Skip to Content

What Does TV-MA Mean? (TV-MA Vs. TV-R)

If you’re confused about what TV-MA and TV-R ratings mean, this is what you need to know! 

Understanding What A TV-MA Rating Means 

Many people are familiar with the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) film rating system. This system assigns a specific rating to films, which provides people with valuable information about the content and age-appropriateness of different movies.  

However, the MPAA does not assign ratings to media such as television programs, video games, or music. For these types of media, there are other official bodies responsible for rating media. For television programs, ratings are provided by the TV Parental Guidelines. 

TV-MA is one of seven different TV ratings assigned by TV Parental Guidelines in the United States. Like the film ratings assigned by the MPAA, the TV Parental Guidelines ratings also provide information regarding the content and age-appropriateness of different television programs. These seven ratings are as follows: 

  • TV-Y: All Children 
  • TV-Y7: Directed To Older Children 
  • TV-Y7 FV: Directed To Older Children, Fantasy Violence 
  • TV-G: General Audience 
  • TV-PG: Parental Guidance Suggested 
  • TV-14: Parents Strongly Cautioned 
  • TV:MA: Mature Audiences Only 

The TV Parental Guidelines Monitoring Board ensures consistency among these ratings and how they are applied to television content. While most television programs are rated, sports and news are exempt from this TV rating system. 

Essentially, the TV-MA rating means the content is only suitable for Mature Audiences. When a TV-MA rating has been applied to a television program, the program is unsuitable for watching by those under seventeen. Of course, this will not apply to sports or news. Popular TV shows with a TV-MA rating include Ozark, Game of Thrones, and Better Call Saul. 

While these shows are generally rated TV-MA, it’s important to note that programs are rated on an episodic basis. This means that the rating may vary based on the content in different shows. However, shows with TV-MA ratings tend to stay in that rating range. 

Furthermore, TV-MA ratings can also apply to so-called Made-for-TV movies. Many movies made by streaming platforms like Netflix and Amazon will receive TV ratings, including TV-MA. Theatrical movies, on the other hand, are rated by the Motion Picture Association. Netflix’s Okja (2017) is an example of a TV-MA film. 

When a TV-MA rating has been given to a TV program, it means the program or television film was intentionally designed for adults (mature audiences). It’s also important to note that TV-MA is the highest rating given to television content by the TV Parental Guidelines organization. 

However, content labels are added to TV ratings to provide even more information to the intended audience and what they can expect from the content. There are four content labels you will come across regarding TV programs with TV-MA ratings. These content labels are displayed below the audience rating, which in this case would be TV-MA.

  • D: suggestive dialogue 
  • L: crude language 
  • S: sexual situations 
  • V: violence 

When you see a TV show with a TV-MA rating alongside one or more of these characters, it provides you with information regarding the content you can expect from the program. Like other ratings, a TV-MA rating will be displayed during the first fifteen seconds of a program, typically in the left-hand corner of your screen. 

In terms of film ratings assigned by the MPAA, a TV-MA rating is most like an NC-17 rating. Of course, an NC-17 rating means that no one under the age of 17 is permitted to watch the film. Unlike films with an R rating, those under 17 cannot watch the film even if an adult accompanies them. 

TV-MA Vs. TV-R: How Do They Differ? 

Above, we explained that a TV-MA rating is. Of course, this is the highest rating assigned by the TV Parental Guidelines association, indicating that certain television content is only suitable for Mature Audiences. When compared to motion picture ratings, a TV-MA rating is most like an NC-17 rating. 

In addition to television programs, this TV-MA rating may also apply to movies made for television and streaming services. There’s another instance where this rating may be used: when theatrical movies are released on basic cable or broadcast channels. 

However, the theatrical movies will be re-edited according to the channel’s specific standards in these instances. Some content may be removed from the film to air on these channels. Once the film has been re-edited, it will receive a TV Parental Guidelines rating. For films with an R or NC-17 rating, the television rating will likely be TV-MA. 

Now, you might be wondering where the TV-R rating fits into all of this! As we explained, broadcast and basic cable channels usually re-edit theatrical releases and then receive a TV Parental Guidelines rating. On the other hand, premium cable networks air theatrical movies that are uncut. 

Due to this, when uncut theatrical movies air on channels like HBO and Showtime, they will not receive a TV Parental Guidelines rating. Instead, the original MPAA movie rating will be applied. However, the network will provide additional content advisories, such as the content labels we outlined earlier. 

Essentially, uncut films that air on television channels will utilize the original MPAA movie rating. There are five different ratings used by the MPAA when rating films: 

  • G: General Audiences
  • PG: Parental Guidance Suggested 
  • PG-13: Parents Strongly Cautioned 
  • R: Restricted 
  • NC-17: No One 17 And Under Admitted 

When an R-rated theatrical movie airs in its uncut form on a premium cable network, it will receive a TV-R rating. Basically, this rating indicates that an uncut R-rated film is airing on a premium cable network such as HBO. 

If the same film were edited for a broadcast network or basic cable channel, it would receive a TV Parental Guideline rating. An R-rated film that is edited to remove material would either receive a TV-14 or TV-MA rating. 

When a TV-14 rating is assigned, it means the edited movie will contain content that some parents will find unsuitable for those aged 14 and less. With a TV-MA rating assigned to an edited theatrical movie, the content is considered unsuitable for children under the age of 17. 

Ultimately, the difference between a TV-MA and TV-R rating is how they’re assigned – and which entity assigns the rating. A TV-R rating indicates that an uncut theatrical film with an R-rating is airing on television. Here, the original MPAA rating is used, with additional content labels added by the channel. 

On the other hand, a TV-MA rating is assigned by the TV Parental Guidelines organization. This rating applies to television content, films made for TV and streaming, and theatrical releases that have been edited. 

Is A TV-MA Rating Higher Rating Than TV-R? 

The previous section explained the difference between TV-MA and TV-R ratings. Of course, there are different instances where these ratings will be used, as the same entities do not assign them. TV-MA ratings are assigned by the TV Parental Guidelines association, while a TV-R rating utilizes a film’s original MPAA rating. While you will not find television programs with TV-R ratings, it’s possible to find theatrical films with either of these ratings. 

Ultimately, this depends on whether the film has been edited or not. However, you might be wondering which of these ratings is stronger than the other. First, let’s consider TV-MA ratings, the highest rating given to television content by the TV Parental Guidelines Monitoring Board. 

Content that is rated TV-MA is designed for adults and is unsuitable for viewers under the age of 17. Content with this rating will likely contain crude language, graphic violence, or explicit sexual activity. In terms of the film rating system used, a TV-MA rating is most like an NC-17 rating. 

Now, let’s consider a TV-R rating. Of course, this rating is applied to uncut theatrical films that air on a television channel. While additional content labels may be added, the original MPAA rating is utilized. Of the five ratings assigned by the Motion Picture Association, an R-rating is only the second-highest rating. 

TV-MA is a stronger rating than a TV-R rating. Theatrical films with an R-rating only contain some adult content, while those with an NC-17 rating are clearly adult, with no one 17 and under admitted. TV content that is rated TV-MA, on the other hand, may include content that would both receive R and NC-17 ratings. 


When you see a TV-MA rating, it means the television content has been rated for Mature Audiences only. This rating is provided by the TV Parental Guidelines Monitoring Board and applies to television programs, films made for television or streaming, and edited theatrical movies aired on broadcast and basic cable channels. 

A TV-R rating, however, applies to uncut theatrical films that air on premium cable networks. With these uncut films, the Original Motion Picture Association of America film rating is used. A TV-R film means it has the second-highest MPAA rating of R.