Sunday, November 12, 2006

Prime Time Fun And Games...


Remember when 'The Price Is Right' was the mothership of gameshows? And when Bob Barker spewed forth: "....a new car!", the crowd went wild? And you went wild in your living room or family room or wherever the tv was? Good times...good times... But 'a new car' then seems to be nothing less than '1 million dollars!' today.

This article in the Wall Street Journal tells of a return to prime time game shows like we haven't seen since the days of 'The Weakest Link' and 'Who Wants To Be A Millionaire'. You know 'em...you love 'em, you can't live without 'em - "Deal Or No Deal" and "1 vs. 100" - and now, people get ready for...

"Walt Disney Co.'s ABC unveils "Show Me the Money," a splashy series hosted by William Shatner. Contestants win money by answering trivia questions and then choosing among 13 female dancers, who carry scrolls containing secret dollar amounts."
Gee, I wonder what the catchphrase of that series will be? As if we weren't already sick of it...

What's fascinating is that networks see this new wave of shows as PVR or TiVo beaters. People tend watch these shows like live nail biting sporting events, and so viewers are more likely to watch the commercials.

Live nail biting sporting events? Heaven help us...

"You want to build a show where people at home are playing along, screaming at the set," says David Goldberg, president of Endemol USA, a reality TV production company behind "Deal or No Deal" and several other game shows. "That kind of engagement is immediately going to be attractive to advertisers." It is also relatively easy to outfit game shows with text messaging and Internet elements, which boost audience involvement while adding to profitability, says Mr. Goldberg. "It encourages people to watch live if you give them a way to play along at home," he says. "That's the bonus the digital age has added."

NBC's "Deal or No Deal," for instance, operates an at-home version of the game where viewers can send text messages on their cellphones to pick a "lucky" suitcase to win cash and prizes. Since the show's debut, viewers have sent about 25 million messages at a cost of 99 cents each. NBC splits the revenue with its partners, which include cell phone companies and production companies.

Okay...25 million messages...at 99 cents each....25 million...99 cents... Holy crap! (for the record, I believe the 'lucky' suitcase contains $100,000 dollars)

Apparently, the recent lack of new reality hits has put financial pressure on networks, which have come to rely on the cheap programming to offset poorly performing reruns and the spiraling cost of making dramas.

Game shows are helping ease the load: programs such as "1 vs. 100" and "The Rich List" cost less than $1 million an hour to produce, or 60% less than the average drama. (The cost of paying out cash to contestants is amortized over the run of the series or covered by insurance.)
Holy crap again! I haven't worked on a Canadian drama series approaching a million dollar an episode budget (and that's Canuck bucks remember) in nearly 8 years. How the hell are we supposed to compete? Oh right, we can't...


Anyhow, Saget, Shatner, and Mandell host these puppies - too bad Mr. Captain Kirk didn't appear in "The Aristocrats"...then the lesson of the day might be you need to tell an ultra foul mouthed dirty joke in order to host a prime time game show in 2006.

Ah, who am I kidding...we all know what clip Shatner used for his audition...



He's a rocket....man!

With dramatic television finally beginning to crawl from the carnage caused by the recent reality tv boom, let's hope this crop of prime time game shows doesn't take off...

...though I would like to see Bob Barker do his rendition of 'The Aristocrats'...and the crowd goes wild!

6 comments:

English Dave said...

They've lost sight of the AB1.

Young guy.Lot'sa money to spend.

Good Dog said...

Wow, NBC is seriously coining it in with their at-home Deal or No Deal. The network should rename it Win or... Win.

Hasn't The Rich List been yanked off the air after just one edition? It sounded pretty lame.

We're getting quizzes over here that are just getting over complicated to make them different from the rest. The questions are still suitably lame.

I think they should have got Stewie Griffin to host Show Me the Money!

wcdixon said...

You're right, Good Dog, about The Rich List being yanked. My bad.

Riddley Walker said...

How about "I'm A Celebrity Has-Been, Stuff My Mouth Full Of Detontators And Smite Me About The Head With A Cricket Bat" where the audience get to text message in sneering and 'Ha ha', or has that one been done?

Just wonderin'...

Caroline said...

LMAO at Riddley.

Will, our Canadian gameshows tend to be more cheesy in nature, less glitz, way less cash (if any at all). I think someone should seriously revive Party Game and Definition just on kitch value (hmmm, wonder who holds those rights, LOL).

I am kind of a fan of the ungameshow gameshows like Cash Cab (which has played in Europe but I believe is in pre-production for Canada/USA) and Oblivious. Not so much money, but clever execution of people winning money without knowing they are contestants.

As for those 99 cent text calls, they are amazing. I did a promotion for a tv show with an unnamed Canadian network and all we hoped was that those calls would pay for the cost of the grand prize (in our case, a pretty lavish trip for 4 worth about 20K). We actually made over 100K on the calls after all the expenses. Who knew? It's a racket for sure. NBC is probably only getting 50% and they have to split that with partners, usually the service provider gets half, but in exchange there's no upfront costs to setting it all up. Sweet deal, no matter how you slice it. Especially if, like on 1 vs. 100, they've done a couple of episodes where the payouts were incredibly low (like 40K).

As an aside, one of the many books I am reading right now is Prisoner of Trebekistan, which is a true life account of one guy's experience on Jeopardy (he was a champion and he's a stand up comedian ... funny as hell). Highly recommend it (and am reading due to the find recommendation of Jane Espenson).

jimhenshaw said...

There was a recent billboard campaign in Toronto for Woodbine Racetrack with the catch phrase, "When's the last time you won something at a movie?" in other words, spend $20 going to a movie and all you get is a movie experience, spend the same $20 at the track and you could possibly go home with more.

I think the same "casino mentality" is at work here. The USA is currently saddled with debt that would bankrupt it if China turned off the credit tap. Their housing market is collapsing, gas costs too much and the only place the average guy can afford to shop is Walmart. The only chance the majority of Americans have of escaping those realities is winning a million bucks on TV. That's the real reason game shows (and poker on Sports channels) are popular -- and made more popular by the implication that you don't even need any skills to win. In other words, "When's the last time you won something watching Studio 60?"

Maybe game shows are Tivo proof, but if that were true, why do so many people use their Tivos to skip through the commercials in nail-biting live sports events, pause live action while they get another beer during the game and replay their own highlights rather than wait for the version the networks give them?

I'm sure the new game shows will get the networks through the disasterous season they're having. A million for a game show is way less than $3 million for a prime time drama. But I also think advertisers are smart enough to realize that most of the people trying to figure out what briefcase to pick can't afford the products they're trying to sell.