforms.”

Its power across demographics and advertisers is the stuff sales departments dream of.

Michael Stephenson, Nine’s Chief Sales Officer, said: “Australia loves MAFS and so do our advertisers. We have had a record number of partners, sponsors and spot buyers in MAFS this year all of whom have taken advantage of the massive audiences that it delivers across every platform in all of the key demographics.”

Yet the commentary outside of clickbait and recap articles raises questions about the conduct by the show. While some deem it entertaining “trash telly” others condemn its morality, or lack thereof. There are also ongoing questions about support for participants dealing with bullying, abuse and even death threats.

Through it all the show’s psychologists are conveniently arms-length from deeper questions, sticking to matchmaker and narrator duties that are the equivalent of TV Switzerland.

These are all questions Nine will need to address internally sooner rather than later. While the next MAFS is a long way off, Love Island is due to return in coming months, and will be getting more attention than 2018 when it moves to the primary channel. We could be facing the same ethical questions in a matter of months.

It was Kerry Packer who once phoned up the network to tell programmers “Get that shit off the air” (it was Australia’s Naughtiest Home Videos). So while Hugh Marks will doubtless be keeping an eye on the incoming revenue, history also looks favourably on TV bosses who lead from the front.

13 Comments:

  1. The problem is…where does it end? If TV networks show whatever the public wants, however sleazy, appalling or disgusting, where does that end? With someone on the show suffering abuse and attacks for years afterwards? With a suicide? There has to be a line drawn somewhere. MAFS has real people doing horrible things to each other in real life, and there needs to be respect shown, both to the “cast” and the viewing public.

  2. Hugh Marks on MAFS, Feb 2019 – “Tone down the extreme content”
    Hugh Marks on MAFS, April 2019 – “Are you not entertained?!?!”

  3. carolemorrissey

    Yes I was watching Naughtiest videos when that happened. I remember it well. Didn’t have a clue what had happened. One minute it was there then it was gone. No explanation or anything.

  4. If KP was still alive and calling the shots, I don’t think he would have allowed Nine to go down this aisle. He would have come up with a more palatable ratings juggernaut.

  5. I get really annoyed when they say ‘Australia loves (insert show name here)’ because clearly we have a population of over 25 million and approx, only 2 million watch these shows….to me that is false advertising. I know it’s just advertising talk but it annoys me especially with a show like MAFS.

    • Let me clear a few things up.
      25 million australia wide, these figures are 5 city metro. Regional and Rurual viewers would bring the figure a lot higher. Then of the 25 million, you have to take into account children, those in jail, homeless people etc. and most of all, 5 people could all be watching on one screen from the same lounge room. The TV doesnt know how many people are watching it at any given time. These figures are to be taken with a grain of salt, would be a lot different in reality.

      • The people meters do know how many people are watching a particular set, though – those involved in the surveys have to “register” that they are watching the device, so if a family is watching a show, theoretically, they all count as separate people. Of course, people often forget to register, but it’s part of the agreement they sign when they accept the device into their home. Viewer figures are, though, an absolute minimum, as the OzTam figures are based on a sample and total figures are then extrapolated (estimated) from that. Network claims are valid – if OzTam lists it as #1, it’s the most watched show on TV (whether most of the population is watching it or not). More people who watched TV that night chose to watch it than any other show on TV, and that matters.

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