Up until a few weeks ago, most of the country had never heard of catfishing, when someone assumes a false identity online, usually to pursue a romance.
But when the story broke that star Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o had been the victim of a catfishing scheme, suddenly everyone was curious about the term, and MTV has benefitted.
It so happens that the network has a new show devoted to the odd world of fake online romance.
“Catfish” has seen its ratings spike the past two weeks since the Te’o story broke, hitting its highest viewership since its premiere.
Last week the show, which airs at 11 p.m. on Mondays, was the No. 2 program on cable among viewers 18-34, averaging 1.42 million. The previous week “Catfish” hit a series high with 1.66 million in the demo, finishing first on cable.
Among adults 18-49, the show also hit a series high two weeks ago with 2.1 million viewers, third on cable and even outdrawing “Teen Mom II,” its hit lead-in. Last week the show averaged 1.8 million in the demo, 12th for the week.
MTV had already picked up a second season of the show, which bowed in November, before the Te’o hoax was exposed by the sports site Deadspin.com.
Up till then, the story of Te’o’s girlfriend had been one of great poignancy. The Heisman Trophy finalist said she had died on the same day as his grandmother last September, inspiring him to lead his team to the national championship game.
But as Deadspin uncovered, that girlfriend never existed. She was evidently the creation of an acquaintance of Te’o, who admits he never actually met the woman.
Te’o has claimed he was not in on the hoax, and the producer of “Catfish,” who was himself fooled by a similar scheme some years ago, has said that Te’o’s case looks like a classic catfishing hook, supporting the athlete’s claim.
Source: Media Life Magazine, 2/6/13