MKR contestants Hadil and Sonya clashed with Jess and Emma in a season that left a nasty taste.
MKR contestants Hadil and Sonya clashed with Jess and Emma in a season that left a nasty taste.

TV brawls have stopped being ratings gold

"THERE is no such thing as bad publicity."

That is what American showman P.T. Barnum is reputed to have said.

But after the bitter Kerri-Anne Kennerley versus Yumi Stynes stoush on Studio 10 you would have to wonder whether that saying is true.

Sure, Stynes labelling Kennerley a racist during a conversation about Australia Day has brought a lot of attention to a show that hardly sets the ratings alight.

But will the swirl of controversy lead to any ratings spike or is it likely to have the opposite effect - viewers deserting the sinking ship?

Early indications are the stoush didn't help Studio 10, with ratings dropping from an average of 70,000 nationally to 60,000 and 66,000 on the two days following the spat.

It is no secret that Aussie TV networks love a bit of controversy to spice up programs - especially their reality offerings but also breakfast and morning shows.

Channel 7 makes a point of including bitchy contestants who they know will stir the pot to keep viewers hooked on My Kitchen Rules.

The formula has worked with Seven's cooking show a ratings monster for most of its ten-year run.

But last year that tactic backfired spectacularly when the spat between Jess and Emma and Sonya and Hadil turned super-nasty. Allegations of bullying and a physical altercation was a line crossed.

Kerri-Anne Kennerley takes on Yumi Stynes over Invasion Day protests. Picture: Studio 10
Kerri-Anne Kennerley takes on Yumi Stynes over Invasion Day protests. Picture: Studio 10

 

This year's season of My Kitchen Rules has stumbled out of the gate, launching to 814,000 - a 31 per cent drop from last year's first episode.

Married At First Sight is another show that ramps up the controversy to get people talking and watching.

The shock affair between Davina Rankin and Dean Wells on last year's season shot ratings into the stratosphere.

This year's season started with a stoush between bride Cyrell Jiminez Paule and her brother Ivan over her decision to marry a man she had never bet.

But controversy can also be a turn-off. Just ask the makers of I'm A Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here!

Producers tried to create drama on last year's show but putting boxers Anthony Mundine and Danny Green, who hate each other's guts, into the jungle.

Later they dropped warring couple David and Lisa Oldfield into camp. The constant bickering was a massive turn-off for viewers who quickly deserted the show.

This year's program, with contestants including Angie and Yvie from Gogglebox Australia, US entertainment reporter Richard Reid, and Love Island's Justin Lackon has gone for warm-hearted laughs. Ratings have jumped more than 15 per cent year-on-year.

You couldn’t buy the publicity Karl Stefanovic’s wedding attracted, but it was anything but a ratings winner.
You couldn’t buy the publicity Karl Stefanovic’s wedding attracted, but it was anything but a ratings winner.

The Studio 10 dust-up isn't the first time that Stynes has been in the middle of a firestorm.

In 2012, Stynes was forced to apologise for comments she made on The Circle about war hero Corporal Ben Roberts-Smith.

A photograph of Roberts-Smith in a swimming pool led Stynes to say that "He's going to dive down to the bottom of the pool to see if his brain is there".

Veteran journalist George Negus chimed in saying "that sort of bloke, what if they're not up to it in the sack?"

The result? Stynes and Negus were pilloried and their popularity plummeted. Sponsors pulled advertisements. Within months The Circle had been axed.

It was the non-stop negative publicity that killed Karl Stefanovic on Today - the end of his marriage, the Ubergate scandal, and the over-the-top Mexican wedding.

Stars such as Kyle Sandilands and Sam Newman built their fame on being outspoken and creating headlines.

Sandilands caused a ruction when he said that 2005 Australian Idol winner Kate DeAraugo had "tuck shop lady arms".

Casting enemies Anthony Mundine and Danny Green on I’m a Celebrity last year was a transparent attempt to whip up controversy, when that’s not what viewers want from the show.
Casting enemies Anthony Mundine and Danny Green on I’m a Celebrity last year was a transparent attempt to whip up controversy, when that’s not what viewers want from the show.


Newman's antics on the AFL version of The Footy Show including appearing in blackface, pulling out a bong and groping a mannequin with the face of female sports journalist.

Sonia Kruger's appeal took a hit when she was condemned for her 2016 comments about Muslim immigrants and LGBTI student scholarships on the Today show.

Everyone is talking about Tony Jones' awkward interview with Australian Open Women's Singles winner Naomi Osaka. Jones is making publicity for all the wrong reasons.

Given the fact that Studio 10 runs a mind-numbing three-and-a-half hours per weekday there is always the chance of something going awry.

Last year the show was embroiled in a feud between Ita Buttrose and Denise Drysdale amid 'the Brussels sprout incident'.

Now Studio 10 is back in the headlines thanks to the Kennerley versus Stynes spat.

There might be some at Channel 10 who think that is a good thing. Better to be talked about, however disparagingly than to be ignored, which is the show's fate most of the time.

But there is another way to look at it. Sometimes you're best to keep your head down and simply make thoughtful, compelling television.

It doesn't hurt to not be constantly in the spotlight. Let's face it, all that hoopla gets tired pretty quickly.

Colin Vickery is a News Corp national TV writer.

@colvick



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