While CTV formally announced its intention to bring viewers a second helping of its hit reality series Masterchef Canada this week, the Bell Media network sensed early on that the show had the right ingredients for a sustained run.
“We knew in our hearts about four to six weeks ago that it was extremely likely it would come back,” said Phil King, president, CTV, sports and entertainment programming with Bell Media, after the second season was announced Monday.
King said he would be “shocked” if the reality series—which pits home cooks against one another in a series of professionally judged challenges—doesn’t become a multi-year franchise similar to its U.S. counterpart, which begins its fifth season next month.
“Canadians seem to love this show as much as the U.S. version,” said King. Masterchef Canada has averaged 1.7 million viewers 2+ in its first season—971,000 of them female—to regularly win its Monday 8 p.m. timeslot. It has averaged 788,000 viewers 18-49 and 819,000 viewers 25-54, with an average 56% female skew.
It has also attracted a grocery cart full of marketer partners, with Kraft coming on as lead sponsor and having its hero brands Kraft Peanut Butter, Philadelphia Cream Cheese and Kraft Shredded Cheese featured in a variety in-show integrations. Kraft also has a robust online presence at CTV.ca/MasterchefCanada, with the “In the Kitchen” section featuring weekly recipes inspired by home cooks using its products, while Facebook and Twitter posts also push to Kraft content.
Labatt’s Alexander Keith’s brand, meanwhile, was featured in a challenge where a uniquely Canadian cooking ingredient was paired with the beer. Home appliance maker Miele was also prominently featured within the content of the show.
“That’s what advertisers want nowadays,” said King. “They’ve been pushing this company to create more of these types of shows because it’s what people seem to want.”
The high level of advertiser involvement also ensured the show was profitable. “You don’t bring back shows that don’t make money,” said King. “The year you see me cancel it will be the year we didn’t make money. That’s why So You Think You Can Dance Canada and Canadian Idol eventually wound up their run. Eventually things do wear down, but we think we’re just starting.”
CTV brass had high expectations for Masterchef when its first elimination episode premiered immediately after the Super Bowl—“Not a timeslot you give up to just any old show,” said King—and the show’s success has justified their faith.
The first episode attracted 1.4 million viewers, and has grown since then. It regularly beats the established Global Television hit Bones and, more recently, has held its own against competition from the NHL playoffs.
“We don’t have to see next week’s finale—we know it will be huge,” said King.
King said the success is attributable to a company-wide commitment to these “tent-pole” shows beginning with independent production teams (Masterchef Canada is produced by Proper Television, with Shine International as worldwide distributor) to Bell Media’s promotion, scheduling, marketing and promotions teams.
“We haven’t taken our foot off the gas, promotion-wise, during the entire 15 weeks, and it’s paid off,” said King. “If you’ve got a great show and put some real marketing muscle behind it, this can happen. We’ve done it twice now, and I think we’re the best in Canada at doing it.”
One key contributor to the show’s success is a “multimillion” dollar budget that ensures it replicates the look and feel of its U.S. counterpart. “You can’t give viewers the $1.99 version or they’ll dismiss it out-of-hand,” said King. “The average viewer can really see the difference in quality, and that’s very key to keeping shows going.”
CTV has enjoyed significant success adapting popular U.S. reality shows for the Canadian market, most recently with The Amazing Race Canada, which will be back for a second season after averaging 3.3 million viewers per episode as a summer show.
It continues a programming trend started when the network brought singing show Canadian Idol to CTV. That show was also an early ratings hit, only to falter as it went on.
King said the longer the show went on, the harder it became to find top-notch singing talent, leading to softening ratings before the show was “suspended” by CTV in 2008, just prior to what would have been its seventh season.
That’s not a problem likely to affect Masterchef Canada, said King. “It’s a wider base of people from various age groups that are likely to want to come in,” he said. “With Canadian Idol you weren’t going to take a 50-year-old man, but he could be a Masterchef [competitor]. We won’t run out of awesome contestants as quickly as we did on Canadian Idol.”