How Nine turned MAFS into a hit
For three seasons Nine screened Married at First Sight to moderate success -then it decided to take on MKR.
It was the success of My Kitchen Rules that compelled Nine to rework Married at First Sight into the hit it is today.
Now the shoe is on the other foot as MAFS has become the thorn in Seven’s side.
Married at First Sight was a little known one hour a week Danish experiment when Nine bid for the rights. But three versions Nine screened across 2015 – 2016 were a much different show to the juggernaut it is today.
“We always knew it was good. We bid for it at MIPCOM, we got the rights to it. We brought it back to Australia, we made it ourselves,” recalls Nine’s Head of Content Production & Development, Adrian Swift.
“We changed the format a little bit, but effectively, it was one hour, one night a week, at 8:30 or 8:45 on the main channel. That’s how that’s how we made it for the first three seasons.
“At the end of Season One, probably halfway through Season Three, we were being utterly destroyed by Channel Seven. We had Australia’s Got Talent which had failed miserably (even though) it was really well produced.
“At that point we thought ‘Let’s break the whole strip thing. Let’s have a new show Sunday, Monday, Tuesday.’ How silly that proved to be. My Kitchen Rules was pulling us apart. (Director of TV) Michael Healy said, ‘What are we going to do? And someone said, ‘Let’s put Married at First Sight on and just see what happens’ -knowing that it had been made as an 8:30 show.
“We put it to air once, and it just took a little bit of the 25-54 females out of My Kitchen Rules. And then the next night, a little bit more. By the time we’d gotten through the five episodes we’d put into the 7:30 slot, we could see it was just eating away at MKR.”
Nine’s own producers had been looking at ideas to add to the format. Hugh Marks, who was CEO at the time, told his team to meet with Shine to ‘supersize’ the series. It led to a ‘marrying’ of ideas.
“We had the dinner party, they come up with the commitment ceremony. That backbone in the schedule with the Sunday night dinner party, Tuesday, Wednesday night commitment ceremony, was what made the show…it was brilliant and working with them was, and remains, brilliant.”
He added, “It’s the gift that keeps on giving.”