Cronin's Game Plan: Skew Younger

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Game Show Network is focusing on originally produced and acquired product that targets young viewers, in hopes of fine-tuning its brand to reach a more advertiser-friendly demographic.

Since cable programming veteran Rich Cronin took over its reins last May, GSN has experienced a 25 percent ratings uptick by repositioning holdover fare like The Gong Show
and adding Let's Make a Deal
and Press Your Luck.

Year-to-date, the Sony Pictures Entertainment and Liberty Digital Inc-owned network averages a 0.5 in primetime.

Now the focus is to bring in new and younger viewers with greater appeal to marketers. Cronin wants to bring GSN's median of 43 down to the late 30s.

"The hard-core viewers will be in their 30s and 40s, but we're also seeing a significant number of viewers in their 20s who are watching the network," he said. "We feel we can be a very strong 18-to-49 network."

GSN senior vice president of programming Bob Boden wants to add more original programming. He said the network is closing deals for a half-dozen pilots to be created over the next three months.

One of the first: Telepathy, in which one contestant tries to guess a secret word or phrase using hints from his or her partner.

"It's a classic-style game that will work well in our lineup, and we're in the process of putting together a pilot," Boden said.

All told, the network — which has gained 3 million subscribers since last May to raise its viewing-home count to some 40 million — has about 20 projects in various stage of development, 10 to 12 of which could be pilots within the next year.

By spring, Cronin said, two or three shows should be launched, with another two to three premiering each quarter.

Each new show will feature an interactive element, which Cronin believes will make GSN more appealing to operators looking for ways to help sell high-speed modems and other technologies.

"We're also half-owned by Sony [Corp.], which owns the PlayStation franchise, so we'll expand into that area as well," Cronin said. "I think that our distributor partners see the potential we have here and they can see the success."

Despite the explosion of game shows on the broadcast networks, Boden said it's unlikely that GSN will acquire any in the near future — although it will continue to pursue marquee product.

"With the increased vertical integration of broadcast networks into cable, many of those series would not be available to us," Boden said. "Anything that is available to us that we feel can compliment our schedule we're very interested in."

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