Game shows getting double play

May 21, 2001  •  Post A Comment

Viewers will soon be finding more of the same on television as game shows once again prepare to use dual-platform strategies in both prime time and syndication.
NBC, Warner Bros., Buena Vista Television and Columbia TriStar are all exploring strategies of launching complementary series in prime-time and daytime windows as “Weakest Link,” “Elimidate,” “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” and “Pyramid” are each in varying levels of development, some with more success than others.
The strategy was successful in the early days of television-when series such as “To Tell the Truth” and “Let’s Make a Deal” were able to carry two sets of audiences-but has become nearly extinct in recent years. Those shows that have tried to make it work were unable to find success.
“It can make perfect sense for a station,” said Bill Carroll, vice president and programming director at station rep firm Katz Television in New York. “The syndicated version of the series becomes a promotional platform for the prime-time airing of the show, while the same is true in reverse as the prime-time network airing created awareness for the strip.”
ABC’s decision to slice the number of airings of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” has set the industry abuzz with rumors that Buena Vista-which produces and distributes the show-is considering a syndicated version of the game show. Although a Buena Vista spokesperson declined comment, Buena Vista’s stripped version of “Millionaire” would likely be targeted toward daytime and/or early evening time slots sometime in 2002. It is unclear whether a syndicated “Millionaire” would feature prime-time host Regis Philbin.
“We’re never going to say we won’t do it,” BVTV President Janice Marinelli said recently. “But we don’t see the advantages of producing the series for syndication at this time, and until we do it will remain a unique prime-time show.”
Insiders, including “Millionaire” producer Michael Davies, say the main reason the series-which was originally developed for syndication-had not made the move toward daytime was that the numerous airings in prime time would have driven down the value of the show. With the series now locked into only two nights, the company may have changed its mind.
But the first of these series to tackle the two platforms comes from Warner Bros., whose upcoming strip “Elimidate” was recently added to The WB’s schedule under the banner “Elimidate Deluxe.” Both versions of the relationship show will debut in the fall.
Meanwhile, NBC is close behind with “Weakest Link,” which already airs in prime time and will likely debut in syndication in January.
“We were lucky enough to go to NATPE with pilots of `Weakest Link’ already in tow,” said Ed Wilson, president of NBC Enterprises. “But we didn’t want to rush ahead and launch the show in September because there just weren’t enough time periods and we didn’t want to waste an opportunity to strip a series that is skewing to 18- to 34-year-olds like no other game show.”
The syndicated version of the show will almost certainly feature a different host from prime-time “Link’s” Anne Robinson. Columbia TriStar had developed two versions of “Pyramid,” based on the classic series “The $64,000 Pyramid,” for the two dayparts. The daytime version had Donny Osmond attached while the prime-time version had Steve Harvey on board as host. Neither of the two versions is scheduled to see the light of day soon, but the studio has long maintained that either version could come out once the right opportunity presents itself.