The Lost Audience
After thirteen seasons of dedicated viewing, I no longer watch MasterChef Australia*.
I call my viewing dedicated because even if there were a couple of seasons of dipping in and out (example season five), my enthusiasm and passion for the other seasons surely makes up for it. Up until this season I was a MasterChef fanatic, passionately discussing, defending, and teaching the show. However, this year all that changed and, unfortunately, it wasn’t surprising.
The following is a look at MasterChef’s growth and fade out based on actual data and my memory.
A very critical time for MasterChef was when established judges Gary Mehigan, Matt Preston and George Calombaris left at the end of Season 11. It was a shitstorm of a time. Calombaris was being exposed for dodgy payment practices which masked or produced an excuse as to why the trio’s contract wasn’t going to be renewed. I remember at the time, the three of them providing a package deal, if one of them was going they were all going. From the audience’s perspective, it was unclear as to whether they were ever going to stay. Channel Ten stated they couldn’t come to a deal over salaries.
I thought this was it for me. I know a lot of people didn’t like the judges (or the show for that matter), but I adored them. I enjoyed the synergy, the kind of chemistry which only comes from people liking each other, spending time together and getting to do something they were passionate about together. I could see what each of their personalities brought to the show, the excitement they had when Shannon Bennet came into the kitchen for example. I got a thrill out of the way that Gary was able to mentor, George would tell it straight and Matt would put words together to talk about food. Also, Season 10 saw my beloved Sachi Cheliah win. I was happy to tap out.
Then the promotion started for Season 12: Back to Win.
They got me again. In a genius move, the producers of MasterChef safeguarded three new judges by bringing back previous contestants who had missed out on the trophy. A nice way to soften the blow. So, I started watching again. I like the ‘new’ judges. It was apparent that Andy Allen, Jock Zonfrillo and Melissa Leong have a great rapport and were interested in what they were doing. Their first season also saw Gordon Ramsay there to hold the hands of them and their viewers. We were all going through this transition together. Lockdown had us needing hope and comfort, MasterChef provided that. Viewer numbers proved that.
Season 13 was a return to form; budding chefs entered the competition to win the title. Cleverly, audition processes were trimmed, and we were thrown in the action much quicker than in previous seasons. Still in lockdown, the show rode the waves having world famous chefs appear by video, social distancing but still getting the job done.
This brings us to Season 14, Fans VS Favourites. Very Survivor of them. This season sees previous winners and MasterChef favourites amongst the standard MasterChef contestants. The biggest storyline is that Julie, winner of the first ever season is back in the kitchen. This is massive. And, for a long-time fan, it was also very exciting.
But before I’d even seen it I vowed not to watch it. I was done. I ignored the season premiere, I had people tell me I’d cave. I had some very reasonable people suggest I watch it and then decide. Fair enough. So, I did.
I didn’t love it, but I didn’t hate it either. It was very familiar and there are few things I enjoy more than putting on a favourite show whilst eating dinner on the couch. Very few in fact. But I very quickly realised that I wasn’t enjoying it and I was watching it out of habit. So, I stopped, and this time I haven’t gone back. I have no idea what’s happening, and I have very little investment. It seems like I am not the only one who feels this way. MasterChef numbers are dire. As we saw at the end of Season 11, and now. And if they’ve lost me, a hardcore fan who owns her very own MasterChef apron (with my name embroidered on it and all), what’s going on?
Ads are one way that audiences are being pushed away. As discussed in this article, streaming services have spoilt us and we no longer wish to sit through an hour of TV, a third of which is commercials.
The excitement for new content is another reason that audiences are shifting. MasterChef is a somewhat tired show. There’s comfort in the same show but 14 seasons is equal to 14 years and tastes change. No pun intended. Much has been written about how Netflix Originals often outrank other content. We like new. Not too new, but that’s a whole other thing.
Ten Play doesn’t have the most intuitive catch-up service either. This article which discusses the changes in how family’s watch content talks about the fact we often watch things when we feel like them, as opposed to when the TV guide tells us they’re on.
Personally, I feel like all these things have made a difference. After watching majority of content on streaming services, settling into TV with ads is very jarring, and draining. The ads don’t go away on catch up either, in fact, they’re worse often playing the same ad over and over.
I loved MasterChef hard when I watched it, and I gave it my all. But after this long, I’m ready to leave it to other people to love.
*Let’s just assume that whenever I am talking about MasterChef in this article I am talking about MasterChef Australia.