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What Does TV-MA Mean on Netflix?

Posted by Anna Middleton on June 21, 2019
What Does TV-MA Mean on Netflix

If you’ve been browsing the Netflix catalog in search for the next TV show to binge, you might have noticed that the vast majority of the most popular shows are labeled TV-MA. What does MA stand for and who is the show made for? Hang on as we inspect MA and other ratings Netflix uses for its shows.

History of the TV Ratings

The rating system for movies was established back in 1968, but its TV show counterpart wouldn’t be introduced for the next 28 years. In 1996, following the adoption of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, entertainment industry leaders pledged to provide such a system. MPAA, NCTA, and NAB led the initiative and the system was to be applied on both cable and broadcast TV programs, excluding sports, news, and commercials.

Netflix Laptop

On December 19 of the same year, the TV Parental Guidelines were announced. The system officially launched on January 1, 1997. It was modeled after the movie rating system. A revised version of the system, containing six categories, was introduced on August 1, 1997. In addition to the ratings, the system was enhanced with a set of five content descriptors.

The icons for each rating and descriptor were adopted. Also, it was established that the rating symbol would be displayed for 15 seconds at the start of each episode of a rated program. Finally, on March 12, 1998, the FCC adopted the proposed rating system.

TV-MA Rating on Netflix

The TV-MA rating you see on many Netflix TV shows means that the program is suited for mature viewers only. The rating can be assigned by Netflix or the TVPG (TV Parental Guidelines) on Netflix’s request.

The TV-MA rating denotes that a particular TV show contains graphic violence, foul language, graphic sex scenes, or a combination thereof. It is roughly comparable to the NC-17 and R ratings for movies which are assigned by the MPAA’s Classification and Rating Administration.

For example, Dark, Bad Blood, and High Seas are all rated TV-MA. With them, many of the Netflix original Marvel TV shows bear the Mature Audiences Only badge. Daredevil, Jessica Jones, and the Punisher are prominent examples. Many of Netflix’s original comedy shows, such as Easy and Orange Is the New Black are also geared towards adult audiences.

Aside from the original TV shows, Netflix also streams a huge variety of TV shows made by other companies. Black Mirror (which has since become a Netflix original), Outlander, and Breaking Bad, made by other companies and available to stream on Netflix, are also rated TV-MA.

Man Watching TV

Interestingly enough, Netflix’s TV shows with the TV-MA rating tend to perform best and rake in the biggest portion of the profits for the company. Consequently, such shows routinely get the biggest filming budgets and there are always new adult-oriented shows in development.

Truth be told, the largest portion of the users are adults and older teens, so the inclination towards the more mature content is understandable.

Netflix Ratings for Younger Audiences

Netflix also uses a set of ratings for programs intended for younger viewers. Shows appropriate for teens are rated TV-14. In the Older Kids category, you can find the TV-Y7, TV-Y7-VF, and TV-PG ratings, while the shows intended for little kids can have TV-Y and TV-G ratings. Here’s a word or two on each.

  1. Shows rated TV14 are not meant for viewers under the age of 14. You can expect to encounter crude humor, foul language, alcohol and drug use, and strong violence. Mildly suggestive dialogues and themes might also appear.
  2. TV-Y7 and TV-Y7-VF-rated programs shouldn’t be watched by kids under the age of 7 or kids that can’t yet distinguish between fantasy and reality. If a show also has the VF tag, it may contain fantasy violence, such as fights between giant robots, superheroes, or fantastic creatures.
  3. TV-PG rating is there to denote shows that may contain moderate violence, suggestive dialogue, some sexual content, and inappropriate language.
  4. TV-Y rating is there for shows that are appropriate for all kids, regardless of their age. Shows in this category are completely geared towards the youngest viewers.
  5. TV-G-rated shows are OK for all viewers. However, the content of the show may not be designed specifically for little kids. You shouldn’t expect violence, suggestive themes, sexual content, nudity, or foul language in these shows.

Content Descriptors

Though the six-category rating system might be considered comprehensive enough, it also features a set of content descriptors that offer more detailed info on the TV show’s content. These are L, S, V, FV, and D. Let’s examine each.

  1. The L designation is there for coarse language. It is usually present at the TV-14 level, though some TV-MA shows display it too if foul language is used extensively on the show.
  2. TV shows with the S descriptor have sexual content. Again, you’re more likely to find it on TV-14 and TV-MA shows than anywhere else.
  3. D is for suggestive dialogue. Many TV-14 programs have this descriptor displayed next to their rating. Suggestive dialogue might include sexual innuendo and themes otherwise inappropriate for younger audiences.
  4. The V descriptor stands for violence. Shows marked with V feature frequent and graphic scenes of violence. Also, alcohol and drug abuse fall under this descriptor.
  5. VF denotes fantasy violence. Shows that feature giant robots and fantasy creatures often have the VF descriptor.

W Is for Wrap Up

Netflix, like any other broadcast, cable, or streaming service, uses the TVPG ratings system and descriptors to inform the viewers on the nature of the show they’re about to watch. So, the next time you see the TV-MA label, you should skip the show if you’re uncomfortable with foul language, violence, and nudity onscreen.

How are your favorite Netflix shows rated? Do you agree with the TVPG rating system or do you think it should be modified? Tell us in the comments below.

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