Jersey Shore Shows That Controversy is King

On the night of its big premiere, Jersey Shore averaged 1.375 million viewers and a 0.8/2 A18-49 rating.  It fared better with adults 18-34, earning a 1.2/4 rating/share. To translate: The ratings were low. Much lower than MTV expected. At the time, it appeared Jersey Shore would bomb.

jersey_shoreFast forward several weeks, and Jersey Shore finale is setting MTV ratings records, drawing in 4.8 million viewers. That’s about 3 times as many viewers as the premiere attracted.

This begs the question: How did the show experience such a huge turnaround from the premiere to the finale? The answer: It’s all about the power of controversy.

After audiences got a taste of the debauchery taking place on Jersey Shore, the complaints about the show started flooding in. The National Italian American Foundation, the Order Sons of Italy in America, and UNICO National were just a few of the groups to rail against Jersey Shore and MTV for its use of ethnic slurs and the way it marginalized Italian Americans. In other words, they felt the show was offensive and stereotypical.

But these weren’t the only ones against Jersey Shore. Advertisers began pulling their commercials from appearing during the show. Domino’s Pizza, American Family Insurance, and Dell all ripped their ads after seeing the debut. And the companies that continued to advertise during Jersey Shore were blasted by special interests groups for supporting “anti-Italian” programming.

MTV employees even received death threats!

All of this controversy got the MTV reality show coverage on national TV news shows, major newspapers, magazines, and blogs. It was often a trending topic on Twitter as well.

Unfortunately, for all those protesting Jersey Shore, their efforts backfired on them. Instead of getting the show taken off the air, viewers started flocking to the show in droves to see what all of the buzz was about. Each week, the ratings for Jersey Shore continued to increase, and each week, protesters continued to get more and more angry with the shenanigans of Snooki, The Situation, Pauly D, JWOWW, and others.

After the smash-hit finale, MTV execs immediately went to work to convince the cast to come back for a second season. The show that once looked like a ratings disaster was now so successful that the cast mates were in a position to negotiate contracts that reportedly will pay each of them $10,000 per episode. When you add in the high fees these now famous cast members are fetching for appearances at clubs and parties, it seems that all the controversy helped them fatten their bank accounts considerably.

Will Jersey Shore season 2 be able to generate the same buzz and controversy as the first season? Or will it burn out and fade away? Only time will tell, but the monumental ratings turnaround in the first season is proof that controversy is king.

This article is written by Mickie Kennedy, founder of eReleases (, the online leader in affordable press release distribution. To subscribe to PR Fuel, visit:

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