Back in June we wrote a blog post on whether or not Masterchef as a brand was being social enough. Our conclusion at the time was we thought they were not engaging enough with the fans of the show and in fact Channel Ten and the producers, Freemantle Media were really not engaging at all; preferring to just use social media for outbound marketing but to stay out of true engagement. And we speculated that this might end up being a chink in the Masterchef brand and franchise machine.
Since then both Channel 10 and Freemantle Media have made so many missteps in bringing the show to air and subsequently trying to repair the damage in social channels its difficult to know where to start. But on virtually every occassion they have handled the situation poorly and because of the lack of their previous engagement, they have failed miserably in most attempts to get fans to play ball.
One good example was when they aired a promotion for the following week when the show was going to be in New York and the footage gave away the result of a challenge that had not yet been aired. When fans lamblasted them in twitter and facebook and other social channels for this they made a post asking fans not to reveal the outcome. This got a predictable reaction with fans pointing out, sometimes in very blunt terms, that is was not their problem that the show had screwed up. When you don't engage with your fans you can't expect much sympathy or help. And that is exactly what we tell people all the time - if you don't engage in two way dialogue in social media and then you try to use the channel later to address a crisis - you will not succeed.
In our view, they have also poorly moderated some of the social channels - Facebook in particular. They ask people not post inappropriate langauge and their Facebook page has the rules for posting and comments. One of the downsides of the social web is that every fool who can spell in four letter words has an equal say. But they could have moderated the page and removed those comments - yet chose not to or were too lazy. Either way, they got more of what they asked for.
Which brings us to last nights finale. Which appears to be a PR disaster and wasn't so hot in the ratings department either. Someone in their wisdom decided in a cynical way to split the finale in two to cross promote another Channel 10 show - the Renovators. This appears to have backfired badly, with the headlines screaming lines like "Masterchef fans left in a stew". And when you have not been engaging this just gets amplified the wrong way. And no one even attempted to explain why - leaving fans to feel reasonably exploited. This comes on top of the issues discussed above and lots of commentary on the 'grating vaudeville comments' of the judges and guest chefs.
So we had a quick look at the social streams today to confirm the sentiment being spoken about around water coolers everywhere:
This is just examining the number of negative comments in the various social data streams but there is certainly a significant uptick from the show last night! And the negativity is carrying across all channels. Here are just some of the Twitter comments that were pretty common:
And followers of #masterchef from other parts of the world last night must have been wondering what was going on with the sudden spike in tweets and the awful sentiment carried through most of them. We did indicate in our previous post on Masterchef that we thought it was a good idea to create a unique hashtag for the Australian show but that has fallen on deaf ears and the #masterchef stream is a confusing mix of comments on at least 3 different Masterchef programs being run currently in different parts of the world.
Perhaps the biggest shame of course to real fans of the show is that the finale and the announcement of the winner are being very much over shadowed by much of the commentary on the handling of the scheduling of last nights episode. And perhaps the network was a victim of its own policies - the winner was being discussed in the twitter stream at least 30 minutes before the show's conclusion and official announcement. Perhaps the show's renovatus interruptis was a late decision that didnt find its way to the pre filmed promotions and advertisements because one of the other channels aired an advertisement for a womens magazine who were talking about their interview with Kate as the winner!
So much of the gloss of the finale has been taken off by some poor decisions, not only on the final night but during the course of the entire season. The word cloud for last shows that whilst Masterchef as a brand and even the winner to some extent were prominent in the discussion - there were other topics getting a lot of airplay:
One of the other common themes and comments was the choice of the dish to finish off the contest. Most people did not think it was either relevant or particularly tasty as a concept.
But as you can see here, the brand message was not preserved by the antics surrounding the show last night.
So, what was the outcome? Well, we would suggest it was somewhat disappointing with the number of viewers down 30% on the finale from the previous year. Masterchef has generally not been rating as well as last season when the finale was the most watched show in TV history and this year the finale will not even be the top rating show for this season. When you don't engage your fans in a conversation; and you don't listen to what they saying then sooner or later they are going to start deserting you. And as we analysed back in June, this franchise is doing neither. However, when you don't listen you can always continue to delude yourself that all is well and Freemantle Media today released a PR statement saying that they now had the Top 3 rating shows of this year so far. Guess the fact that it was down 30% on last year and that the buzz is dominated by the poor handling of the show and the series doesn't really matter at all when you aren't listening.
Can Masterchef Australia be Renovated? Not unless someone takes a very different attitude to engaging with the people who make the show what it is - the fans and followers. And we don't see that on the horizon. My bet is that this franchise will be dead in two years.