Ten’s Stephen Tate on why The Masked Singer snowballs from episode to episode

Ahead of the return of The Masked Singer, Ten ViacomCBS head of entertainment, Stephen Tate, chats with Mumbrella's Zanda Wilson about what audiences find appealing about the "crazy" format, and how curiosity about who is under the mask helps the show grow audiences throughout each season.

The Masked Singer will return to screens on Monday, 13 September on Network Ten, with the Korean-founded reality format back for a third season.

As with many formats out of Korea, it’s known for its crazy costumes and over-the-top, bizarre presentation style. The format has been successful both in the US and here in Australia, where the finales of the first two seasons each brought in over a million metro viewers.

“I think the main lesson that we’ve learned is you can’t make it crazy enough,” Ten ViacomCBS head of entertainment, Stephen Tate, tells Mumbrella. “It is a completely bonkers format, and the audience just loves how silly and pure the entertainment is, and so we steer right into that.”

Judges Dave Hughes, Jackie O, Urzila Carlson & Dannii Minogue, with host Usher Günsberg

Returning this year are all four judges from the 2020 season: Dave Hughes, Jackie ‘O’ Henderson and Dannii Minogue, as well as comedian Urzila Carlson, who was subbed in for the last season as a replacement for season one judge Lindsay Lohan, who was unable to travel to Australia amid COVID regulations. Also returning is host Osher Günsberg, who also hosts The Bachelor on Ten. 

Tate said the judges are only getting better and more entertaining, though said Ten wouldn’t rule out bringing Lohan back for future seasons if it were possible.

We are thrilled to have everybody back, David, Jackie, Dannii and Urzila all really gelled well last year. We would have loved to have Lindsay as well, and we did look at that to see whether it was possible or not, but it was one of those situations where we had to make a call.

“We weren’t able to make a commitment at the right time, But hopefully down the track, we’ll have Lindsay back.

“The judges all have the wind in their sails. It shouldn’t be lost on anybody that The Masked Singer was one of Ten’s most successful entertainment shows in 2020,” Tate adds.

“So they’re making a show that Australia has fallen in love with and they just have pure fun with it. It has no reason to exist other than to bring pure entertainment, and that’s kind of the mantra that we will take into the show. “

The 2020 season was marred by a COVID breach that shut down production, but Tate says that learnings have been taken from that incident. “Obviously, lockdown and COVID protocols have impact on every [Network Ten] production.

“It’s not something that we take lightly at all. In fact, we take learnings from every single production. The overall learning is that COVID is not only a company and a production responsibility. It’s primarily an individual responsibility. So all of us make an undertaking to stay within the bubble.

“That does have an impact on your personal life. You have to be lateral about all the normal things you do in your everyday life, in order to protect our ability to keep making a television program.”

Stephen Tate

Over the past two seasons, The Masked Singer has grown audience from episode one through to the finale. Tate says that while the show “delivers a mask reveal every single episode”, he also admits that it tends to draw more viewers as curiosity builds over who is under the mask.

“It’s a very clever format. It delivers every single episode. You’re not waiting for weeks on end, and people are absolutely certain they know who is under a mask but that doesn’t stop them watching, in fact they love having that ‘I told you so’ moment [that tends to happen later in the season].”

So what’s the proposition for advertisers, what does The Masked Singer Deliver them in terms of audience and integration? According to Tate, yes.

“It delivers incredibly strongly in our core demo which is 18-49. But it is a very very broad format and is a format that unites families on the couch. It has a sense of event and it performs,” Tate says.

He also admits ongoing lockdowns will only deliver a boost for ratings and advertisers, because “there have never been more eyeballs watching TV in Aussie TV history. So rightly or wrongly, yes [lockdowns will help].”

Without disclosing the names of actual sponsors, Ten national sales director, Lisa Squillace, adds: “The Masked Singer Australia has been supported by some fantastic new and returning sponsors who see the value in aligning with this brand.

“We can’t wait to unmask their creative integrations.”


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