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On Wednesday evening, the most unpredictably predictable happened: The Masked Singer revealed that Rudy Giuliani was its last member in disguise. Very Few Homes Were Shocked – Deadline informed about the former mayor of New York appearing on the show in February — but when Giuliani reprized his performance of George Thorogood and the Ravagers’ “Bad to the Bone,” Judge Ken Jeong walked off the stage in obvious disgust. The fact that the show’s producers brought in an adviser to former President Donald Trump in an attempt to gain attention isn’t much of a surprise. But the fact that the gambit did not work should be.
Television shows, whether they be news programs or reality shows, invite controversial, lightning-proof guests to gain ratings. This is, to use a cliché, one of the oldest tricks in the book. Actually it’s a trick The Masked Singer pulled before; In early 2020, the show featured former VP candidate Sarah Palin. However, this performance was drowned out by the news that Tom Hanks was Covid-19. Meanwhile, Giuliani’s appearance was overshadowed by (among other things) the fact that he subpoenaed committee investigating the January 6 uprising at the US Capitol for perpetuating false claims that the 2020 election was stolen from Trump.
When the show aired Wednesday night, Twitter was littered with comments—mostly negative—about Giuliani’s appearance. But all that chatter, usually golden for a TV show trying to attract viewers, didn’t translate into huge ratings. The show only drew 3.6 million viewers. lowest season already. It appears that those who tuned in only did so to make sure that the dystopian moment they were reading about actually happened – and that Jung left, which he did, stating, “I’m done.”
Perhaps so are the audience. As much as they enjoyed watching train wrecks play out on TV screens, the failure of Giuliani’s appearance on The Masked Singer To snatch ratings, it is shown that casting tricks of this kind has limits. Invitation from former White House press secretary Sean Spicer to Dancing with the Stars tiptoeing to the line; Giuliani seems to have crossed it. Sometimes lightning rods just blow you up.
The Masked SingerThe drop in ratings comes at a difficult time for network television. Yes, the industry has been facing stiff competition from streaming services for years, but broadcast television has lagged far behind in recent times. Only this week Nielsen reported in March, streaming content accounted for about 30 percent of TV viewers, while broadcast content fell below 25 percent. Cable television accounted for the majority of viewing time – 37 percent – but this was mainly due to news broadcasts covering Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. And if we’ve learned anything this week, it’s that traditional television can’t just jump into the streaming game and expect to hook viewers even if that streaming service is offering news. (TEAR, CNN+.)
So what is the television network to do? It’s hard to keep up when hit makers like Shonda Rhimes leave networks for streamers like Netflix, but even Netflix has bad week when it comes to keeping people informed. And indeed, it seems that the problem lies in keeping people around. For years, streaming services like Netflix have attracted new users by offering flashy shows that they rarely kept for more than a few seasons. They managed to keep the majority of viewers, but even this method cannot last forever. With so many viewing options, booking button-pushing guests like Giuliani or adding flashy shows that lose their luster after one season won’t keep people coming back for more. Audiences crave consistency. Turn Rudy Giuliani into a heck out of the box, right?
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