ABC is bringing back the primetime version of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” in August, nearly 10 years to the date after the iconic game show changed the face of American television.
Regis Philbin has agreed to return as host of the primetime revival, which—like the 1999 original—will unfold as a two-week, 11-night event. Michael Davies of Embassy Row once again will serve as executive producer.
“Millionaire” will air Sunday through Thursday nights at 8 p.m., starting Aug. 9. The show will take a rest on Friday and Saturday. Its grand finale will be Sunday, Aug. 23.
Word that ABC was considering a 10th-anniversary return of “Millionaire” first surfaced in January. The network didn’t have a deal in place with Mr. Philbin, however, delaying a final decision on whether to move forward.
Odds of a “Millionaire” return also grew stronger with the success of “Slumdog Millionaire,” the Indian drama about a young contestant on the show that won this year’s Academy Award for best picture.
ABC alternative co-chief John Saade said executives at the network, including scheduling head Jeff Bader, have been talking about a “Millionaire” anniversary revival “for a long time.”
“Anyone who remembers the original remembers how special it was. It really felt like an event,” Mr. Saade said. “It broke every conventional rule of the time. It elevated the game show to this single-person, high-stakes drama.”
In addition to paying homage to one of the network’s most successful series, ABC executives consider the August “Millionaire” run a low-risk means of offering original summer programming. There are no plans to bring the format back as a regular series.
However, if “Millionaire” achieves even half the success it earned a decade ago, it seems logical ABC might want to revive the show every few months as a stunt to augment its regular lineup.
“Right now, it’s to celebrate its 10th anniversary,” Mr. Bader told TelevisionWeek. “If it works, I’m sure we’d consider bringing it back again. Right now, we’re focused on this as an event.”
Mr. Bader said reviving “Millionaire” now “should be an enhancement to our summer schedule,” and that the event also could be “a good promotional base” for ABC to promote its new fall lineup.
While some industry observers criticized ABC’s handling of “Millionaire” during its original run—the show aired as often as six times per week at one point—it’s worth noting the franchise remains a potent player for ABC parent Walt Disney.
“It’s still on and doing very well in syndication,” Mr. Bader noted. “For the Disney Co. it’s still a huge asset. It’s never gone away.”
Mr. Saade said the primetime version will be a hybrid of the original “Millionaire” and the tweaked version that now airs in syndication. “The idea is to stay as true to the essence of the original as possible,” he said.
He also added that ABC was “thrilled to have Regis back in primetime.”
Disney-ABC Domestic Television continues to produce and distribute the Meredith Vieira-hosted “Millionaire” in the U.S. The international “Millionaire” format, however, is now under the control of Sony Pictures Television, which bought rights holder 2Way Traffic last year.
ABC last aired a primetime edition of “Millionaire” five years ago, in 2004.
(Edited at 2:45 p.m. ET to correct second paragraph.)