At first glance, it appears MKR is being broken up and sold for spare parts.
“But it would be a brave programmer to say the show is over and done with,” says Ben Willee, general manager and media director of the Spinach advertising agency. “It’s been a ratings juggernaut for so many years. We’ve seen other reality shows reinvent themselves and Seven would have to be very confident about what they put in MKR’s place before they axe it.”
People said cooking shows were on the way out after MKR’s ratings went down but now MasterChef is doing really well.
Australian talent agent
The show’s value to Seven, Willee says, extends beyond the size of its audience. An original Seven creation, MKR has been sold to more than 160 countries and its format licensed to several international markets. Like most reality franchises, MKR commands a premium from sponsors who want their product featured in the program as well as the ad breaks. It also punches above its weight in the lucrative 25-54 demographic, including those who do the bulk of their household’s grocery shopping.
“MKR gave Seven credibility because it delivered a big audience early in the year, which advertisers love,” Willee says. “There’s nothing worse for a network than being on the back foot and having to do make-goods [compensatory advertising] when they don’t deliver their forecast ratings.”
TV Tonight editor David Knox says the negative press Evans attracted for his alternative health claims – including his promotion of a “light machine” as a possible coronavirus treatment, resulting in a $25,000 fine to his company from the Therapeutic Goods Administration last month – became a growing problem for Seven.
“Within the confines of MKR, Evans was a terrific talent: personable, articulate and good chemistry with Manu,” Knox says. “Outside the show, Evans’ remarks began to confuse viewers, especially when MKR dishes seemed to contradict [his endorsement of the Paleolithic diet] … headlines kept the network in damage control while the ratings were going down – and something had to give.”
Knox believes the only option for Seven is to “rest and re-think” the format. At least one local talent agent agrees.
“It’ll probably come back in a different form; maybe a shorter-run series that doesn’t require viewers to commit to four nights a week over two months,” says the agent, who asked not be named because of their commercial relationships with various networks. “People said cooking shows were on the way out after MKR’s ratings went down but now MasterChef is doing really well.”
One of the biggest problems for MKR, the agent says, is that it went head-to-head with Nine’s popular Married At First Sight. (Nine is the owner of this masthead.)
“The tone of MKR this year was more similar to MAFS than MasterChef,” the agent says. “It had that bitchy undercurrent of contestants sitting around judging each other rather than the food and viewers chose to get their fill of bitchy TV from MAFS.”
Both Knox and the agent point out that MKR, like Ten’s MasterChef and Nine’s The Block, has enjoyed an unusually long and successful run. (Compared to last year, MasterChef’s metropolitan ratings are up almost 50 per cent to 1.06 million.) Revamping MKR in 2021 or “resting” it before a 2022 relaunch could help win back disaffected viewers.
“Sometimes a program needs a bit of a shake-up,” the agent says. “There’s still an appetite for prime time cooking shows but the way the networks do them will probably start to change.”
Michael Lallo is a senior culture writer at The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald.