Start Up Blog

Why Masterchef works

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on July 26, 2010

Masterchef has truly been a phenomenon in Australia over the past 2 seasons. A ratings boon which is rare in our fragmented media environment. In fact it was watched by an average 3.54 million, up from 3.29 million last year. This makes it the most watched non sporting event in Australian history. It’s not hard to find a Masterchef fan, but not being one I was curious what all the fuss was about so I endured a few episodes. I didn’t catch the bug and so asked some colleagues why they believe (from an advertising, marketing and media perspective) it did so well. The best description I got was from Paul Gardner who summarised it as follows:

He said there has been three distinct phases in the evolution of reality TV.

1. Hoons & Havoc. Lock up a group of  highly charged youths in a house filled with alcohol and sexualy energy and see what happens. Think Big Brother.
2. The Challenge. Take a group of normal people outside of their comfort zone to compete in a Spartan like fashion.  See what behaviour humans will stoop to in order to win and prove superiority. An observation of social interaction at a draconian level. Think Survivor.
3. Denied Talent. Take a group of people who have some genuine flair for something, who have not been given the chance (for whatever reason) to display their talent. Give the competitors potential for a new start, to chance become entrepreneurs. Make the show inclusive, yet competitive. Add a sense of collaboration and educational good for all. Build a result into the show which isn’t purely financial but provides recognition and a new direction. Overall, make it represent the values of a modern civilised society. This is what Masterchef has done.


The thing that’s really impressive about Masterchef from a marketing perspective is that they took the well worn genre of ‘cooking’ understood the important nuances of human behaviour and made it something much bigger than anyone ever expected.

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5 Responses

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  1. Behind the Line said, on July 26, 2010 at 11:57 am

    I also think it’s to do with the fact people can related to it, in terms of most people can cook… as opposed to SYTYCD and Idol where you need to have real physical attributes with cooking everyone does it in some way and is learning about things they could do. There is a real sense of that could be me… as opposed to a lot of other reality tv where most people think it’s beyond them

    • Steve Sammartino said, on July 26, 2010 at 12:07 pm

      Totally, it’s much closer to a real life situation than most other so called reality TV shows have been.
      Steve.

  2. Adam Joseph said, on July 26, 2010 at 12:09 pm

    I like social commentator David Chalke’s take on the success of MasterChef, based on trend analysis from AustraliaScan:

    http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/masterchef-a-phenomenon-waiting-to-happen/story-fn5mfq13-1225896457641

  3. Mayav said, on July 26, 2010 at 12:37 pm

    Education + Entertainment = #Win

  4. Mary Henderson said, on July 26, 2010 at 5:59 pm

    I just love this analogy. Deep down, we all fit into one of these categories so of course reality TV will be a hit. What is even more compelling is the longevity of the show and brand after the show (has ended) which all happens online. Consumers will be downloading recipees and watching the episodes over and over again. Its an organic virus and a perfect recipee all round for advertisers and consumers!


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