Here is What TV-MA Means on Netflix – Adult Content Breakdown

With its vast collection of films and TV shows, Netflix has earned a spot as one of the leading streaming platforms globally. While browsing the content available on Netflix, you may have stumbled upon the term TV-MA and were wondering about its significance.

In this article, we’ll dive deep into the realm of TV ratings, specifically focusing on the TV-MA tag used on Netflix and many other services. We’ll decode its importance and explain how it affects what you watch.

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What does TV-MA mean on Netflix?

What does TV-MA mean on Netflix?
What does TV-MA mean on Netflix?

The term TV-MA on Netflix refers to “TV – Mature Audience.” Programs with this rating can include intense violence, graphic nudity or intimate scenes, explicit language, disturbing themes and other adult content.

The TV-MA label, essentially meant for viewers aged 17 and above, indicates that the show is made for adults and may not be suited for younder audiences. It’s comparable to the R and NC-17 ratings from the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA). Shows like “Dark,” “Money Heist,” “Black Mirror,” “The Sopranos,” “Daredevil” and “Breaking Bad” all carry this rating.

History of the TV ratings

Maturity ratings for TV and movies | LinkedIn

While the rating system for movies was established earlier in 1968, it wasn’t until 28 years later that a similar system for TV shows was introduced. Following the approval of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, key players in the entertainment industry pledged to implement an equivalent system.

This initiative was spearheaded by the NCTA, MPAA, and NAB, and was intended for use on both broadcast and cable TV programs, except for news, sports, and advertisements.

  • NCTA: National Cable & Telecommunications Association, now known as NCTA – The Internet & Television Association, which represents broadband and pay television industries in the U.S.
  • NAB: National Association of Broadcasters, a trade association that advocates for free-market solutions and for the interests of radio and television broadcasters in the U.S.

The TV Parental Guidelines were announced in December of that same year, and the system officially began operations on January 1, 1997. Drawing inspiration from the film rating system, an updated version with six categories was introduced on August 1, 1997. Alongside the ratings, the scheme was enhanced with five content descriptors.

Symbols for each descriptor and rating were established, and the rating symbol was mandated to be displayed for 15 seconds at the start of each episode of a rated program. Finally, on March 12, 1998, the FCC approved the proposed rating system.

U.S. TV Content Descriptors

Television content ratings are determined based on strict guidelines that consider multiple factors. In the United States, these content descriptors are commonly used for ratings:

Does the same organization decide maturity ratings for films and TV shows?

Determining maturity ratings for films and television falls under two separate entities in America, while other regions around the world have their own rules and regulations governed by local bodies. They are as follows:

1. Television ratings

Maturity ratings for TV
Maturity ratings for TV

In the United States, the TV Parental Guidelines Monitoring Board supervises the TV Parental Guidelines used for rating TV broadcasts. Following TV ratings are assigned to TV shows:

  • TV-Y: Appropriate for all children, particularly those aged 2-6, contains no content that would offend parents if viewed by children.
  • TV-Y7: Suitable for children aged 7 and older, it may contain mild fantasy or comedic violence that might scare younger children.
  • TV-G: Suitable for a general audience, it’s not necessarily designed for children but contains content that most parents find suitable for all ages.
  • TV-PG: Parental guidance suggested may contain material that parents may find unsuitable for younger children, including moderate violence, some sexual situations, infrequent coarse language, or suggestive dialogue.
  • TV-14: Parents strongly cautioned, contains material that many parents would find unsuitable for children under 14, includes intense violence, sexual situations, strong language, or intensely suggestive dialogue.
  • TV-MA: Mature audience only, designed to be viewed by adults and may be unsuitable for children under 17, includes graphic violence, explicit sexual activity, or crude indecent language.

2. Movies ratings

What is the MPAA rating system | MPAA

The MPAA rating system is a voluntary film-rating mechanism developed by the MPAA and the National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO). It’s designed to evaluate a film’s appropriateness for various audience segments and age groups based on its content.

The MPAA assigns movie ratings via the Classification & Ratings Administration (CARA). Based on the movie’s content, they utilize labels such as G, PG, PG-13, R, and NC-17.

American parents widely use this rating system to decide whether a film suits their young children. It offers insights into a movie’s content, allowing audiences to know what they can anticipate from a film.

Furthermore, the MPAA rating system aids filmmakers and distributors in understanding their potential audience demographic.

Examples of TV-MA-rated Netflix shows

Netflix TV Shows
Netflix TV Shows

Here are some examples of TV-MA shows you can find on Netflix:

  • Breaking Bad: Awarded a TV-MA rating for its graphic portrayal of drug dealing and violence, this series tracks the transformation of a high school chemistry teacher into a notorious methamphetamine-producing drug lord.
  • Black Mirror: This anthology series presents twisted, technologically advanced futures where humanity’s finest breakthroughs clash with its darkest tendencies. Due to its bleak and often unsettling content, it’s been given a TV-MA rating.
  • Mindhunter: Set in the late 1970s, this series delves into the minds of murderers, narrating the story of FBI agents expanding criminal science. Its graphic depiction of violent crimes and psychological horror earned it a TV-MA rating.
  • Ozark: This series tells the tale of a financial advisor who relocates his family from Chicago to the Missouri Ozarks to launder $500 million in five years to satisfy a drug lord. This show includes graphic violence, strong language, sexual content, depictions of drug use, and exploration of mature themes such as crime and moral ambiguity.
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Where to find ratings information on Netflix?

You can identify the maturity rating of a title in the following ways:

  • When you start watching a title, its rating will briefly pop up in the top corner of your screen.
  • You can also find the rating information on the details page of a movie or TV show. The position of this information can differ according to the device you’re using.
Where to find maturity ratings on Netflix
Where to find maturity ratings on Netflix?

Apart from the rating, information about the aspects of the title that contributed to its rating (such as sexual content, language, drug use, and nudity) can also be found.

How to avoid TV-MA-rated content on Netflix?

Netflix offers the option of parental controls to help you prevent access to TV-MA-rated content. Setting a maturity level for a profile will only show content rated equal to or lower than the set level. Furthermore, Netflix allows you to block particular TV shows or movies on individual profiles.

Set maturity levels for a profile

  1. Access your account page from the drop-down menu by clicking on the Netflix profile picture in the top right corner.
    Open account page from the menu
    Open account page from the menu
  2. Select the profile you wish to edit and click on the drop-down arrow from the “Profile & Parental Controls” settings.
    Click on the profile drop down arrow
    Click on the profile drop down arrow
  3. Click “Change” in front of the “Viewing Restrictions” option.
    Click on Change in front of Viewing Restrictions option
    Click on Change in front of Viewing Restrictions option
  4. You’ll be asked to type in your Netflix password.
    Type you Netflix password
    Type you Netflix password
  5. Select the maturity rating level for the TV shows and movies you want to permit on that profile. You can also exclude some specific shows or movies from this profile by typing their name in the given box. Click on “Save.”
    Select the maturity level
    Select the maturity level

Any TV shows, movies, and games exceeding the chosen maturity level will be excluded from the profile.

Final Thoughts

Understanding the rating system on Netflix, particularly the TV-MA rating, is crucial for viewers. This rating ensures that the content is suitable for mature audiences, with shows possibly containing explicit violence, coarse language, or adult themes.

Netflix provides tools like parental controls to regulate the type of content accessible on different profiles. This feature is particularly useful for families with children, ensuring they’re only exposed to age-appropriate content.

In short, knowing the TV-MA rating and other Netflix rating systems can significantly enhance your streaming experience and ensure that all content aligns with your viewing preferences.

TVMA Netflix- FAQs

Is TV-MA the same as 18+?

TV-MA isn’t exactly equivalent to 18+. TV-MA is a rating specific to the television industry in the United States, whereas 18+ generally applies to age limitations in other areas, like video games or films. The age benchmarks and standards can differ among various rating systems.

What are some examples of TV-MA content?

TV-MA content examples include shows like Black Mirror, The Bear, The Witcher, Silo, The Idol, From, and Suits.

Can 13-year-olds watch TV-MA?

TV-MA is not suitable for children under 17 years old. Even if someone is slightly older, viewing such shows should be guided by parental discretion to ensure the content is appropriate for their maturity level.

How do I know if a show is TV-MA?

The rating is typically displayed at the start of a show and included in your TV program guide. Often, you’ll find the rating just after the program’s title, but in some instances, it could be situated right after the description of the program.


Khalid Ali

Khalid is a versatile analyst honing his expertise for the past 5 years. With certifications from Google and IBM to back him up, his knowledge extends far beyond the routine coverage of the latest trends and in the industry.