The culinary contest/reality TV MasterChef series proved so popular in Australia that it outranked national politicians. The pre-election television debate between Prime Minister Julia Gillard and the leader of the opposition, Tony Abbott, had to be moved to a different time slot because it would clash with the MasterChef Series II final. And no prizes for guessing which program rated better.
That final, on Channel 10, became the third most-watched program in the history of Australian television. In 2010 the MasterChef series was also a star performer at the television industry’s Logie Awards, picking up the award for “Best Reality Show”.
The Gillard/Abbott debate was originally scheduled to air at 7.30 on Sunday 25 July 2010 in the lead-up to Australia’s federal election in August. However, they were up against one of the most popular series ever seen on Australian television. On that night, the winner of the 84-episode cooking competition was to be announced.
The MasterChef Series I finale had out-rated every other program of 2009, including State of Origin football, with the number of viewers peaking at 4.11 million. Since the second series of the show had consistently out-rated Series I throughout its season, similar or better numbers were expected for the Series II finale. The pollies very wisely came to a bipartisan decision to move their debate to 6.30.
The series was won by lawyer Adam Liaw who has gone on to become a noted television personality and the host of many cooking shows. The program in which the winner was announced was watched by an average national audience of 5.29 million, peaking at 5.74 million. It remains the largest TV audience in Australian history for any program other than a sporting event.
Since that time, however, MasterChef ratings have steadily declined, in line with lower audience figures for television viewing generally – a trend attributed to the growing popularity of streaming services.