What is TV-MA Rating?

TV-MA in the United States is a TV rating guideline assigned and monitored by the TV Parental Guidelines. It was developed by the FCC. TV-MA signifies that a tv show, movie, or other content is only suitable for mature audiences.

The TV MA movie rating guidelines are strictly observed by cinemas and streaming platforms like Hulu, HBO, and Netflix.

Over the years, how, where, and when we watch TV, and our favourite shows have changed considerably. There has been a massive shift from the conventional sitting in front of a TV to streaming online.

Now, we can watch our favourite shows, series, programs, etc., on the Go. Children also are not left out; parents/guardians use TV shows/programs to keep children occupied.

Longer running shows like The Simpsons might seem innocent enough but being a cartoon doesn’t make it fit for kids of all ages. While some episodes of The Simpsons have a TV-PG rating, other episodes have a TV-14 rating. 

With video content easily accessible on streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, etc., parents/guardians must check what their children/ward are watching. Although it might be difficult, parents can monitor their children’s content by using TV rating systems.

What is the TV Rating System?

Nowadays,  it can be quite difficult for parents to monitor the contents their children are exposed to, especially now that most TV shows and channels are available online.  

Also, parents might not be around when their children are watching these shows. Luckily, the Television industry has a measure to regulate content that goes on air.

The TV Rating system gives parents information on the content and age age-appropriateness of the content of TV programs. These ratings are also known as Tv Parental Guidelines.

Tv Parental Guidelines help parents easily identify suitable TV content for their children. Parental Guideline applies to most TV programs, including those that are children-centred. Almost all shows and programs carry these Guidelines except sports and news programs.

What is TV-MA Rating?


TV- (Mature Audience Only) MA rating is designed to tell intending viewers that the content they are about to watch is unsuitable for children under 17. That is, the content is only suitable for adults.

TV-MA contents contain any of the following: Crude Indecent Language (L), Explicit Sexual Activity (S), or Graphic Violence (V). TV shows and series are rated by episodes; hence they may carry different ratings weekly depending on their content.

Generally, the rating and content label of the program you are watching will appear in the corner of the TV screen. Typically, the rating icon appears during the first 15 seconds of the show.

However, if the program is over an hour, the rating icon will reappear at the beginning of the second hour. In addition, most broadcast and cable TV networks usually display the rating icons after each commercial break.

TV-MA Rating Criteria – TV MA DLSV

There are different criticals used to determine which TV content may be unsuitable for children. Some of them include:

  • D – Suggestive dialogue

Suggestive dialogue means that the TV content has some form of sexual or violent insinuations.

  • L – Coarse Language

The content has curse words, vulgar language, swearing, and other forms of vulgar words.

  • S – Sexual content

Sexual content can be in any form. It can be erotic behavior/display, use of sexual language, full or partial nudity, and other sexual activities.

  • V – Violence

Display of violence, use of drugs, and arms are generally used to determine TV content rating.

Other TV Rating System

There are other categories of rating for children’s content. They are:

  • TV-Y

TV contents with TV-Y ratings signify that the program is suitable for all ages.

  • TV-Y7

Programs with TV-Y7 are suitable for children aged seven and above.

  • TV-Y7-FV

TV contents with TV-Y7-FV ratings signify that the TV program contains fantasy violence.

  • TV-G

This rating signifies that the content is a general program and it is suitable for all audiences. It is suitable because it contains mild language, and there are no violence or sexual innuendos in the program. Most documentaries, sport, NEWS, and children’s TV shows fall under this category.

  • TV-PG

TV programs and shows that fall under this category are unsuitable for younger children. And parents or guardians should watch the shows/program first before deciding if their children/ward can watch it also. Note that the content may include some sexual content, suggestive or inappropriate language, and violent scenes.

  • R Rating

If a movie has an R rating, it means that you must be at least 17 to watch unsupervised. Persons under the age of 17 can watch movies rated R but they must be accompanied by an adult.

  • TV-14

Contents rated TV-14 are suitable for children aged 14 and over. Parents/guardians should be present when these contents are aired as they may contain strong language, violence, suggestive humor, etc.

What Does TV MA Mean on Netflix?

TV-MA on Netflix means that a TV Show or content is For Mature Audiences only. Typically, 17 years and older are considered mature audiences but when it comes to streaming platforms like Netflix shows rated TV-MA, may not be suitable for ages 17 and under.

TV-MA Netflix
Animations can be rated TV-MA

There are lots of TV MA shows on Netflix. It’s not uncommon for a family to innocently pick a show only to have graphic nudity and violence thrown in their faces. It’s therefore advisable to check TV show ratings before viewing.

Fact: Netflix TV and movie ratings may vary by region. So, a TV-14 movie in one country might be TV-MA in another!

How to Prevent Kids From Watching TV-MA Shows

Parents/guardians can put a viewing restriction on whatever content their children/wards are watching. The process involved in setting these restrictions depends on the streaming service and your cable provider. Generally, you can set parental controls on your device.

Once you enable this setting, viewers will need to input a passcode before accessing any TV-MA-rated program. In addition, to ensure that your children are not accessing these contents on other platforms, it is advisable to enable parental control on all devices they use.

Is TV-MA Worse Than R Rating? TV-MA vs R

Based on the TV Parental Guidelines, the TV-MA rating means that a program or TV show is specifically designed to be viewed by adults and may be unsuitable for children under 17. The R rating which means Restricted is under the MPAA rating system and used for USA theatrical and direct-to-DVD films.

Interestingly, the R and TV-MA rating have the same age limit; no one under 17 should watch these shows. R and TV-MA are equivalent ratings.

However, while an R rating might mean that a TV show has some swearing, violence, and sexual references, MA on the other hand could mean all of that plus some very gruesome scenes, full-on nudity, and more graphic sexual scenes.

TV-MA is a more severe rating than R and is the equivalent of NC-17 in the US.

If you are watching TV shows on basic-cable channels like CTV, ABC, CBS, AMC, or FOX then programs rated TV-MA are mostly suitable for 17-year-olds. Plus many cable channels cut sexual scenes.

However, when it comes to streaming platforms and subscription-based/premium TV channels, programs rated TV-MA are more explicit and mostly intended for persons 18 and over.

So while some shows might be rated TV-MA and could be viewed by ages 17 and above, streaming platforms like HBO and Showtime, require persons to be 18 or over to subscribe to their services or even watch free episodes of shows like Game of Thrones and Spartacus that are rated TV-MA.

TV 18 on the other hand is used when an R-rated or TV-MA movie pushes the boundaries.

From the explanation above, TV-MA is clearly worse than the R rating.


TV contents are aimed at different target markets and age groups. And to ensure that your children are watching or streaming content appropriate for their age group, it is vital to check what they are watching.

The TV rating system is a great way to ensure that your children are not exposed to adult content. Also, you can enable parental control on all devices to ensure they are protected.

Leave a Comment