When the Manti Te'o hoax girlfriend broke in media last week, my immediate thought was: "The team working on MTV's 'Catfish' must be popping champagne."
Maybe that's a stretch, but the national interest in "catfishing" sparked by the Te'o internet girlfriend tale served as a prime marketing springboard for the late-night MTV reality show.("Catfishing," for those not familiar with the term, is forming an online relationship a person while deceiving them regarding your true identity.)
Nev Schulman, the face of "Catfish," and the exec producers from RelativityREAL were used as experts in the "catfishing" phenomenon on numerous national news outlets, both online and on-air, supplementing coverage of the Te'o debacle. MTV also offered articles regarding the hoax, citing its newbie reality show throughout. And, luckily for the production team, the Te'o scandal emerged while "Catfish's" season one run was still underway.
It was a promo opp made in internet heaven.
On Monday, Jan. 14, "Catfish" pulled 2.17 million total viewers. The Manti Te'o scandal surfaced on Wednesday, Jan. 16, thanks to an article on Deadspin. This week's "Catfish," which aired on the 21st, then landed over 2.75 million viewers, its highest ratings performance to date.
Hopefully the new viewers stick around and continue to tune into the show. "Catfish" was renewed last year for a second season, and still is, in my opinion, one of the greatest reality shows on TV today. A wise move on the part of MTV could be moving the program up to an earlier timeslot, since the 11pm timeslot discourages live-viewing in favor of DVR, VOD and streaming the following day. But, more than anything, the Manti Te'o hoax is proof that there is a national fascination with catfishing and internet relationships. People are hungry for more info.
And MTV and RelativityREAL are more than happy to give the people what they want.