“We’re Not Just About Married At First Sight”: Nine’s Michael Stephenson

“We’re Not Just About Married At First Sight”: Nine’s Michael Stephenson
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Having wrapped up the fourth season of Married at First Sight last night to a record audience figure of 1.39 million (according to OzTAM), Nine’s chief sales officer, Michael Stephenson, admits the flagship dating program did much better than expected, but the TV network is not prepared to rest on its laurels.

Speaking to B&T, Stephenson said Married at First Sight has surpassed all expectations, both in terms of the audience that it’s delivered on air and in catch-up.

For a show to average nearly two million viewers across the country last night, nearly 1.4 million viewers in the metro markets, but importantly 720,000 viewers in the 25 to 54 age bracket, is a breakaway success,” he said.

“We had a plan to deliver 25 to 54-year-olds and growth in the thousands within the audience that we could in that time slot, and Married at First Sight has done all of that and more.

“I think we always felt confident that it would deliver a strong female audience, and we saw that in the first couple of series when it was up against [Seven’s] MKR – that it had this ability to take and aggregate a younger female audience, and that’s what it has proven to have done this year.”

Nine is already advertising another romance reality TV program off the back of Married at First Sight.

Set on a tropical island, The Last Resort features five long-term couples who take part in an experiment to try and save their troubled relationships, with the help of experts.

However, Stephenson insists the network isn’t getting bogged down in romance reality TV.

“We’re not just about Married at First Sight and The Last Resort. What we’re about is really great Australian content, and Married at First Sight is the first cab off the rank, but there’s still a lot more to come,” he said.

“I think in any schedule, what you’ve got to have is a really great balance. We’re coming out of the back of Married at First Sight and straight into The Voice. That coming in at 7:30pm and being supported by The Last Resort, Love Child and House of Bond, in addition to the rest of our schedule, gives media buyers a great opportunity to have a diverse schedule.”

But with Seven recently canning The X Factor Australia and Ten’s Australian Idol a distant memory, does The Voice risk becoming obsolete?

“With any format, you need to be continually reinventing it, and I think that’s what our content creators have done beautifully over the last six years with The Voice.

“The brand is incredibly strong and beautifully produced. It looks and feels big, and I think that’s one of its core points of differentiation. So, I see there’s definitely longevity in that format.”

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